Hacking The Future: Anonymity Matters

from the read-up dept

Next Wednesdy, at 11am PT/2pm ET, we'll be hosting our talk with Chris Sprigman and Kal Raustiala about their book, The Knockoff Economy, which was our September book of the month (excerpt one and excerpt two). We also wanted to get moving on October's book of the month, Hacking the Future: Privacy, Identity, and Anonymity on the Web, by Cole Stryker. Here's the first excerpt we'll be running, from the intro of the book.
I think anonymity on the Internet has to go away. People behave a lot better when they have their real names down... I think people hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors.
In July 2011, Randi Zuckerberg, then marketing director of Facebook, uttered the words above during a panel discussion hosted by Marie Claire magazine. She couldn't have anticipated the firestorm those few words would generate among those already uncomfortable with the direction the Web had taken in the preceding year.

Two years prior, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, in an interview with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo, gave the downright schoolmarmish advice, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." Schmidt, who once led an antitrust crusade against Microsoft, has claimed that Google will avoid Microsoft's missteps because the search giant faces compelling incentives to please a customer base that will seek services elsewhere the moment Google does anything shady. But what if Google's been tracking your search results for your entire life? Google, just one of dozens of companies that mines user data, knows your favorite foods, your sexual proclivities, and your medical history, to say nothing of the personal information they host in the form of e-mails and other documents. Would it be as simple as just walking away?

Before the Internet Age, computers were perceived by the public as unfeeling, literally calculating metal boxes that just might help bring about a nuclear apocalypse. As machines go, they were just as cold as their industrial-era forebears, if not more so--at least you can watch the parts move on a steam engine. At least you knew it wasn't somehow plotting against you. It wasn't so long ago that computers were seen as a dehumanizing tool of a dystopic new technocracy, imbued with the fear and existential despair brought by the Cold War's lingering sense of impending doom.

But then something changed. Today we see computers (we don't even really call them that anymore, they're mobiles or laptops or something that sounds friendlier) as being vital, almost countercultural gadgets that bring empowered individualism, collaborative communities, and, depending on whom you ask, an almost spiritual enlightenment. They're sleek and sexy. They're our salvation from a world of physical limitations and disparities. Computers help us learn, work, and connect--Facebook now claims 850 million members, a figure that eclipses the number of people who were online in 2004. Pop stars interface with tween girls on devices with names like "Razr Maxx." How did we get here? How did these calculators, manipulated by flat-topped military brainiacs in austere labs, become something so integral to the human experience that to call them an extension of the self hardly seems like an overstatement?

Surely part of the answer is technological. We all know the first computers filled entire rooms in order to accomplish the computational tasks that you can now do (gee whiz!) in the palm of your hand. Another part of the transformation has to do with design evolution of machines. An iPad is certainly much sexier than bland, beige computers that existed even a decade ago.

But more than style, cost, and convenience, more than any other factor, the simple act of linking one computer to another brought about a new stage of human social evolution, the most rapid and far-reaching in human history with the possible exception of the printing press. And it happened because a bunch of geeks in California, Massachusetts, and elsewhere in the country picked up where the military-industrial complex left off after the Cold War.

The Internet could have never been born of state decree. It's too dangerous. It's too difficult to monitor and control. It's far too unwieldy. No, something so decentralized, open, and free could only have been conceived in an environment embodying those characteristics. The military had designed a decentralized computer network equipped with routing and packet switching because they wanted the system to survive if one of its nodes was located in a city that was nuked. This open platform enabled geeks to tinker in their basements and surreptitiously fiddle with pay phones while they made fascinating new discoveries about how communications systems worked, and how they could overcome the restrictions around those systems.

Throughout the '80s we saw something truly magical, the formation of the first ad hoc virtual communities--Bulletin Board Systems. It wasn't cheap, but with the right tools and know-how, anyone could set up a BBS and start up a little nation-state that played by his rules, and if the members of the BBS didn't like it, they could go somewhere else, or start their own. It was an opportunity for people to become "as gods," in the words of Web pioneer Stewart Brand, in control of their own identities, and thus their destinies, like never before. You could be gay on the Internet and nobody could do a thing about it. You could pretend you were a cat. You could be a prince online, whether rich or poor in reality. Now we're getting to the crux of it.

