Judging trustworthiness: Mortal v. Virtual World

Judging trustworthiness is an activity taken place almost in every part of our life. In every conversation we made with each other, news we read from the media, to hiring new employee to your organization. It has always been a best practice for the Human Resource (HR) to assess their target before coming to a decision whether to hire him/her; taking precautions on if they are introducing new risk to, for example, the organisation’s intellectual property. Such event, especially in sensitive genre such as the military and intelligence agencies, could even to to the extent of performing a polygraph test on their potential employees.

The case study of Brian P. Regan [1, 2] and Bradley Manning [2] perfectly illustrates the declination of accuracy on such assessment. Things will just get to get worst over time in the information age we are living in.

Famously quoted from Dr. Joseph Krofcheck:
"Judging trustworthiness is currently geared only to evaluating behavior in the Brick and Mortar world."

The instinct that we are born with to judge worthiness only allow us to perform so accurately in this brick and mortal world which our species have been living for centuries. Our sense has yet to adapt to the young and neutral virtual world.

A person’s characteristic in this “real” world does not exactly reflect who they are when are acting in a virtual one. Here an interesting example from Michael Theis in the Security Directions virtual conference: Envisage I’m your potential employer performing an assessment on you. I questioned if you’ve committed petty crime as such stealing. You think about it for a moment… you could have probably stolen some sweets or stationery when you were young… or maybe not… Probably I got my polygraph machine attached onto you, and would not reflect you are lying. You would most likely to protest because you are telling the truth! What about illegally downloading of MP3 music on the Internet? Does not that consider stealing? Fair enough… you were not lying. 😉


  1. Michael C. Theis. Security Directions: A Virtual Conference – Meeting the Challenges of the Trusted Insider Threat. http://events.unisfair.com/rt/secdir~april10
  2. Wikipedia – Brain Patrick Regan. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Patrick_Regan
  3. Kevin Poulsen & Kim Zetter. U.S. Intelligence Analyst Arrested in Wikileaks Video Probe. http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/06/leak/

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