UN Agency Working On Tech Standards To Get Rid Of Anonymity

from the that-doesn't-seem-good dept

Declan McCullagh has a somewhat scary report about how the UN's International Telecommunication Union has been quietly working away on a proposal for new core internet technology that would allow a "traceback mechanism" to effectively get rid of anonymity, and allow those with access to identify who provided any particular piece of content. Not surprisingly, the proposal for such a technology was first suggested by a Chinese official, who has long tried to control the use of the internet in that country. The leaked documents related to this effort even indicate that one potential reason for such a mechanism would be to crack down on gov't opposition.

It is true that not everyone agrees that anonymity is a good thing, but it's taking it to another level to try to block out the possibility of anonymity altogether. While some are trying to position this as way to track down "bad" players (such as those running DoS attacks), the problem is that the definition of who's "bad" may depend heavily on who's in control. Regardless of whether any such anti-anonymous technology gets very far, pursuing it is probably a wasted effort. Plenty of folks have already learned to spoof and hide themselves and pretend to be others. It wouldn't take long for the same thing to happen with any "traceback mechanism" as well. Also, as the article notes, the ITU has no power over the internet these days, but has been pushing to get more power, which is why it's worth following what they're discussing behind the scenes.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 4:16am

    first

     

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  2.  
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    Haywood, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 4:17am

    Like every other enforcement scheme........

    It will inconvenience citizens while being useless to deter criminals. A popular NRA bumper sticker reads: When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

     

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  3.  
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    Shohat, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 4:31am

    Eventuality

    I am all for anonymity on the net. It's great.
    But it's not real anonymity - anything 99% of the population do, can be easily traced back. NO action you currently take on the internet is anonymous.

    As the web advances and matures, anonymity diminishes. Every single person that does not employ encryption, should know and expect that every single action he takes on the web is recorded and can be traced back to them, even today.

    Employing a standard it will not change much, and as the web matures we are to expect the option of anonymity to not be available to mainstream users at all. That's just life.

    And to Haywood - it's an idiotic sticker.
    "If killing is outlawed, only outlaws will kill" "If rape is outlawed, only outlaws will become rapists" , etc...

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 4:48am

    Re: Eventuality

    Did you say anything intelligent in this post?

     

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  5.  
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    Shohat, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 5:00am

    Re: Re: Eventuality

    Right, almost forgot...

    Fifth !!!!1111one!!1

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 5:44am

    So, I guess being an Anonymous Coward does not really mean that you're a coward?

     

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  7.  
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    Martin A, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:04am

    Damage

    It's an old quote, but still relevant today:

    "The Internet treats censorship as damage, and re-routes around it".

    Same would apply to a new subset of the Internet that rejected "anonymous" packets. Anyone is welcome to set such a thing up, but the rest of us will just ignore it.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:12am

    Re:

    "So, I guess being an Anonymous Coward does not really mean that you're a coward?" No, you're still a coward, you're just not anonymous.

     

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  9.  
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    ehrichweiss, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:13am

    Re: Eventuality

    Encryption doesn't have as much to do with anonymity as you are letting on, and as a matter of fact some encryption standards like SSL actually REMOVE anonymity since they require a direct socket connection.

    Total anonymity is easily accomplished by the masses with a Knoppix cd and a few open hotspots.

    And, it's not an idiotic sticker; simplistic in statement, yes; idiotic, not quite so much. I'm just betting you don't have/like guns. If evolution is outlawed, only outlaws will evolve.

     

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  10.  
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    bobbknight, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:19am

    Big Brother

    Big Brother, one world government and the UN as the central government.

     

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  11.  
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    Greg, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:37am

    Re:

    I think it should be mandatory for everyone to be able to trace these idiots that respond first with "first" and make no point at all.

    Like it's a big deal to be "first." Moron

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Eventuality

    Didn't think so.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Howard, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:39am

    Re: Re:

    I resemble that remark

     

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  14.  
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    Shohat, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:42am

    Re: Re: Eventuality

    I mean anonymity toward a third party which the user is not aware of, not the resource accessed. (should have mentioned that)

    On a side note...
    I come from a place where everyone knows how to use guns, grenades, grenade launchers and mortars. It's mandatory.
    Me having or liking guns has nothing to do with the sticker's poor logic.