Computer technology has changed many things, but the most profound has been the ability to empower individuals to redefine themselves in a social environment, to hack into their personhood, their identity, and truly become who they want to be. It doesn't matter if you're ugly or physically disabled--no one needs to know. And that freedom is contingent on the ability of Web users to take control of their identities--to be as anonymous or pseudonymous as they want to be.

At least, that was how it was supposed to work.

As the Web has developed since the '80s, it's become more lucrative for people who want to sell you things. And it follows that it's become more lucrative to become the kind of politician who pushes for regulation of the Internet so that people who want to sell you things can do so more efficiently. Meanwhile, the rise of social networks has been accompanied by an unsettling accumulation of private information, given over to corporations willingly by those who wish to seamlessly engage with the Web.

At the same time, a global network of pranksters, activists, and bullies, drawing from two decades of privacy and free-speech activism, have taken on the anti-persona of "Anonymous," donning masks and causing havoc ranging from picking on classmates to bringing down the Web sites of multinational corporations. These (mostly) smart, well-connected people from a seemingly infinite range of backgrounds and an equally diverse set of motivations see anonymity as a source of power, perhaps the most integral human liberty that can be provided in a free society. They're loosely organized, and they often clash within the group. But their amateurish disorganization mirrors the early Internet in that there's no primary control center, no head to decapitate. Similarly, the folks behind WikiLeaks have taken up the fight against control of the Web from a different angle. They're less chaotic, and thus more approachable to the media. They at least operate under the pretense of working within the law, but the threat they pose to the establishment is equally grave. Where their fathers hacked machines, these freedom-loving network natives are hacking the media, politics, and, most important, the self, in dynamic and unpredictable ways.

It made sense that the Internet would become a battleground between the haves and have- nots, with information as the currency involved, whether personal or political. What we've seen in 2010 and 2011 is that the Internet isn't quite as locked-down as power brokers thought, and people weren't going to give up control of the open Internet without a fight.

That the Internet evolved the way it did almost seems like an accident. It spilled throughout the globe. In many ways it upends traditional power structures, encourages unlikely alliances, and spreads knowledge and hope for a better world. Governments and corporations may be able to sway the gavel, the sword, the coin, but the individual controls the wires, wrangling technology to conduct asymmetrical warfare, continuously evolving new ways to wrest control from the historically powerful.

The Web will continue to see warfare in the coming decade. Its primary battleground will be the identity space. Your ability to define who you are as a human, to be as open or as private with your personal information as you want to be, to speak out against injustices anonymously, or to role-play as someone you wish you were--these are the freedoms we will fight to keep. Will you decide who you are or will you be defined by the identity brokers?

On the face of it, we recognize cyber bullying, faceless slander, and data theft to be universally recognized evils, and we should therefore do what we can to mitigate them. The simple, obvious solution is to force everyone to wear a name tag in cyberspace, so that everyone is responsible for their actions online, just like in the real world. Evildoers use anonymity as both a shield and a weapon. If we rob them of both, we'll have less evil.

My position: It's just not that simple. Throughout Hacking the Future I trace the rich heritage of anonymous speech in a free society and examine its most popular current manifestations. I explore the bits and bytes behind the argument. I use the technology and come face-to- face with unspeakable evils in dark places I'd prefer never to return to. I consult the men who shaped the Internet and the soldiers toiling in the trenches of network security who intimately recognize the terrifying potential of the Wild Wild Web daily. I talk to code breakers, whistle- blowers, researchers, hacktivists, and mothers.

This book is essentially a 137-page rebuttal to Ms. Zuckerberg's comments. Her attitude is shared by many within the tech industry, and even more outside that universe. I wanted to figure out if it's worth living with anonymity on the Internet because I believe, without a doubt, that the Internet is the most important tool we have for promoting liberty. The identity issue may be the most crucial decision we face in the coming decade.

