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.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Wolfger, 12 Jan 2006 @ 4:55am

    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.

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

    • identicon
      Random User, 12 Jan 2006 @ 5:35am

      Re: Anonymous versus Nickname

      You raised some pretty good points in your post and i'd say anonymous is not actually anything to do with names, but more or less being untracable, e.g using a proxy, not online handles.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2006 @ 10:01am

      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.

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

  • identicon
    Matt Chase, 12 Jan 2006 @ 6:58am

    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.

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

  • identicon
    Craven Moorehead, 12 Jan 2006 @ 9:53am

    No Subject Given

    Whenever I try to register on a new site, it always tells me my user name is already taken. It is frustrating, but in terms on anonymity it is nice know that there are alot of people that are Craven Moorehead.

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

    • identicon
      dan, 12 Jan 2006 @ 1:12pm

      Re: No Subject Given

      Yes, Craven, there are thousands of people using that moniker.

      99% of them have not yet reached puberty. 0.75% are morning radio shock jocks. Exactly 0.00% ever have anything worthwhile to contribute to any discussion of any import.

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

      • identicon
        anon, 12 Jan 2006 @ 11:59pm

        Re: No Subject Given

        Yes, Craven, there are thousands of people using that moniker.

        99% of them have not yet reached puberty. 0.75% are morning radio shock jocks. Exactly 0.00% ever have anything worthwhile to contribute to any discussion of any import.


        .325% belong to a band by that name.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Patriot, 12 Jan 2006 @ 8:03pm

    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.

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.