Tuesday, 1 April 2008

The Anonymous Achilles Heel Of The 'Net

People value anonymity on the Internet so highly, you begin to wonder why...

A quote from this week's WXP News sort of focuses and highlights this odd behaviour: Will New Laws and Technologies Destroy the Anonymity of the Internet?The real or perceived anonymity of online communications is a big attraction for many people - and not just those who are up to no good. For many folks, the 'Net has long served as a place where they can interact with others without dealing with issues such as race, height, weight, or physical attractiveness. Or, as famous New Yorker cartoon by Peter Steiner, published way back in 1993, put it: "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."

All through mankind's history, identity has been one of the keys to our development. By clinging together in a pack, we improved our survival chances. Being in a pack, we soon realised that the others in the pack were not grey and faceless but instead had specific skills and attributes. In trying to define that difference we developed our thinking and our language.

Whenever one human or group of humans wants to do something terrible to another human or group of humans the first thing they do is depersonalise that person or group, i.e. take away their identity and replace it with anonymity.

For myself - personally - I can't wait for the moment when the Internet is no longer anonymous and faceless. I'd love to be able to know that the person who's sending me half to 3/4 of the spam in my In Folder has a real face and I can send the police around to his place and have that face arrested. And wouldn't it be nice to check on the website that's about to charge you $250 to join a Russian Brides Club and see that it's run by some 12 year old boy who used to masquerade as a Russian noblewoman before the Internet became transparent?

Anonymity, my ass.

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