Passing Beyond Identity on the Internet: Espionage and Counterespionage in the Internet Age

22 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2005


This article is concerned with methods of resisting discriminatory steering and marketing in cyberspace. I argue that, where data marketing and steering activities by commercial entities engender the marginalization of certain groups of individuals, technological techniques of resistance and counterespionage - namely identity passing - should be implemented by marginalized persons to counteract online profiling. Such methods are grounded in the principles of anti-subordination jurisprudence. Under this approach, societal tools that serve to lessen opportunities or engender domination are called into question, rather than merely unfair formal processes. I argue that where online profiling disempowers and excludes marginalized groups, it represents a form of subordination based in information control. Therefore, the practical technique of identity passing via technological manipulation must be utilized by individuals in order to counteract these oppressive activities. Finally, I contend that unlike the stigmatized phenomenon of offline passing, the act of passing online removes this act of resistance from the realm of what is sometimes deemed an attempted denial of one's socially constructed identity, and moves it further into the realm of one of the most cherished values in American society-the right to privacy and anonymity. This is because cyberspace allows for the constant manipulation of the identity tags that are presented to profilers; in essence, it allows for the ad infinitum retooling of one's identity as presented to the world. Once identity tags are subject to constant change, identity passing can be construed as a form of self-controlled anonymity rather than a stigmatized form of identity denial.

Keywords: Cyberspace, passing, steering, online, cyber, Internet, privacy

JEL Classification: J71, K10, M30, K19, K49

Suggested Citation

Peek, Marcy E., Passing Beyond Identity on the Internet: Espionage and Counterespionage in the Internet Age. Vermont Law Review, Vol. 28, p. 91, 2003, Available at SSRN:

Marcy E. Peek (Contact Author)

Whittier Law School ( email )

3333 Harbor Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
United States

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