The Web is being pulled in two directions. In the worst fears of free-speech advocates, the Internet becomes tightly regulated and real-name identities are enforced, such that everything you say can be traced back to you. The reverse dystopia is a lawless frontier, where cyber terrorists, pedophiles, and information thieves run free. The decisions that lawmakers and CEOs make today regarding the privacy of Internet users will determine the way the Web looks in the future. As the "real world" and cyberspace become increasingly intertwined, society has yet to determine if it wants the Web to be an electronic extension of one's off-line life or something entirely different.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Lord Binky, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 2:36pm

    "People behave a lot better when they have their real names down... "

    Hmm, I find that a gentleman such as myself this is such a wonderful sentiment. It essentially says 'So people censor their speech, so I don't have to'. It strikes true to the heart of the matter. Forgive me, for I am such a lunkhead, I know in the US constitution where to find the individual right of 'freedom of speech' but I must be overlooking the part to 'freedom of life without offense". Can someone be so kind as to remind me where that is?

    I'm sure it's in there the way people keep making a fuss about being exposed to all manners of shockingly objectionable, uncivil, and quite insulting subjects of speech. I simply can not see this 'Internet' remaining in such an unrefined state and remain a part of civilized society.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      :Lobo Santo (profile), Oct 11th, 2012 @ 2:42pm

      Re: Free bird.

      Well, to feel offended is a personal feeling, in all reality a choice.

      It is similar to feeling threatened. The key words in any self-defense case are "I felt threatened".

      One can only come to the reasonable conclusion the key words in any censorship case (what's the PC way to say "censored"?) will be "I felt offended".

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      John Fenderson (profile), Oct 11th, 2012 @ 3:00pm

      Re:

      Also, there's the fact that people by and large don't actually behave better when they're using their real names.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 3:52pm

        Re: Re:

        Correct and what is even worse: If there is any way to cheat the system, we are back at something where some people will behave far worse than when everyone can choose to be semi-anonymous.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), Oct 11th, 2012 @ 5:41pm

      Re:

      This is proven false.
      His name is Chris Dodd and he admitted to bribing officials.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      ldne, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 7:16am

      Re:

      ". I simply can not see this 'Internet' remaining in such an unrefined state and remain a part of civilized society."

      There is no such thing as "civilized society", only civilized people, and there are fewer of them every day, they're being replaced by over sensitive gutless whiners. A gentlemen is simply a man who thinks one thing and says another, I'll take an honest man over a gentleman anyday.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 2:36pm

    I consider the ability to be anonymous to be very important, which is why I am simultaneously glad that Techdirt allows anonymous comments and irritated that I am labeled a "coward" for enjoying the feature.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Lord Binky, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 2:44pm

      Re:

      You Sir, give all other Anonymous a Cowardly name. Name Yourself! Rise and leave the Anonymous to the Humble and the Honorable. Although I have yet to see an Anonymous Humble or Anonymous Honorable, I am sure they are out there and if it were not for you they would have been seen.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Annonimous Coward, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 3:04pm

      Re:

      ... irritated that I am labeled...


      Stop being irritatored!

      Join the glorious ranks of "Annonimous". We rezent things.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), Oct 11th, 2012 @ 5:42pm

      Re:

      The phrase was coined long ago...
      and some of us are working on redeeming an epithet it became.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Scott, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 2:37pm

    I think it would be impossible to completely regulate the Internet as a whole when it connected internationally and decentralizated and always evolving.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Oct 11th, 2012 @ 2:57pm

    "People behave a lot better when they have their real names down... "

    So, the asshat that helps run Facebook wants us to censor ourselves?

    Rule 1 of the internet, that I learned as soon as it was available...

    Do NOT give out your personal information. It can be used against you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Baldaur Regis (profile), Oct 11th, 2012 @ 3:10pm

    The Web is being pulled in two directions. In the worst fears of free-speech advocates, the Internet becomes tightly regulated and real-name identities are enforced, such that everything you say can be traced back to you. The reverse dystopia is a lawless frontier, where cyber terrorists, pedophiles, and information thieves run free.
    I would argue a third (or nth) direction, one where anonymous, casteless, classless communication can occur between people, where such characteristics of personality as can be articulated are the sole criteria for how you are seen.

