This article was originally published on March 4, 2016.
How do two of the world’s most iconic superheroes hide their respective identities?
On the surface, it doesn’t look like they have much in common–one’s a human billionaire who disguises himself in latex, the other’s an alien god who disguises himself in a cheap suit and glasses–but they each spend a lot of time hiding their true identities.
Obviously privacy is very important to Batman and Kal-El (Superman’s real name) and they are very successful at keeping their true identities private.
So, can we take any tips from DC’s most prominent superheroes? And do they care as much about our privacy as they do their own, or are they just a couple of big hypocrites?
The secret identities of Batman and Superman are obvious
It does seem blindingly obvious who they are. The only reason their identities are a secret is because the writers made it that way, right?
Or is it…
Pop quiz! Who’s this?
That’s the fourth richest man in the world, Carlos Slim Helu. Do you recognize him? If Carlos spent his nights dressed in black latex beating up bad guys, would you know about it?
Let’s pretend there is some town on the planet with a Bat vigilante. How would you link this to Carlos? Do you even know where Carlos lives? How would anyone possibly equate Batman to a guy they’ve never heard of, and who lives in a place they don’t even know?
Maybe not so obvious after all, huh?
Let’s do Superman now:
That’s a journalist from a newspaper in NYC.
Why would anyone think an alien god was disguising himself as a mild-mannered newspaper reporter?
So how would Batman and Superman give away their secret identities?
There are seven billion people in the real world. With that many to hide among, it would be very easy for Batman and Superman to keep their identities hidden from all but their closest friends and family.
But there’s another world in which we all live, a digital metropolis where it’s much harder to keep yourself private. That world is, of course, the Internet. It’s a world of government surveillance, hackers and armchair sleuths.
Batman and Superman would have to be very wary of what they put on the Internet, lest they got their identities as busted as these poor hapless folk did.
Does Batman use the internet?
Yes. Batman has a Batcomputer.
And yes, that’s a real thing. It’s how Batman does his research. He is the world’s greatest detective, after all. The Dark Knight has used the Batcomputer to hack into all kinds of things over the years. It seems Gotham is as prone to a vigilante hack as the real world is.
The Batcomputer must be connected to the Internet in order to pull all the files and records it does. But Batman isn’t an idiot, so it makes sense that he hides his IP address. If he didn’t, his real identity would be found pretty quickly.
Batman is a known Internet chat user too, and isn’t above a bit of trolling. In Detective Comics Vol 1, book 845, Batman trolled an amateur detective chat room with the handle JonDoe297. He did this in order to catch the Riddler.
A fellow forum member (a police detective searching for clues) was worried the Riddler might trace his own real identity, then come after him. This particular scenario didn’t concern Batman, though — probably because he’s the Batman. And although it’s not mentioned specifically, it’s pretty obvious Batman is using something to disguise himself while surfing the Internet.
Our guess is a BatVPN.
You know who didn’t have a VPN though? The Riddler. So Batman managed to trace The Riddler and Kapow him all the way to Arkham Asylum.
Does Superman use the internet?
He’s a reporter. Of course he does.
Good point. And what of Superman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor?
This is a plan so sinister, it Deadpooled the Internet up to eleven and broke the fourth wall.
Lexcorp, Lex Luthor’s company in the Superman universe, leapt from the comic book pages and appeared in the real world to provide free public Wi-FI at a fan convention.
Lex Luthor is Superman’s number one arch enemy, and the bane of Metropolis. So why would he want to give out free Wi-FI? Because he knows public Wi-FI can be used for evil.
More importantly, a company in the real world used a known fictional arch villain to hoover up the personal details of fans via a free Wi-Fi service. And they got away with it.
That’s arch villainy plus one. Lex Luthor would be proud.
Can Batman steal your private data?
Yes. He’s the Batman.
In the movie The Dark Knight, Batman hacks all the cell phones and uses them all as a surveillance system to find the Joker.
This was a mass surveillance system with the capability to spy on everyone. And Batman used it, much to the dismay of Lucius Fox, who said “No one should have this much power”.
We agree, Lucious.
Batman argued the mass surveillance was necessary to catch the Joker, a terrorist. Where have we heard that recently? Oh yes. The FBI, when trying to get Apple to hack themselves.
Because he’s Batman, he justly destroyed the system after only one use. But would the FBI? Probably not.
We’ve all heard the argument that we sacrifice some liberties for freedom, which seems like an oxymoron to us. But this argument is why US law enforcement requests access to more than 1.3 million private cell phones every year. And it’s why companies like Verizon, AT&T, Apple and Google will hand over your personal information to the government.
It’s also the argument used to justify a $1.5 billion surveillance center for the National Security Agency (NSA). A centre that could be used to intercept the communications of every single American.
Perhaps those with nothing to hide don’t mind this massive invasion of privacy. But they should. Even when Batman does it.
As Lucius Fox said, no one should have this much power. And is mass hacking really the best way to fight terrorism? Let’s not forget that it didn’t even work for Batman. He got there too late and the Joker’s bombs were already in place. It took ordinary people to defuse the situation — not Batman, not the government, not even surveillance. Just people.
Can Superman steal your private data?
Yes. Superman is an alien god. He can read your mind. Sorry, not even a VPN can help you there.
A power greater than Superman and Batman
Could Bruce Wayne and Kal-El keep their identities safe? Sure they could — if there was no Internet.
Internet surveillance is oppressive, Bruce Wayne would’ve been targeted the first time he ordered a black cape and cowl from eBay. Or when he used the wrong word in a chat forum and caught the attention of the NSA.
As for Superman? He’d be the subject of brutal surveillance. He’d definitely be considered a threat. How we’d watch him is unknown, he’s an alien god, but we would most likely wiretap him with kryptonite.
Luckily, this is the real world. And we don’t need Batman or an alien god to protect us. Especially if their notion of protection is as intrusive as the government’s. (We’re looking at you, Batman).
We just need a good VPN to protect us from cyber criminals, meddling governments, and crazy billionaires in latex*. The latter two of which both seem to have decided that spying on us is the only way to save us.
Proof then, ExpressVPN is better than Batman. And Superman too, probably.
What do you think? Could ExpressVPN take Superman and Batman in a fight? Comments below!
*We didn’t mention Superman here on purpose. ExpressVPN does not protect you against alien gods. (Or Batman).