     

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  15.  
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    OKVol (profile), Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:47am

    Another idiot politician

    Impossible. IP V4 does not require such bits. It cannot even uniquely identify every endpoint that current exists: therefor now we have NAT (address translation). When you have NAT, you hide the original address. And party B could borrow party A's network to masquerade as Party A.

    IP V6 has enough address space for everyone. But, there has a been a recent blather of folks insisting on NAT with V6 to make internal corporate systems "better protected" in their view, since they cannot be directly addressed from the public Internet.

    You want to set other bits as a unique ID? Someone will build a proxy that modifies those bits. Mandate software? Good luck with open source, and those still running Windows 3.11 or OS/2.

    Politicians can't engineer. So, let's try having engineers run the government for a while...

     

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  16.  
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    Ajax 4Hire, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 7:02am

    This is the UN we are talking about.

    I am still waiting for the UN to do something successful.

    Giving this little nugget of work to the UN is a guarantee of failure. The final report and that is what it will be is a report will emerge in 9 years with recommendation that will take 7 year to adopt and another 5 years to start enforcement. It will be like trying to manage dial-up internet access today.

    We are safe.

     

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  17.  
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    Haywood, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 7:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Eventuality

    "Me having or liking guns has nothing to do with the sticker's poor logic."

    There is nothing wrong with that logic. Since the Brady bill mandatory waiting period, all that has happened is; now to buy a gun off the street it is an the hundreds of dollars, not the 10's. You still can buy all you want, no waiting period, you just have to pay more. If that isn't guns bing outlawed, yet outlaws having guns, what is?

     

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  18.  
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    asdf, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 7:52am

    Re: Like every other enforcement scheme........

    Edited:

    When guns are outlawed, only rednecks will have guns.

     

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  19.  
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    BaasGaas, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 7:55am

    Re: This is the UN we are talking about.

    Finally someone with sense. Who ever listens to anything the UN says. It is nothing more than a debating society and has just as much influence as your high school debating society.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 8:22am

    I haven't seen it yet, so I'll post it. 9/11. That's right, 9/11.

     

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  21.  
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    Ben, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 8:31am

    Potential Misuse != Reason to outlaw

    #3 - let me make your analogy a little more pertinent. Right now, sex is legal. But not FORCED sex. Guns are legal, but shooting someone w/out a very justifiable reason is not legal. So outlawing guns to prevent people from shooting each other is like outlawing sex to prevent the rapists from raping people. Rape is already illegal, outlawing sex won't stop it. It's the same for just about everything. Some people abuse perscription medicine, so let's outlaw that. Some people commit credit card fraud, let's outlaw credit cards. Some people jaywalk, let's outlaw walking. Some people inhale narcotics, let's outlaw breathing. Let's see, I think I could come up with a couple more if I really set my mind to it. Here we go. Some people drink and drive, so let's outlaw driving. Some people punch other people in the face, so let's outlaw hands. Some people kick puppies, so let's outlaw feet. Some people have "hate thoughts" (the precursor to hate speech) so let's outlaw all thought.

    Seems a little ridiculous to ban something because someone could misuse it.

    Let's expand it even further - some Muslims have committed terrorist acts, so let's outlaw Islam.

    Get the point?

     

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  22.  
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    Neocoupe, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 8:43am

    down with traceback

    This plan is horrible flawed. People who do DoS attack DISTRIBUTE the attack. Meaning they don't use there own computer. All this plan would do is track the source back to innocent people who don't know how to update their windows machine let alone commit a DDoS attack. The only people this would benefit is the RIAA in suing single moms and dictatorships who want to quash the aspirations of there citizens. Furthermore I don't know what disgusts me more, that the politicians think this is a good idea, or the complete lack of understanding on part of the politicians which this illustrates.

     

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  23.  
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    GuyWithSomethingToType, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 8:43am

    First - Its the UN... Name one thing these idiots ever get done effectively or efficiently.

    Second - even if they succeed, remember one thing about the internet and computers... Its all just software. At the end of the day, each and every program is nothing more than text that tells a computer to do something. So as long as that remains true, there will always be someone who can write some other text to tell the computer to disregard the old text and do something different. No matter what these people come up with, someone will come up with a way to defeat it, get around it or use it to their advantage. It is like the whole software piracy thing. While I understand companies want to invest huge amounts of money to protect their software with DRM and keys and all kinds of crazy methods... It usually only takes a few days for someone to write a piece of code that totally destroys their protection. So will go this effort. They'll implement it and within days, someone will figure out how to beat it. Why worry.