    Ultimately, the internet is a dream machine, a place where we can be who we want to be, not what our societies wish us to be.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Mike42 (profile), Oct 11th, 2012 @ 3:19pm

    Ah, yes. It's totally safe to use your real name on the net. There is no chance of a drooling psychopath figuring out who you are, dropping by your house, and doing unspeakable things to you and/or your family. After all, no one ever gets mad when you insult their religion, right? And even if they did, no one ever makes fun of anyone else's religion, so it's a non-issue. Then, of course, there's accidentally mentioning you are home alone and female, which is really not legitimately possible, because the internet has ways of shutting that down.

    Really, it's always totally safe to use your real name.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), Oct 11th, 2012 @ 5:45pm

      Re:

      use the Google+ answer, they aren't there to change the world and there are other services people who need to use nyms can use.
      Its primary mission afterall is to be an identity service not a social network.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 3:26pm

    Political speech may require anonymity, and the same governments that are pushing to end it also support it in places like China.
    Governments and big business like to be able to identify critics and whistle blowers so that they can at least try to discredit them. ty would also allow the MAFIAA to identify real people, or at least claim to. However using someone elses name on the Internet is all too easy.
    The logical extension of requiring real names is to ban the use of strong cryptography and the TOR networks.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Keroberos (profile), Oct 11th, 2012 @ 3:41pm

    If they outlaw anonymity on the Internet, only outlaws will have anonymity on the Internet.

    There are already plenty of tools that you can use to remain anonymous on the Internet if you so wish. All of the bad actors will use these tools and continue to be bad actors regardless of whether they outlaw anonymity or not.

    It boggles my mind that anyone can think that "MOAR LAWZ" is ever going to be a solution to anything.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      John Fenderson (profile), Oct 11th, 2012 @ 3:52pm

      Re:

      If they outlaw anonymity on the Internet, only outlaws will have anonymity on the Internet.


      Yes, but only in the sense that people who remain anonymous will be (presumably) breaking laws to do it. Lots (most?) of those people will not otherwise be outlaws.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 4:40pm

      Re:

      If they outlaw pussy, all outlaws will be pussies...or something like that.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 3:45pm

    Like AC#2, I prefer to not be named. Not that having a nick is in anyway an identifier by and of itself. Probably the only reason I comment here is because of that anonymity.

    I used to comment at Torrentfreak until they decided to start using Discus to count heads, IPs, and datapile. At that time I said goodbye to comments with them and never made another peep on their site. I have the choice of it's my way or the highway. Should Techdirt go the same way, I'll cease to comment.

    I don't have anything to really hide. However I resent being a data point continual in the great consumer drive. I don't want ads. I don't want all the pixel bugs, present even here. Yes, I do know they are there and block them.

    A few years ago, ARSTechinca had this great idea if you were running an adblocker you were stealing their income. It didn't take them too long to figure out where that went and change their minds. However, I didn't change mine. Screw em, I don't want nor like ads. To have them forced down your throat is a bit much. I tend to look on the store shelves and ask myself if that company/product has pestered me in the recent times and if they have I will seek some other product rather than that one. I get no benefit from the product by increased prices to pay for the advertisement they do. It doesn't provide a better product; it provides a more expensive one that doesn't do better.

    Along with the advertisements come this idea that everything you do must be counted to figure out who you are and what you are wanting. Here's news, if I want something, I know how to go look for it. If I don't want it, taking up my time is a waste for both of us.

    Telling you ads serve a valuable purpose is only to justify the advertising market. It doesn't make the sites/places cheaper, it makes them more aggravating to use while the second income stream is trying to justify stealing your time and data.

    Privacy has a way of short circuiting that little dog and pony show.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      John Fenderson (profile), Oct 11th, 2012 @ 3:55pm

      Re:

      I'm with you all the way, AC, even with dropping Ars from my reading list. I stopped reading them as soon as they made that comment about ad blockers. I didn't know they'd since changed their minds (I don't read them), but it doesn't matter -- their attitude has been revealed.

      Anonymity is greatly valuable even if you don't have anything to hide.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 4:02pm

      Re: Anonymous Coward

      Along with the advertisements come this idea that everything you do must be counted to figure out who you are and what you are wanting. Here's news, if I want something, I know how to go look for it. If I don't want it, taking up my time is a waste for both of us.

