We need to say no to on-line identity cards and treasure anonymity

By Dark Politricks

After every case of cyber bulling that reaches the papers and is talked about in the media there is the inevitable conversation about making the web non-anonymous and forcing people to use their real identity whenever they access the Internet.

I have seen this for myself in UK papers as well as on UK TV Talk shows like The Wright Stuff after the recent case of Sean Duffy who was was sentenced to prison for 18 weeks for the crime of “sending malicious communications” after he targeted the Facebook tribute pages of various teenagers, including 15-year-old Natasha MacBryde who committed suicide after being hit by a train.

Duffy used an anonymous profile to post hurtful comments about her death as well as creating a YouTube animation titled “Tasha the Tank Engine” with the girl’s face pasted onto the front of the popular children’s character Thomas. He was caught after the Police traced his ISP account through the pages he accessed.

This has been followed by another famous case in the UK where the comedian Dom Jolly called in the Police after a fake Twitter account was set up by an Internet troll to abuse his two children by sending abusive tweets about their appearance and claiming they had serious illnesses.

As always the media is first in line to demand something must be done even if it means they are basically advocating anonline form of the Identity cards some of them fought so hard against when Labour was in power.

They are not alone in their demands for removing anonymity online as powerful figures in the Internet worldand Bilderberger attendees including the head of Google, Erich Schmidt and Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg want to use “real identities” when people sign up to use their services.

Whilst this might seem like something China or North Korea would insist on the one country who already does implement a policy of real identities for web users is the supposed democracy of South Korea which implemented their Act on Limited Real-Name Verification in July 2007.

This requires all government web sites and any private sector web site which has 100,000 or more users to collect the real names and national ID numbers of each user. The web site keeps this data in confidence and only gives it up to government agencies when a crime has been committed such as libel, harassment, or presumably posting links to illegal content.

The law was deemed as having a chilling effect on free speech in the democratic country and it is planned to be scrapped after a major security breach in 2011. Furthermore, a famous invocation of the law was used to hunt down and arrest a semi-anonymous blogger named Minerva on Korea’s famous nationally-famous discussion site the web portalDaum Agora.

Minerva spoke about the impending world economic collapse and became nationally famous by predicting the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the sharp decline of the Korean Won against the US Dollar at specific time points. The Lee Myung-bak administration put a stop to his fame and his economic predictions by tracking down his account and arresting him with the charge of spreading false rumors on the Internet. He was obviously proven right in time as every “rumour” he spread came true.

The talk of stopping anonymity online should shock anyone who believes in liberty, freedom and free speech for a multitude of reasons.

Whilst there might be some merit in the argument when discussing cyber bulling, trolling and online harassment as always the bigger picture needs to be looked at and the real reasons behind the move discussed which is, as usual, money and advertising.

If you had to link your real identity up to every web request made, companies like Google, Microsoft andFacebook, who already have scarily close ties with the US Government and nefarious security agencies such as the NSA and CIA would be able to cross reference your details with numerous other online databases held by the government or other private companies.

What does this mean? Well a site like Facebook could block your access to teenage chat rooms if it knew you had a criminal record for sexual assault, a laudable aim you might agree but what if it used 20 year old data or even worse incorrect data held by other agencies to block your access.

What if it decided that because you had a criminal record for possession of Cannabis when you were 16 that when you were 40 you were still not able to search certain terms like “Cannabis, Weed, Bongs, Pipes” on Google or access certain online stores or websites.

There are many reasons to be against online identity cards and UK parties such as the Tories and Lib Dem’s who apposed Labours real life ID cards should be fighting just as hard to prevent any kind of implementation of an online version.

Of course now they are in power the shoe is on the other foot and they can see all the lobbyist money and lucrative business contracts available if they just followed the globalists ideas so I don’t expect to see Clegg or Camerondefending online freedom anytime soon.

However for those of you who are not convinced here are some reasons to be against online ID cards.

1. Anti Liberty

The whole concept is fundamentally anti-liberal and fascist. Real ID cards are no different from online ID cards, no argument. I don’t like real Nazi’s demanding my papers and I don’t want virtual ones to do the same.

2. People could be endangered by revealing their real identity

I’m sure there would be opt-out clauses for all the undercover cops that go online to trap nonces but in countries that have repressive regimes like Iran anyone who spoke out against the government during recent uprising using their real identity could face arrest, imprisonment and even worse. The Arab Spring was mainly co-ordinated online but how many people would have joined in if they knew that they were being tracked whenever they wrote a comment or Tweet about Gaddafi or Mubarak.

3. Distrust of government

The UK government is notoriously bad at keeping any kind of personal data safe. They cannot be trusted to keep online identities safe and previous cases of lost disks, memory sticks, laptops and so on show that any centralised database is best kept out of our own governments hands.

4. Distrust of Big business

Companies like Google and Facebook only want our real identities so that they can make more money from advertising which in all reality is the only way of making real money online. The more information they have about you and the more accurate that data is then the more targeted the advertising is that they force down your throat.Cyber bullying is a perfect emotional argument to use to get Mum’s and the “nothing to fear, nothing to hide ” crowd onside however law or regulation should never be based on emotion, the PATRIOT Act being a prime example.

5. Technical problems

If a centralised database of real identities is forced upon a population it makes it a very attractive target for hackers who would be able to use the data for many nefarious reasons.

Even South Korea has decided to abandon it’s own experiment in real online identities after a major security breach in which information about 35 million users was reportedly stolen from two popular websites. As a techie myself I know that people rarely change their passwords for the myriad of sites they use and having access to a centralised logon that would let me gain access to a users online bank, PayPal, ebay and various email accounts would be a hackers wet dream.

Those are just five solid reasons for ignoring the ranting and raving from the  Daily Mail crowd and we should remember that the Police and security forces already have the means to track down incompetent trollers who don’t even use basic protection measures to hide their real PC details from the sites they spam.

It is impossible to stay anonymous 100% online but there are ways of reducing the potential size of your footprint including:

  1. Using insecure wi-fi spots or computers that are not yours.
  2. Using proxy servers, TOR, web proxies and proxy chains.
  3. Using anonymous search engines that don’t log or keep your search requests, strip adverts and remove trackers.
  4. Disabling tracking measures in your browser such as JavasScript, Cookies, Flash, Images and making use of intermediate proxies to tamper with your Request headers which will at the very least confuse anyone reading the servers logfile and at the very best allow you to watch US TV in the UK and vice versa 😉

As with all emotional arguments there is a good sad story or two to tug on your heart strings but we should embrace the last remaining semi-free domain we have left in this world before it becomes just one big marketing tool to be used by Google and the rest to anoy, hassle and push advertising down your throat that you don’t want.

Remember you don’t have to use a false name to be a prick, and most people who troll for a living will bypass any security measures that are implemented anyway if they have a basic knowledge of PC’s, the web and HTTP.

The only people who will be affected by these measures are the non techies who don’t even realise that all their phone, email and Internet traffic is already scanned, sorted and logged by Big Brother in places like GCHQ and Echelon.

Therefore as with all bad ideas this should be left with the others in the comment section of the Daily Mail and forgotten totally before it is picked up by an anti-libertarian politician with a small workload and little knowledge of the web.

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