     

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  24.  
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    MDL, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 8:44am

    Internet Anonymity

    I believe a program like this already exists, and has existed on the internet almost since its inception. It is called Hacking and Identity theft, one of the basic requirments of Hacking and Identity theft is to discover the true identity of individuals, nodes, networks and exploit that information to gain further access.

    It seems to me that "enhancing" the existing internet protocol and service suite in the manner being described will add a whole set of tools to the Hacker's toolbox.

    Having said that, no you really don't have anonymity now. It is not that difficult to trace back an IP address, and it is done constantly for commercial purposes. Has anyone here ever been to a website that suddenly popped up with listings for beautiful women that apparently live right down the street in , USA?

    NAT and PAT provide some protection at the perimeter by hiding the originating address which is generally a non-routable private address anyway, hopefully assigned randomly by DHCP servers. This same socket model can also be exploited to find port vulnerabilities for network access. If the UN has difficulty finding the identity of Internet Patrons, I suggest they hire better IT staff.

    I am not entirely certain where/how they would implement this anyway. They don't control the IP protocol suite, InterNIC or anything else that should give them this sort of global influence. The biggest disincentive to identity tracking on the internet is the sheer volume of traffic, so even if they could track this someone would have to analyze and reveiw the traffic, and I don't see the UN having the resources to do this.

    I am not sure why it is relevant to this thread, but I would also comment that I grew up with guns, absolutly love them, but can not think of a single reason I need to carry a concealed weapon. Gun Control does not necessarily mean taking everyone's guns, just regulating how they are bought, sold and to a lesser degree used. I am actually all for that, and until someone can show me a society that has high gun related deaths, where the civilian population does not have relatively easy access to guns I will remain that way.

     

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  25.  
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    Dosquatch, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 8:49am

    Re: Like every other enforcement scheme........

    Just like Hemmingway and Dick Cheney.

     

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  26.  
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    Dosquatch, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 8:54am

    Did you ever notice

    The people who most want to take away your anonymity are the same ones who least want their own names associated with the effort?

     

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  27.  
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    Dosquatch, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 8:59am

    Re: Eventuality

    Idiotic? Poor logic?

    What that pithy little statement says, if you care to read between the lines, is that passing a law to ban guns is just one more law to ignore for someone who is already demonstrably inclined to do so. The only people who will obey this law are the law-abiding citizens, who (as law abiders) are NOT THE PROBLEM.

    Banning guns does NOT take them out of the hands of criminals. Look about the planet a bit and see for yourself.

     

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  28.  
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    Other Ben, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 9:01am

    Re: Potential Misuse != Reason to outlaw

    The difference is that you can't accidentally rape someone, or accidentally commit an act of terrorism. You can accidentally shoot someone, and it happens all the time, kids getting a hold of their father's gun. The chances of a regular gun owner stopping an "outlaw" by lethal force is slim to none. Yes it happens and has happened, but how many more mistakes have happened in the same amount of time, is it worth it? I personally don't think hunting guns should be outlawed, but concealed hand guns should be because they cause way more harm than they prevent.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 9:06am

    Re: Eventuality

    And to Haywood - it's an idiotic sticker.
    "If killing is outlawed, only outlaws will kill" "If rape is outlawed, only outlaws will become rapists" , etc...
    It seems that the double meaning just went right over your head and all you saw was the obvious one. Idiotic, indeed.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 9:14am

    Re: Re: Potential Misuse != Reason to outlaw

    And to Haywood - it's an idiotic sticker.
    "If killing is outlawed, only outlaws will kill" "If rape is outlawed, only outlaws will become rapists" , etc...
    Oh, you want to talk about "accidents"? You want to ban things that can accidentally kill someone? You know the what the largest source of "accidental" killings is? The automobile.

     

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  31.  
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    Medbob, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 9:21am

    Re: Eventuality

    You are a bit confused. I think that you are confusing your nouns and verbs. It's back to fourth grade for you!