      Well said, just wondering if it's not so much the counting about you or the not being told exactly whats being counted that bugs you?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 4:09pm

      Re:

      It is still possible for the site to see your IP unless you obfuscate that too. Anonymity is a question of: How much and To whom? When I post as an AC, the sites admin(s) can still look me up, I am just anonymous to the rest of the users. I use Ghostery to better control who gets to listen. In that way I am able to regulate my anonymity level far more nuanced than none/all.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 3:53pm

    Years ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to sign up with a small-town ISP under an alias, fake address, etc.. I'm still with them. I only have dial-up at home, so when I need high-speed I use public access computers (using another alias on the sign-in sheet, of course). I also have a Caller ID blocker installed on my phone line.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    TtheKiwi, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 3:54pm

    Another nony mouse

    Fredom of speach, yes we all like it and all deserve it.

    But.

    Is there a difference between the legal right and moral right? Just because you can express yourself anyway you choose dosen't mean you should at any give moment.

    I think the same goes for anonymity, you should be able to if you choose, i liken it to writing a letter to the local paper, You generally have to supply them with you r personal information but the don't publish it witout your consent. The obvious difference here is that the paper can choose not to publish your letter at all whereas the internet can enable you to bypass the whole editorial process.

    What it boils down to is i think most people censor themselves most of the time, do you really say everyting you're thinking to everyone you meet? Doubt it.

    Personally 95% of the stuff i post anywhere online is only directed at and read by people i know anyway (judging from blog views/comments)so they know who i am and what to expect.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Applesauce, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 3:56pm

    Ask Eric Schmidt about Bilderburg

    He's a regular attendee. Ask him what he does there.

    "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

    His statement applies to you, Not to him. HE is entitled to privacy, you are not.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 6:57pm

      Re: Ask Eric Schmidt about Bilderburg

      He's a regular attendee. Ask him what he does there.


      Is that really the first thing you'd ask him before calling him out as a hypocrite?

      What about details of the next things Google is planning to file a patent on? (I'll leave the catch-22 implications to others of an actual response to this)

      What about source codes for all Google algorithms?

      What about the passwords to his online banking?

      What about ?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 4:36pm

    I think online anonymity is even more critical in this day and age. Anonymity is what allows for a free exchange of not only radical and unpopular ideals and information, but it protects information and ideals that may not be "correct" under a given correct political regime.

    As for "real identity":

    (tongue firmly in cheek) What if I don't identify myself with my real name? What if I don't think my I am who my parents named me to be? Talk about "gender identity" what about "identity...uh identity". Maybe my "real name" (re: legal) name is John Doe, but I identify as Stormagedon Archduke of Lollipop Land. Why should my right to chose my identity be stolen by my to donors of my genetic material? Huh...huh?

    My point is: Who the "real" person is, for a lot of people these days, isn't necessarily the name on their paperwork. I could see that turning into a interesting philosophical, and eventually legal, debate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 4:44pm

    Reverse dystopia? In other words, utopia.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 4:57pm

    Like AC#2, I prefer to not be named. Not that having a nick is in anyway an identifier by and of itself. Probably the only reason I comment here is because of that anonymity.

    I used to comment at Torrentfreak until they decided to start using Discus to count heads, IPs, and datapile. At that time I said goodbye to comments with them and never made another peep on their site. I have the choice of it's my way or the highway. Should Techdirt go the same way, I'll cease to comment.

    I don't have anything to really hide. However I resent being a data point continual in the great consumer drive. I don't want ads. I don't want all the pixel bugs, present even here. Yes, I do know they are there and block them.

    A few years ago, ARSTechinca had this great idea if you were running an adblocker you were stealing their income. It didn't take them too long to figure out where that went and change their minds. However, I didn't change mine. Screw em, I don't want nor like ads. To have them forced down your throat is a bit much. I tend to look on the store shelves and ask myself if that company/product has pestered me in the recent times and if they have I will seek some other product rather than that one. I get no benefit from the product by increased prices to pay for the advertisement they do. It doesn't provide a better product; it provides a more expensive one that doesn't do better.

    Along with the advertisements come this idea that everything you do must be counted to figure out who you are and what you are wanting. Here's news, if I want something, I know how to go look for it. If I don't want it, taking up my time is a waste for both of us.

