The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday March 26th

UNC junior Kristin Shotwell searches for her Tinder identity thief

And now, she says she’s planning to use this experience as the topic for a final paper.

“I am trying to make the best of a weird situation,” she said. “Right now I am just trying to figure out if maybe I can find the person.”

Tinder uses a person’s Facebook profile information to display a name, age and pictures. Users can provide additional personal information to his or her profile which the application does not share on Facebook.

Shotwell said one of her friends in Georgia noticed several pictures of her on the app under the name “Kim.”

“At first I just started laughing, because what are the chances of that?” she said. “I’m from Florida and I don’t really know many people in Georgia at all — the chances are so slim and I just couldn’t really believe it.”

Though she laughed it off at first, Shotwell said she began to find the fake profile a little creepy.

“I don’t have a Tinder and my Facebook is pretty private,” she said. “I only know one girl who goes to (Savannah College of Art and Design) , and she is one of my good friends from high school and she wouldn’t do it.”

Tinder did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Shotwell took her thoughts to the internet and composed a blog post about the profile. She said she is shocked by the amount of traffic the post has received — around 21,000 hits as of Monday since it was posted less than 24 hours before.

“The reason why I wrote the blog post was because it’s for my JOMC 240 class about mass communication,” she said. “Professor (John) Robinson encourages us to make blogs and write in them each week.”

UNC Law Professor Anne Klinefelter said it would be difficult to take this to court and prove any kind of harm.

“The difficulty in these modern scenarios that relate to privacy and identity online is unmasking the thief and proving some kind of harm that a court would be willing to accept as a basis for recovery in a privacy claim,” she said.

North Carolina tends to favor free speech over some privacy claims, said Klinefelter.

Robinson said he was a little unsettled when Shotwell approached him about the topic.

“You read about these kind of stolen identities all the time, but this was the first time that it happened to someone I knew,” he said.

Robinson said he has never heard of this happening before but talked to Shotwell about how to turn the experience into her final project for his class.

“It is a real life example of how to look at scams and identity theft and privacy online and that kind of thing,” he said. “It seemed it would engage her even better in what this course is about.”

Shotwell said many people have reached out to her, and as of this morning someone from Georgia State University reached out to her and said he had spoken with “Kim.”

Robinson said social media can produce countless issues in terms of identity.

“You have to be careful about what you put online, and there’s some evidence that people aren’t careful,” he said. “The challenge is real for people to protect themselves in this time of social networking, and there’s so many ways to get information from someone.”


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