Skip to comments.UK Government Report Recommends Ending Online Anonymity
Posted on 08/02/2014 2:48:37 AM PDT by Objective Scrutator
Every so often, people who don't really understand the importance of anonymity or how it enables free speech (especially among marginalized people), think they have a brilliant idea: "just end real anonymity online." They don't seem to understand just how shortsighted such an idea is. It's one that stems from the privilege of being in power. And who knows that particular privilege better than members of the House of Lords in the UK -- a group that is more or less defined by excess privilege? The Communications Committee of the House of Lords has now issued a report concerning "social media and criminal offenses" in which they basically recommend scrapping anonymity online. It's not a true "real names" proposal -- as the idea is that web services would be required to collect real names at signup, but then could allow those users to do things pseudonymously or anonymously. But, still, their actions could then easily be traced back to a real person if the "powers that be" deemed it necessary. Here's the key bit:
From our perspective in the United Kingdom, if the behaviour which is currently criminal is to remain criminal and also capable of prosecution, we consider that it would be proportionate to require the operators of websites first to establish the identity of people opening accounts but that it is also proportionate to allow people thereafter to use websites using pseudonyms or anonymously. There is little point in criminalising certain behaviour and at the same time legitimately making that same behaviour impossible to detect. We recognise that this is a difficult question, especially as it relates to jurisdiction and enforcement.
The report notes that the findings are "tentative" and that these recommendations might possibly "be an undesirably chilling step towards tyranny," but they don't seem that concerned about it, or they wouldn't have made the general recommendation in the first place.
There is a long list of problems with such a proposal, beyond the obvious questions of how you would possibly enforce it and what the various chilling effects would be. But let's take it one step further and note the fallacy of the very premise made in the report: that without such requirements it is "impossible to detect" who did an action online deemed to be illegal. We've been dealing with this issue forever. A decade ago, we reported on the various freakouts over open WiFi and how it would "allow" anyone to commit crimes online and make it "impossible" to find them. And yet, time after time, we noted examples of basic detective work allowing police to track down the criminals.
Yes, without being forced to first identify yourself, it might make the police work a bit more difficult, but never impossible. Take a similar situation in the physical world. Anyone can walk into a store or a bank and hold it up. And they can do it without identifying themselves at the door before coming in. It happens all the time. Police have no official identity to work with, but they do have other clues -- fingerprints, video, photos, the clerk's memory -- to work off of and can piece together who committed the crime. The same is true of people online. Even if they don't identify themselves upfront, they frequently leave plenty of clues that allow law enforcement to figure out who they are.
So the very premise that this is somehow necessary is pretty much eliminated. Then combine it with all of the downsides that we already know about: chilling effects, the end of important anonymity, potential privacy violations and leaks and more. What you're left with is a horrible idea all around.
Not a step towards tyranny, they are already there:
Life in the UK seems like such a privilege...
Obama would love this. The IRS would find it that much easier to audit everyone on FR or elsewhere who told the truth about the pathetic petty tyrant in our White House. FedGov can find who we are when it’s actually needed, but this proposal would put that information in the hands of of a Lois Lerner government.
On-line donations have probably already taken care of the FR concerns - most can be traced back to their own computers and be identified via their ISPs anyway. There is almost zero true anonymity when on-line.
I always thought that it would be okay to force everybody to use the same assumed anonymous identity for most things on the net. Like a Usagi_yo on FR would be the Same Usagi_yo on Huffington post (It’s not) with a blind link back to the users email address.
But then I realized, our government can do nothing right and in the end, everything gets corrupted and compromised. Why just this week it’s revealed that the CIA spied on and hacked into Members of the Senate’s accounts and such. Then we have the IRS problems. So now I think the opposite. Everyone on line should be hidden from the government and self policed by the public.
Don’t know exactly how to do that, but eh ...
While history has disclosed the names of the writers of the Federalist Papers, they were generally written under a nom de plume.
The device lets the reader consider the thoughts written rather than the identity of the writer, and sometimes that better gets the point across.
Thomas Paine published “Common Sense” unanimously because at the time the content was considered treasonous. When the formed head of the IRS considers TEA Party members to be terrorists, I think we’ve arrived at an equally perilous time in history; perhaps even more so. Paine was promoting secession from England. The TEA Party advocates for lower taxes. Somehow that is now considered a dronable offense by some in power.
I think you meant “anonymously” instead of “unanimously”, but I agree, we live in perilous times when the government has already exacted its official vengeance against groups for disagreeing, and individuals are not far behind, if at all neglected in that regard.
Except for purchases, anonymity is the only way I go online. I laugh at the social networkers who get in all kinds of trouble, puting it all out there with their name in the margins
Agreed - true anonymity is hard. The question is whether it takes an FBI warrant, the NSA or equivalent to identify the originator of a post or a Lois Lerner clone can do it on her own. Even partial anonymity matters.
It’s not like the UK has never had a tyrannical government before.
We send their Tyrant George III a little know Declaration objecting to his tyranny in 1776.
That’s what I thought. Even if you’re sitting in Starbucks with a stolen laptop they could match the time of the cyber “crime” to the videos on surveillance cameras in the business and on the streets. If you have a cell phone in your pocket you’re toast.
But what of the Tyrant Barry? Our declaration needs to be re-addressed
Not all guns are banned.
And hey, some of us love soccer. LOL
Oh and Galloway is a Scot, sadly.
It is. For all its faults, a great country to live in.
(I know that’s not in the way you meant it.....)
A report from the House of Lords?
This idea wont go anywhere.
The House of Lords is NOT ‘the government’.
Utterly stupid, even if Weston is a racist ar*ehole.
Since the Internet is part of the WORLD WIDE Web, how will Britain deal with foreign accounts?
Will they demand the host country reveal who they are?
For example, I often post on the UK’s Daily Mail/Mail Online as Alas Babylon. And I am very critical of liberals and statists, political correctness and am a proud defender of Christianity and Western values.
So I do not want a single liberal, politically correct, upper class twit from Britain to ever know more about me than I oppose his silliness.
Arg! Autocorrect bit me again.
If you are asserting that Weston is a racist would you please adduce some supporting evidence?
Thinking of someone else, sorry.
Thanks for the clarification.
"We moved our base camp last night and were now positioned literally
within feet of the river. Have been sitting here watching the border
patrol patrolling in their riverboats all night and all morning..."
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