    Telling you ads serve a valuable purpose is only to justify the advertising market. It doesn't make the sites/places cheaper, it makes them more aggravating to use while the second income stream is trying to justify stealing your time and data.

    Privacy has a way of short circuiting that little dog and pony show.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 5:01pm

    When you come through Mike, would you please delete the duplicate post #27 and this one. I refreshed the browser screen and it came up a dupe post.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 5:14pm

    Oh, the irony

    Perhaps a certain website should reconsider its practice of associating its commenters' desire to maintain anonymity with pusillanimity.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Gwiz (profile), Oct 11th, 2012 @ 5:21pm

    ....the computational tasks that you can now do (gee whiz!) in the palm of your hand


    Wait. What about the palm of my hand? Haven't done that in ye.....


    Oh. Spelled different. Nevermind.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Oct 11th, 2012 @ 5:58pm

    I am a nym.
    There are many other nyms, but this is my nym.

    I have several nyms, I make no secret of them existing just who they are.

    When I wear this nym I can say and do things without worry of repercussions. This nym is me, there is no question it is me. Anyone who deals with me knows almost instantly it is me they are talking to. This nym has greater precautions in its construction because it tends to draw the attention of those who dislike the things I say and would like to get me to stop.

    When I wear a different nym, I am more open and social with online society... to a point.

    I never got the whole expose your entire life to the world fetish so many people seem to have. I admit its a goldmine for me, Google search is fun when hunting information on people. So few people bother to see what digital trail they leave behind... I know what mine is.

    Trying to remove anonymity from the online experience is trying to make the boogie man go away with the wave of a wand. Like every societal ill... we pass a law and no one but the bad people get hurt and we can stop worrying about it... I'm not ready to have to be groped by a TSA agent to get my interwebs card... how about you?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 8:00pm

    While posting as an anonymous poster, I don't really care if my name is out there or not, for it doesn't make a difference. However, for the purposes of Techdirt, being anonymous is better than being named, as I hope to keep the discussion about ideas and not about people for the most part.

    However, for the author's point, I would have to say that society as a whole isn't willing to tolerate absolute anonymous activity online anymore than they are willing to tolerate it in real life. It's all well and good until an individual is hurt, libeled, or slandered online to a point where they feel they need to take legal action to redress the situation, then the anonymous factor becomes a major hindrance.

    Allowing people online to be somehow NOT subject to the law is for some what makes the internet special, but at the same time is why it won't be tolerated forever. I can see within the time of the next US administration changes coming to the law that may require ISPs to be more forthcoming with user information, and potentially amending the law to make the end account user more liable for activity on their connection. The current SODDI attiude is a legal foxhole that too many online criminals are trying to disappear down.

    The bad old days of the internet will be gone soon enough, try to remember them fondly!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 8:44pm

    This is a way for censorship to be used and "troublemakers" indentified and watched so that they can be punished.
    It is just government and big business doing their best to control your Ēmeager and patheticĒ lives.
    They donít how much they inconvenience, cost or hurt you, because they have to protect you and ensure their livelihood/ profitability/continuance.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 9:03pm

    The minute you give them your telephone number, you have handed over your name and address at the very least. Most countries require photo id to buy a phone, and most people use their driver's license. There are ways around that, but generally speaking, you're "known" if you use the internet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2012 @ 10:45pm

    Anonymity is freedom, plain and simple.

    -Corporations use anonymity during closed door deals, such as the drafting of SOPA and PIPA.

    -Governments use anonymity under the guise of 'National Security'.

    -Average citizens use anonymity to learn about forbidden topics and to exercise freedom of speech, without fear of reprisal from the entities listed above.

    Anonymity is a gift to mankind. It's a double edged sword that cuts both ways, depending on who wields it.