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 9:29am

    Not surprised

    "The proposal for such a technology was first suggested by a Chinese official, who has long tried to control the use of the internet in that country."

    China lacks many types of freedom of speech or expression, and known for human-rights violations. This is a China problem, not a world problem.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 9:45am

    Tor anyone?

    Like someone said, it's pretty much impossible to rid the Internet of anonymity. If they did though, then, for example, a web server would have to log all accesses to it, no?

    There's always Tor.

     

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  34.  
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    nasch, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 10:03am

    Re: Re: Eventuality

    The problem is not that the sticker is wrong, the problem is that it's a tautology. It says nothing. What it's really trying to say is that if guns are outlawed the currently law-abiding people who have guns will continue to obey the law by getting rid of their guns, leaving only those who already do not respect the law with guns. That actually says something, because the other possibility if guns were outlawed is that the currently law-abiding gun owners would decide to break the law in order to keep their guns, thus becoming outlaws. In both cases, only outlaws would have guns, but they're very different scenarios. Of course, my restatement wouldn't fit on a bumper sticker and doesn't have a good ring to it, which is why they resort to the meaningless tautology and assume viewers will fill in the blanks.

     

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  35.  
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    nasch, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 10:08am

    Re: Re: Re: Potential Misuse != Reason to outlaw

    You want to ban things that can accidentally kill someone?

    Want to ban guns because of accidental gun deaths != want to ban everything that can accidentally kill someone. Try again, this time addressing the actual argument if you please.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 10:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Potential Misuse != Reason to outlaw

    Try again, this time addressing the actual argument if you please.
    The argument in the comment was that guns can cause accidental deaths. I believe that I addressed that argument. You, on the other hand didn't explain how automobiles can't also do so. Perhaps you are the one who should try again to explain how they don't.

     

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  37.  
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    Robert Johnson, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 10:37am

    Anonymity is not really such a good thing...

    Without anonymity, individuals would be forced to live with the bad reputation, bad karma, bad police record that went along with their bad behavior. That COULD discourage some of that bad behavior.

    The problem here, is that this is a tool held by the few to spy on the many. So if my ex works for the state department, and stalks me online, she can ruin my life by gathering my personal info and using it against me.

    What would be much better, is a tool held by everybody to spy on everybody. So if my ex works for the state department and wants to stalk me online, that's ok because I can prove what she's doing because she isn't anymore anonymous than I am. And I won't falsely believe that my online actions are anonymous, so I'll be more careful to control my personal info in the first place.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Braveheart, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 10:40am

    who needs it?

    Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you'll live... at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR ANONIMITY!

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 11:42am

    I'll be Anonymous in the crowd. it's like saying you aren't anonym while walking on central sqaure, a thousand other people are walking there too who cares if someone sees you to most you are just another person.

     

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  40.  
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    Dosquatch, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 12:37pm

    Re: Potential Misuse != Reason to outlaw

    The usual next step in this argument is "utility". It goes something like this - "Yes, a car can cause accidental deaths, but it has a useful, beneficial purpose. A gun has no such useful purpose, it's only purpose is killing things."

    I'm not even going to broach whether "killing things" is "useful" or any other direct rebuttals of this argument. The whole argument is a red herring, meant to distract from the actual argument at hand.

    The actual argument is this - Person A wants to participate in $activity$. Person B does not. If Person A and Person B decide for themselves and go about their merry way, that is the defining characteristic of a free society and horray, so much the better.

    Problems arise when Person A and Person B start trying to decide for each other. That is called "errosion of liberty" no matter which direction the water runs.

    So I want to bear arms. You do not. I am not trying to force you to own a gun. You ought not be trying to take mine away from me.

    You are Pro-Life. I am Pro-Choice. I personally don't think abortion is desirable most of the time, but that is my choice, and I ought not be making it for other people. Neither should you. I have to say, I've never noticed the pro-choice side of the debate attempting to force people into having abortions.

    On the whole, most of the time, on most issues, the rule "Live and Let Live" seems to be the fairest application of the principles of a free society.

     

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  41.  
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    Dosquatch, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 1:14pm

    Re: Anonymity is not really such a good thing...

    Anonymity protects the voice of dissent when those on the receiving end might otherwise respond ... unkindly.

