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Jun 24

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Who was that Masked Man in the Invisible Mask?

Protecting your Pseudo-Anonymity in the Social Media Frontier

Guess who! (Image from "Popular Science" Mar, 1940)

According to Danial Solove, a professor at the George Washington University Law School, anonymity is OK, as long as it's "traceable." I don't have a doctorate degree…but isn't "traceable anonymity" a bit of an oxymoron? The professor claims that, “The loss of anonymity might make many people more civil, but it might also chill a lot of valuable expression…”

So, his solution to forum trolls and internet outlaws is to let them keep their anonymity—as long as they don’t cause any harm. However, this “protection” would be waived (and the authorities would be able to track them down) if they did break the law.

Essentially, his solution is to put your web browser under “house arrest. ”

And while you might not feel like a prisoner in your own home…as soon as you did something that the government deemed “harmful,” the tracking device clamped on your leg would start beeping, and men in black suits would come and take you away.

Yes, if you get rid of internet anonymity, you might clean up blog comments and forums, and bring law and order to the Wild Wild Web (WWW). No more middle aged men masquerading as a gay girls in Damascus, or writing nasty things on people’s Facebook walls so they get shut down.

But there is no middle of the road with anonymity.

You either know someone’s identity, or you don’t know. That’s the crazy thing about being on the internet…it doesn’t matter how well you cover your tracks, all it takes is a subpoena to an internet service provider to hand over your online identity. Even so called “hackers” who are experts at staying hidden in the shadowy corners of the web, are helpless when their fellow outlaws unmask their identities.

In the world of social media, privacy is a valuable commodity. People who break the law are going to find ways to hide; weather we make them legal or not.

All gardens have to deal with weeds, and most people don’t like to pull them out by hand. But does it really make a lot of sense to use a pesticide that kills your flowers too? Flowers, like freedom and democracy take a long time to grow, are they are very delicate. Most gardeners don’t prune with lawn mowers. Draconian laws requiring people to give up their anonymity on the Internet won’t promote justice…just totalitarianism.

Sometimes when exploring the Wild Wild Web, you do need a mask…but not one people can see through.

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Permanent link to this article: http://peterusagi.com/2011/06/24/who-was-that-masked-man-in-the-invisible-mask/

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