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UK Government Report Recommends Ending Online Anonymity
TechDirt ^ | July 30, 2014 | Mike Masnick

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.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Government; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: anonymity; houseoflords; internet; tyranny
I'm not surprised that England (the land of socialized medicine, gun bans, CCTV cameras, de-facto Godless Anglicans, Muslim tolerance, terrorist George Galloway, Soetoro-lover David Cameron, and soccer) is considering this bill, to be honest. Well, if the English want to detonate their entire economy at the whims of the nanny staters, I won't complain.
1 posted on 08/02/2014 2:48:38 AM PDT by Objective Scrutator
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To: Objective Scrutator
The report notes that the findings are "tentative" and that these recommendations might possibly "be an undesirably chilling step towards tyranny,"

Not a step towards tyranny, they are already there:

British politician arrested after speech quoting Churchill’s take on Islam

2 posted on 08/02/2014 3:05:22 AM PDT by Vince Ferrer
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To: bamahead

Life in the UK seems like such a privilege...


3 posted on 08/02/2014 3:07:36 AM PDT by Gene Eric (Don't be a statist!)
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To: Objective Scrutator

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.


4 posted on 08/02/2014 3:35:07 AM PDT by Pollster1 ("Shall not be infringed" is unambiguous.)
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To: Pollster1
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.

5 posted on 08/02/2014 3:48:15 AM PDT by trebb (Where in the the hell has my country gone?)
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To: Objective Scrutator

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 ...


6 posted on 08/02/2014 3:49:43 AM PDT by Usagi_yo (I don't have a soul, I'm a soul that has a body. -- Unknown)
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To: Objective Scrutator
So, the IRS wouldn't have to go to the NSA to find out who to audit?

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.

7 posted on 08/02/2014 3:55:53 AM PDT by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly. Stand fast. God knows what He is doing.)
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To: Smokin' Joe

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.


8 posted on 08/02/2014 4:13:40 AM PDT by Flick Lives ("I can't believe it's not Fascism!")
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To: Flick Lives

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.


9 posted on 08/02/2014 4:21:05 AM PDT by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly. Stand fast. God knows what He is doing.)
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To: Objective Scrutator

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


10 posted on 08/02/2014 4:25:28 AM PDT by Vaquero (Don't pick a fight with an old guy. If he is too old to fight, he'll just kill you.)
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To: trebb
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.

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.

11 posted on 08/02/2014 4:28:34 AM PDT by Pollster1 ("Shall not be infringed" is unambiguous.)
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To: Objective Scrutator

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.


12 posted on 08/02/2014 4:28:52 AM PDT by BuffaloJack (Unarmed people cannot defend themselves. America is no longer a Free Country.)
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To: trebb

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.


13 posted on 08/02/2014 4:31:55 AM PDT by Wage Slave
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To: BuffaloJack
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.

But what of the Tyrant Barry? Our declaration needs to be re-addressed

14 posted on 08/02/2014 4:42:40 AM PDT by Vaquero (Don't pick a fight with an old guy. If he is too old to fight, he'll just kill you.)
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To: Objective Scrutator
Anyone posting under his true name has got to be crazy!

Regards,

15 posted on 08/02/2014 6:14:19 AM PDT by alexander_busek (Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.)
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To: Objective Scrutator

Not all guns are banned.

And hey, some of us love soccer. LOL

Oh and Galloway is a Scot, sadly.


16 posted on 08/02/2014 7:29:54 AM PDT by the scotsman (UK)
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To: Gene Eric

It is. For all its faults, a great country to live in.

(I know that’s not in the way you meant it.....)


17 posted on 08/02/2014 7:31:11 AM PDT by the scotsman (UK)
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To: Objective Scrutator

A report from the House of Lords?
This idea wont go anywhere.


18 posted on 08/02/2014 7:32:25 AM PDT by the scotsman (UK)
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To: Objective Scrutator

The House of Lords is NOT ‘the government’.


19 posted on 08/02/2014 7:33:01 AM PDT by the scotsman (UK)
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To: Objective Scrutator

http://gigaom.com/2014/07/29/scrap-anonymity-at-web-service-sign-up-uk-lords-advise/


20 posted on 08/02/2014 7:35:58 AM PDT by the scotsman (UK)
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To: Vince Ferrer

Utterly stupid, even if Weston is a racist ar*ehole.


21 posted on 08/02/2014 7:36:43 AM PDT by the scotsman (UK)
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To: Objective Scrutator

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.


22 posted on 08/02/2014 7:46:10 AM PDT by Alas Babylon!
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To: Smokin' Joe
I think you meant “anonymously” instead of “unanimously”

Arg! Autocorrect bit me again.

23 posted on 08/02/2014 7:56:01 AM PDT by Flick Lives ("I can't believe it's not Fascism!")
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To: the scotsman

If you are asserting that Weston is a racist would you please adduce some supporting evidence?
TIA


24 posted on 08/02/2014 11:55:55 AM PDT by pluvmantelo (Democrats:the party of moral hazard, the IRS, the NSA and the heckler's veto)
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To: pluvmantelo

Thinking of someone else, sorry.


25 posted on 08/03/2014 4:12:20 AM PDT by the scotsman (UK)
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To: the scotsman

Thanks for the clarification.


26 posted on 08/03/2014 10:49:33 AM PDT by pluvmantelo (Democrats:the party of moral hazard, the IRS, the NSA and the heckler's veto)
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27 posted on 08/03/2014 10:51:40 AM PDT by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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