Reasons Why Online Anonymity Is Important: Whistle Blowing And ID Theft

from the among-others dept

There seems to be this fear among governments concerning the dangers of “online anonymity.” It can certainly allow people to do bad things anonymously — but there are certain benefits to allowing people to be online without identification. An article in South Korea demonstrates two situations from very different angles. The first concerns the incredibly popular online game Lineage, which recently required people to provide their real info, including the Korean equivalent of a social security number, the resident registration number. That’s to make sure the players can be identified in real life… but it also means big problems when the Lineage database is hacked and stolen by identity thieves, as it was recently. Requiring the use of a single, not easily changed, identification number is incredibly risky — because that data will get compromised. At the same time, it was the ability to still remain anonymous that may have helped a bunch of scientists find possible bogus research in the work of cloning research scientist, Hwang Woo-suk. There are, clearly, tradeoffs to anonymity — but it seems that many are leaning too strongly in the direction of forcing everyone to identify themselves, without paying attention to the unintended consequences of doing so.

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Comments on “Reasons Why Online Anonymity Is Important: Whistle Blowing And ID Theft”

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Jack says:

Re: That's a bunch of crap.

It is my understanding that only the government should have your SSN. It was originally intended to be a personal identifier for the government’s knowledge only. Over time people have become used to giving their SSN to most anybody. I do my best to keep it to myself and go without being a patron of companies that require my SSN.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: That's a bunch of crap. last 4 digits of your

Actually, there are several public utility companies (and auto ins companies) that normally ask you for the last 4 digits of your SSN to verify who you are with their computers.

Many people do not know that they can always opt out of this by instead asking for a different type of “confirmation code” to be used. Because this is not widely known, many people actually do give out their SSN as if it was no big deal.

The alternative would be to always give out a consistent “FAKE” last four digits of your SSN when ever asked for these last four digits. Heck, the public utils arent going to check/confirm these digits anyways – or are they? and this way, you will have a unique identifier that only you know – like a PIN # for these utils.

someone have a comment on this?

anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

I agree only your employer needs your SSN number. This crap is getting out of hand, everyone knows that there is not a REAL secure way to store your private information. The last place we need to have a breech on our private information is online. Let that info fall into the wrong hands, and you just as might as well say you are screwed. You don’t know who will cause the breech, what country they are from, or if their country even has good relations with the country you reside in. Further more… It’s just a game. I don’t care who they are, they have no business asking for that info just so you can play a damn game. I am so mad right now I don’t know who to kick for allowing this crap too happen. Our law makers maybe?

johndoe2 (user link) says:

No Subject Given

im a HUGE privocy advocate as well, why would any internet service need my real info except for maybe my isp so they can bill me?
the answer is they DONT NEED IT, they just want it cuz knowladge is power…and sadly the knowladge of who i really am is seldom safe if/when its stored or transmitted via the internet.
for here in the States, choicepoint recently proved just how un-safe my identity really is…
so why take the risk…

anonymous says:

Reasons Why Online Anonymity Is Important

I think it’s time for consumers to get off their butts and become their own advocates. It’s starting to look like that not even our own law makers can even stop the farce going on online. There are NO consumer laws folks. That is the problem. Consumers are at the mercy of any business online. Put something online that consumers want, then make your own rules. On a personal note they couldn’t do over half of the crap they do online in a major department stores and get away with it. It’s time for Online Consumer Protection Laws.

Bob says:

Another reason: Techdirt

I support the Techdirt blog, and contribute to the site by making comments to various issues as I get the chance. I encourage others to do the same, and encourage debate on issues here as I find appropriate (although if I have nothing insightful or new to offer on an issue, I normally won’t bother commenting so as also not to waste others’ time).. However, the moment this blog would require a registration of me in order to submit simple comments, I would leave immediately and take my viewpoints and comments elsewhere.

In my experience, registering for anything on the internet or any game is usually not worth it, and primarily is for the benefit of the website and/or company pushing it, and provides little to no benefit to the user at all. Simply put, it’s too risky due to identity theft, spam flooding your inbox, profiling issues, etc. It’s just not worth it.

Clair (user link) says:


Privacy is important. There are limits to how much information one should divulge especially online. You never know who’s getting your information and what they are using it for. Important numbers such as resident number, etc. – I would see how important they are for work and other paperwork but otherwise, I don’t really think that there should be too much information available online about an individual.

On the other hand, online anonymity – it would certainly give everyone a chance to tell a lie or something – and we do need to get ourselves protected from people who take advantage of others. I guess that as individuals we need to be more cautious and that sometimes there are laws that try to protect us but in the end – they might do more harm than good. That is just so sad when that happens because that is so ironic.

Anonymous Coward says:

Reasons Why Online Anonymity Is Important: Whistle

A good majority of users are too quick to fill out forms or checkmark a yes box, or I agree box and to give out personal information on themselves online. I have seen very personal information on individuals online that if I wanted too I could of walked up to their own front door and knocked. Consumers don’t see the internet as a threat until the un-imaginable happens. Then they tend to freak out and instead of knowing how it happened, they have no clue till someone spells it out for them.

Some of the security breeches online are caused by the consumers. But a good majority of it was caused by the online business establishments. It started with consumers coming online with no security knowledge what so ever. Which was created with the booming sales of computers when they got cheaper to purchase.

Next is the businesses online thinking it will be cool for customers to have profiles, surveys came along, which escalated to blogs, games, software etc. Every one of them wants personal info. It’s no wonder the consumers are misinformed because you can’t hardly find any online establishment that doesn’t want some type of information about you. You even have your major store chains online asking for this stuff. So your information is being stored everywhere for everyone to see in one form or another. Even if the public online can’t see this information someone has access and is looking at it.

The consumers are misinformed, but also confused too. I have had chats with individuals who said that because the information was asked for, and because the place was a known, and well established place and recommended they didn’t feel there was any harm done. Plus a good majority said if their personal information is so bad to be giving it out so freely then why do they ask for it? A few have even said that they have in the past come across quite a few places that wont let you join, or take part in the activities on their website unless you do fill out the information. Case in point to this some places demand the information by not letting you advance on to the Finnish or end page unless you fill in the fields that you missed on their page.

I tend to agree we do need consumer advocacy, but we need laws too in order to show the consumers that it’s not ok for a game site to be asking for their SSN. A fourteen year old should not be posting their home address on their profiles just because the website asked for it. Businesses should NOT be asking for personal information in the first place. You should NOT be forced to give this information out either. If you want consumers to show some self-restraint, then the online business community should also be showing this same self-restraint. We need consumer advocacy to make it fair for everyone.

Rom says:

Did anyone try in such cases?

“Fake Name Generator – It’s a tool that will draw a set of randomly paired ‘person’ elements from different data stores to create one completely ‘real looking’ fake identity, replete with social security number, mastercard number (generates valid MOD 10 credit card numbers; note: you can’t actually buy anything with these), date of birth, address, phone, email and full name.”

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