Ode to Privacy and the Anonymous Internet

The Internet is largely anonymous, and this reality is at the root of its success. When social media first opened a gashing wound in people’s privacy, the world was fast to react and ask Facebook to tighten its privacy settings. And along comes Philipp Lenssen with his doomsday scenario for 2025, and proposes RealIdentity. I would have expected Mark to give Lenssen a bashing when he blogged about Lenssen’s post, but he didn’t, and so I will.

I remain of the opinion that the Internet should remain anonymous for as long as possible. Undoubtedly, people who really understand the Internet, will agree that removing anonymity will put brakes on the growth of the consumption of content on the Internet.

For those who argue in favour of an identity-driven Internet, claiming that the latter has become a dangerous place, I say that the Internet is a reflection of the society we live in. Porn, ill-advice and scams have been around long before the Internet. Anybody in the US who ever wanted a fake ID to buy alcohol before they were of age, didn’t have to work to hard to get hold of one! If you don’t believe me, click here to see how many services for “fake id” come up in a simple Google-search.

So Mr. Lenssen, why bother introducing RealIdentity to access Adult Content? This will not stop anybody from getting fake credentials. In fact, there will be such a market for fake credentials that they will become as much a commodity item as those fake IDs for buying alcohol when under age.

I don’t get asked to show my ID card to buy anything with my credit card at the mall. I don’t get biometric scanned to go to the cinema. Why should I look forward to a future that infringes my privacy by asking me to sign in with my biometric ID to buy a book on Amazon or rent a movie on iTunes?

Authentication, identification and authorisation should indeed be taken seriously and all the efforts to make it possible to do this across political borders is indeed a noble project. But stopping online anonymity is foolish.