The Difference Between Anonymity And Accountability

from the not-tied-to-each-other dept

Recently, it’s seemed like online anonymity has been under attack. There’s no doubt that people hide behind anonymity online to do bad things — but it’s not necessarily the anonymity that’s the problem. Bruce Schneier has an essay up on Wired News pointing out that the real problem is accountability, which can still exist with anonymity, though historically the two have been intertwined. It’s a good thing to remember the next time someone speaks out against online anonymity. Usually the problem is actually with accountability.

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Comments on “The Difference Between Anonymity And Accountability”

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Wolfger (profile) says:

Anonymous versus Nickname

This article is written under the false assumption that posting (for example) as “Wolfger” is anonymous. An identity is an identity, whether it be a name I made up, or a name my parents made up and the government tracks. Perhaps my real name is “Phillipe Gaston”? It isn’t… but if it was, and I posted under that name, would it really make me any less “anonymous”? No. Names are not unique in the real world. In fact, they are *more* unique online than in the real world. A google search for Wolfger turns up a lot of results that relate to me. A google for my real name turns up a lot of results on a lot of other people, and not me at all. If I wanted to be unrecognizable, I would post under my real name. 🙂

You may not know the “real names” of sellers on Ebay, but they are far from anonymous. The definition of anonymous is “Having no distinctive character or recognition factor.” A consistent name defies that rule, and a truly anonymous netizen has no accountability. The two are truly inextricably entertwined.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Anonymous versus Nickname

The real point is as Bruce says in his article is the imperfect world.

It simply is the need to be able to supply information without suffering recrimination by
those in power.

I think that people
one can usually eventually determine the truth
if you have enougt data -i.e. both the true statements and the false ones.

I can suggest if is like having a newby who buys a product and complians if does not work.
Other more knowledgable users will report on their success with the
product. So good products can still be detected even if there is some mininformation.

It is simple the process of making decisions with
information send with noise. Engineering systems
handle it well. So do people if they have the info.

But the inperfection is the misuse of power – or the fear of misuse of power.

Whether you are the CEO of a big corporation
or a policeman, or the gov. you can misuse your power.
e.g. the policeman who used the police
data base to find people for his personal gain.

It is the misuse of power which usually the reason for secrecy.

What the internet permits – and this is good
is to make it easier for individuals to
be informed.

Ebay shows a solution that works that tends to stop fraud without using identifification.

The goal is to communicate accurate information
over a noisy channel. Some messages may be wrong
but if we can detect the incorrect ones then one
can use the system for good.

Matt Chase says:

This doesn't make a case for online anonymity

One reason for people trying to be anonymous online is to duck accountability. While some people are paranoid, and therefore try to be anonymous online, others are malicious, and the problem lies with the latter group.
When I think about people trying to be anonymous online, I don’t first think of eBay — a place where people can be anonymous, yet still accountable, because ultimately, they have an identity and a record.
I do not think the accountability model witnessed at eBay can be applied to the Internet, and therefore online anonymity is still a dangerous topic.

Anonymous Patriot says:

With anonymity there is freedom. Don?t be so afra

The reason anonymity is so popular, is that a lot of people like to do things that the ?public? thinks is deviant, or wrong. Like having sex.

Not having the ability to anonymously exchange information about ?embarrassing? but life threatening information is dangerous. I would much prefer that my daughter be able to anonymously learn where to get condoms, and how to properly use them, than that the Feds are not able to figure out who bought an extra ton of fertilizer this month.

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