Last May, we wrote an unusual piece that went largely unnoticed about how a staggering phenomenon had begun to develop of people sending us mail for Henry Kissinger. Through some sort of unknown principle of “identity confusion” many people stumbled across a page on our site containing an unflattering profile of Henry Kissinger and his company’s past activities, including connections to money laundering, weapons trafficking banks. This single posting on the site convinced a large number of people that we were Henry Kissinger and/or his firm Kissinger Associates. So, we wrote an elaborate and slightly comical article about how much mail we receive for Mr. Kissinger and a number of other entities. We detailed how we receive search warrants for criminal proceedings because we’ve published a number of lawful access guides for telecom companies, how we receive NSA purchase orders because we have a single page about the Maryland Procurement Office, and how we received an invitation to a White House event that was intended for Mr. Kissinger. We concluded the article with some useful commentary about the implications of such rampant misidentification even at seemingly high levels of government and business. We even added a large, bold warning at the top of the page about Kissinger Associates to make it emphatically clear that we are not Henry Kissinger.
So, what happened next? Well, naturally we continued receiving a large number of emails for Henry Kissinger and others. In fact, last week we received an email from one of the editors of one of the most prestigious newspapers in London, saying he had personally spoken with Mr. Kissinger while in America and wanted him to write a special editorial for the paper. We still receive interview requests for Mr. Kissinger and we’ve also received a number of personal messages from fans and other admirers of Mr. Kissinger. Why does this happen? Because we have a single page on our site from 2009 that is titled Kissinger Associates and has a large warning at the top stating clearly “we are not Henry Kissinger.” For some reason, this hasn’t been effective in dissuading many qualified individuals from believing that we are, in fact, Henry Kissinger.
The BlackRock Incident
One of the cases of identity confusion we profiled in our previous article involved the company BlackRock, one of the largest investment management firms in the world. As in the case of Mr. Kissinger, we had written a profile of BlackRock Inc. back in May 2010 with general information and emphasis on the company’s involvement with the Maiden Lane investment vehicles used by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in the bailout of AIG and the liquidation of Bear Stearns. Again, by some principle unbeknownst to us, we began receiving payment invoices from Deutsche Bank that were intended for BlackRock. We described this in our previous article and even published one of the invoices. You can probably guess what happened next. We continued receiving payment invoices from Deutsche Bank intended for BlackRock.
Recently, something even more unbelievable has occurred. We received an invitation from the State Department to a diplomatic luncheon with the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Of course, we were flattered, then dismayed to find that the invitation was not for us, but was intended for Laurence Fink, the CEO of BlackRock. Now, trying to understand the process whereby we came to be in possession of an invitation to a diplomatic event made us very confused. How does one make that sort of mistake?
Given the amount of material like this that we receive, the problem of identity confusion when sending sensitive messages seems to remain rampant both inside the U.S. and around the world. We have received hundreds of information requests from local and state police, federal agencies, lawyers and random people trying to retrieve telecommunications user data that we can never provide because we are not AT&T or Verizon. Sometimes people get angry at us for not providing the information. Sometimes we try to help them find the actual person they are trying to communicate with. However, the problem continues. We have changed the warnings at the top of the page for Kissinger Associates and BlackRock Inc. into giant, red blinking absurdities in the hopes that someone will notice them. Prior experience causes us to expect only a slight reduction in the amount of Kissinger mail we receive.
Subject: Invitation from The Vice President, Dr. Biden and The Secretary of State From: "U.S Dept of State Protocol" <ProtocolRSVP@state.gov> Date: 2/23/2012 2:52 AM To: <email@example.com>, <firstname.lastname@example.org> Please find attached an invitation for Mr. Laurence D. Fink from The Vice President of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, and The Secretary of State, for a luncheon in honor of The Right Honorable David Cameron, M.P., Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Mrs. Samantha Cameron, on Wednesday, March 14th in The Benjamin Franklin Room. The details for this event are listed below: Date: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 Time: 1:00 p.m. Doors open at 12:30 p.m. Location: Department of State The Benjamin Franklin Room 2201 C Street, NW Washington, D.C. 20520 Detailed arrival instructions to follow RSVP: Kindly respond before March 8th by providing your full name (first, middle and last), date of birth and either your social security, drivers license or passport number to ProtocolRsvp@state.gov or at 202-647-2100. Formal Invite to follow. This invitation is non-transferable. You will be asked to present photo identification at the door. Thank You, Office of the Chief of Protocol This email is UNCLASSIFIED. This email is UNCLASSIFIED. This email is UNCLASSIFIED. Attachments: Invitation.pdf 262 KB