     

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  42.  
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    nasch, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 3:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Potential Misuse != Reason to outlaw

    The argument in the comment was that guns can cause accidental deaths. I believe that I addressed that argument. You, on the other hand didn't explain how automobiles can't also do so. Perhaps you are the one who should try again to explain how they don't.

    See above about utility. The argument is not that guns cause accidental deaths. The argument is that the accidental deaths caused by guns (and I think specifically handguns were mentioned) may outweigh their beneficial use. It is certainly fallacious to equate this to claiming that the accidental deaths caused by cars outweighs their usefulness, and there is no need to demonstrate anything about cars or any other topic in order to make this particular argument about guns.

    Personally it looks to me like in any neighborhood where I would want to live, having a gun in the house would make the house less safe, not more. So I will choose not to have a gun in my house. Extending that to the claim that the government should prevent anyone from having a gun, or even any particular kind of gun, is problematic at best.

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 5:20pm

    See above about utility. The argument is not that guns cause accidental deaths.
    Sorry. Read the original comment; that was exactly the argument. Would you like some music to go with that backpedal?
    It is certainly fallacious to equate this to claiming that the accidental deaths caused by cars outweighs their usefulness
    And so who claimed that accidental deaths caused by cars outweigh their usefulness (other than your strawman, that is)?
    there is no need to demonstrate anything about cars or any other topic in order to make this particular argument about guns
    You wish. When someone starts claiming that things should be banned because they might/maybe/could accidentally cause harm then there are a whole lot of other things that the argument could also apply to. Things that might not fit the original political agenda. Or even worse, might expose it.
    Personally it looks to me like in any neighborhood where I would want to live, having a gun in the house would make the house less safe, not more.
    It might be nice to only have to go places where you want to (or only be around people you want to), but a lot of people aren't so lucky.
    So I will choose not to have a gun in my house.
    OK. Same here.
    Extending that to the claim that the government should prevent anyone from having a gun, or even any particular kind of gun, is problematic at best.
    Well, at least we agree on that.

     

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  44.  
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    Dosquatch, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:58pm

    Re: Potential Misuse != Reason to outlaw

    See above about utility. The argument is not that guns cause (trim)

    No, see the paragraph right under that where I call the utility argument irrelevant BS. The argument to be made is how those against gun ownership should be allowed to make a decision on behalf of 99.some% of personal firearms owners who never have an incident - accidental, criminal, or defensive.

    Nearly all guns in the US have had a perfectly harmless existence. And if it's not causing ME any problems, it surely isn't causing YOU any problems, so I invite you to kindly step off.

    Thanky!

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 4:02am

    Re: Re:

    Coward, or rightly paraoid? Well, if your in Malaysia or Russia that is.

     

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  46.  
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    nasch, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 8:27am

    Re: Re: Potential Misuse != Reason to outlaw

    There you go, now that addresses the argument at hand! You're saying the number of accidents is small and does not justify infringing on others' liberties. I have no problem with that position.

     

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  47.  
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    Robert Johnson, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 10:33am

    Re: Re: Anonymity is not really such a good thing...

    --Anonymity protects the voice of dissent when those on the receiving end might otherwise respond ... unkindly.

    You make a good point. There always need to be provisions that EFFECTIVELY protect political speech, artistic speech, etc. Anonymity does that...when it can be maintained. So the question is, can you (as things stand) maintain anonymity online against the government, or others who might respond unkindly?

     

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  48.  
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    Allen, Sep 24th, 2008 @ 12:10pm

    Re: Re: Potential Misuse != Reason to outlaw

    I'm not sure how an article on Internet anonymity morphed into a discussion about gun control. But I guess any conversation that goes on long will end up talking about either guns or abortion.

    This is in response to Other Ben's comments. Before stating facts, please do some research. At the least, don't just make them up.

    You state that kids get hold of guns and accidentally shoot someone "all the time". Wrong, it very rarely happens.

    You state that that the chances of a regular gun owner stopping a crime with lethal force are slim to none. Wrong, it happens very frequently. But you're right, lethal force isn't used much in that case, just the *threat* of lethal force is enough. And it happens far more often than accidental shootings occur.

    You state that concealed handguns cause way more harm than they prevent. If by "harm", you count scaring people that are already scared of weapons, then maybe. But you know that one is false is well.

     

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