In 2002, undercover officer Mark Kennedy was transferred from the drug beat to infiltrate budding environmental protest movements in the UK. For eight existentially excruciating years, he was “Mark Stone.” He protested a dam in Iceland, got his finger broken by riot police, got some tattoos and fell in with some anarchists. He even got himself a girlfriend, and the whole rouse fell apart when that girlfriend found his “real” passport. Then, artist Simon Farid hijacked the abandoned “identity.”
Farid calls his practice “identity-squatting.” In the past, he created identities from scratch and organized “wallet swaps” but this time, he stepped it up. The Verge reports that it wasn’t even that hard, if you knew what you were doing:
Reassembling Stone’s identity was easier than you might think. Farid looked at environmental forums Stone had posted in and found his email, now long since abandoned. After guessing some security questions and chatting with a Yahoo service rep, it was easy to reset the password. He set up a DIY mailbox on a public fence, labeling it with an unused address and signing it up for mailing lists so he could receive mail as Stone. He used that mail to get a bank card, then used the bank card to get a photo ID from the British Library. He stopped short of buying a SIM card with Stone’s old phone number, but only because he didn’t want to spend the money.
With the IDs set up, Farid could become Mark Stone whenever he wanted. He would typically spend the weekend as Stone, leaving town with only Stone’s library ID and bank card to identify him. He left his phone and wallet with roommates, instructing them to withdraw money for him at regular intervals so that, from the records, it would seem as if Farid had never left. He signed his new name on train tickets and hotel registers, paid for them with money from the new account. He kept a diary and didn’t use the name Farid with anyone, trying to stick as close to Stone’s backstory as possible. In his closest brush with the law, he traveled to Holland for a conference and was searched at the border. The customs officers went through his bag and found both sets of IDs, for Farid and for Stone, the same slip that had given Kennedy away. As it turned out, they didn’t care. They were looking for drugs, and had a lot of bags to check.
Farid was able to get away with this for so long because no one really flagged him to verify his “identity” as that “identity” did not actually exist. And it’s not really identity theft, because it is not a real identity, theoretically speaking. Way to co-opt a legally-corrupt construct, “Stone.” (Image via The Verge)