Batman and Spiderman, as most superheroes, have secret identities -- “normal” lives as ordinary humans. Anonymity lets heroes have personal lives, gives them an advantage in combat, and prevents villains from targeting the hero’s loved ones.
But in today’s information age, would Spiderman and Batman survive as unnamed forces for good? Social media, cellphone cameras, and the internet paired with tracking and identification technology would unmask Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne.
With social media that can connect online users instantly, Spiderman would never be able to crawl around the New York City without getting caught. If he scaled the Empire State building and was doing something heroic, nearby residents would Tweet his location. Spidey would jump to another building, but those people would spot him and update their Facebook statuses. No matter where he went in New York, people would be there to see and inform the world. They'd post pictures and videos that would circulate the internet. Obsessive body language specialists may be able to identify certain mannerisms. His body type, his shoe size, his voice would all be recognizable. Batman would have a slight advantage as a night rover, but even his inhuman voice would not hide him for long.
The blogs, fake Twitter accounts, and other outlets with updates on Spiderman's whereabouts make advanced technology even more powerful. More evidence, more for tracking methods to work on. If he's battling a villain, onlookers may be able to capture his fighting words on camera and an analyst could use voice-identification technology to identify him. In any case, the government and police would find out faster with updates in real-time, and then use surveillance technology, data mining, and forensic analysis to smoke him out. I have no idea how they actually work, so it's possible the freelance photographer could lead a normal life. But it would be harder to hide.
Hell, they found Osama bin Laden, and he wasn't swinging from New York City rooftops in a red leotard.
Superheroes would have to be über rich or located remotely to avoid getting caught. They couldn't be traditional superheroes fighting psychos or mutant animals. Maybe they could be computer hackers. But even members of Anonymous, a hacktivist group, have been arrested. They would have to take off the suit, like Iron Man. But narcissistic, ladies' man Tony Stark doesn't have many close companions in life to protect.
Whether superheroes would actually be able to remain anonymous, hyper-connectivity and nearly unrestricted access to information reduce privacy. The merging of public and private has put the personal lives of politicians, celebrities, and other high-profile public figures under more scrutiny, as well as those of ordinary people. So the next time you mupload, think about whether you'd rather have huge traffic on your profile or a crime-fighting superhero in a foolish costume in your life.