    Those who state we should seek to abolish anonymity, only serve to show how short sighted and arrogant their views on the topic truly are.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    chrapott (profile), Oct 12th, 2012 @ 2:39am

    Accountability

    The core of this post is that man should be clever and sensitive in whatever post they will do in the internet. For, you are the sole accountable to whatever post you do in the internet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    NA Protector, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 9:45am

    Scapegoat: a person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place

    Businesses, corporations, officials, &/or governments are using the idea that people that wish to be anonymous as a scapegoat for their problems. If something negative is written about them whether it is a perspective truth or slander, they blame anonymity and declare it as misinformation. Kind of funny, the people that are fighting to remove anonymity from the internet want anonymity for themselves and the actions that they do or did not do, declaring it is for the betterment of society. The lesson I and probably everyone who worked on or interacted on the internet was, ĎNever identify yourself.í Now they want to say that rule is the problem. A history book, police reports, accident reports, the Darwin awards, and probably a lot of reality shows can prove them wrong. If what they saw were true, then the people we call Osama, Hitler, and Napoleon, are in fact aliases and not their real names. And these three names are just a very small part of list of people that are known to be terrors to society.

    Do I have a point? Maybe: I just want to point out that if something that doesnít work in reality, why would it ever work on the internet. You donít expect people to have their identity, tied to their ballets. When you apply for work, you donít include your habits, personal likes, health, and other details that does NOT contribute nor hinder your ability to work. But, in the same note, people that commit a crime should be able to be tracked, identified, and punished. Crimes should be stopped or prevented. It is just that the method they suggest cannot be the only way. There has to be a better way than that to establish a balance. Now, I know the world isnít perfect and expecting compromise is just fantasy, but are we not supposed to at least try & I donít mean the politicians and the elected officials but us, the people. The problem they have is not simple and to treat it as such is ignorant. The best way to fight ignorance is knowledge, true knowledge that is not biased and incorporates all points of view. I probably can rant and rave about this enough to make a few books, but I will stop with this one thing. Practice it. Preach it. Prove it. I assume these people practice what they are preaching it. Now, can they prove it in real life and on the internet?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 2:33pm

    You don't hack the future. The future hacks you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Tor fan, Oct 30th, 2012 @ 5:33pm

    Real name internet vs reality

    Phobos of Tor said it best:

    "There is a growing cacophony that a fully identified, real name policy for the Internet will solve all of our problems relating to crime, bullying, harassment, and everything else. This idea is furthered along by Facebook, Google, and the US White House.

    As just one example of how this is an over-simplified argument, it seems people are continuing to forget their childhoods. As a kid, many of you were bullied and harassed at school. You knew the kids picking on you at lunch, at recess, at morning before class, and after school. Further, you knew their parents, where they lived, and generally who they were outside of school. This bullying and harassment may have continued through High School, into College, and through your work life. Again, you knew their real names and far more about them than Google, Facebook, or the US Govt will ever hope to know. A real name world hasn't made life better, more civil, or safer for millions of kids growing up in it.

    I've spent time talking to kids that have been bullied online and in real life. It's all done with real names via Facebook, text messaging, at recess, after school, via twitter, etc. It spreads to those trying to stop it, such as their parents who get involved to defend their kid. These are all real name environments. Kids don't call it bullying. It's called 'starting static' these days to skirt the word 'bullying'. Regardless of the term, it's frequently done via real names.

    There is a small, but growing, set of voices realizing that real name policies aren't all they are promising to provide, namely safety. EFF/Jillian York, GigOM/Matthew Ingram, and moot have all made cases why anonymity is important on the Internet. This forced dichotomy is not new, Karina Rigby wrote about it back in 1995.

    We've learned over the past few years that the ability to remain anonymous has led to people instituting positive change, such as the 'Arab Spring', and to being able to research and question authority without the fear of punishment and/or death to them and their relatives in repressive regimes. Further, the option of anonymity can allow you to explore new topics, learn about new things, and join new communities. You are freed from the baggage of your own history. People can change.

    Jerks can use anonymity too. Or they can use their real names. It would be an interesting study to see the abuse/complaint report numbers for Facebook, Google+, and other real name environments versus similar environments without such a real name requirement. It would be equally interesting to learn if the presence of an authority figure versus real names provides less abuse/complaints from the members. This post is skipping the entire topic of trojan software acting in your name, such as botnets collating millions of identities to do the bidding of others.

    The power is in the beholder, not the technology itself. Use your anonymity for good, while you still have it. You should be in control of your identity, not someone else."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This