Anonymity

Anonymity Can Connect People

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Anonymity isn’t just about hiding behind a computer. As you’ll see in the video, anonymity can connect people in real life and online. With regards to Youtube and Anonymity…

Anonymity + physical distance + rare & ephemeral dialogue = freedom to experience humanity without fear or anxiety

U.S. Outlines Strategy for Nation Wide Identity Management System

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The proposed identity management system would allow citizens of the United States to use two-factor authentication methods when shopping online or accessing private information such as health or banking records.

The reasoning behind creating such a system is to battle the increase in online crime. By implementing this method to verify people, corporations can decrease the chances of fraud.

However, this very same system could also be used as a ‘real name registration’ system, similar to those already in place in countries like China or South Korea. While this may not happen in western countries any time soon, I can see some over zealous politician propose the idea in the name of protection and security of the citizens. Anonymity would be a thing of the past if that were to happen.

This is actually a reality in countries like Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabians are required to request permission and acquire a license from a government agency before they can blog. Not only that, Saudi Arabia has already reached a deal with mobile phone manufacturer Research In Motion so that it can access messages sent over BBM. Normally those messages are encrypted, but in order for RIM to operate in Saudi Arabia and India, they must allow the government complete access to private messages sent by citizens using BBM.

It’s a threat to freedom of expression and anonymity.

Blizzard, Maker of WoW, StarCraft Backs Down on Real Name Registration

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Interesting to see the maker of popular games World of Warcraft and Starcraft wanted to implement a system that uses only real names, but after listening to their customers they have decided to modify their plans.

Aliases and pseudonyms have always been a part of gamer culture even before the Internet became popular.

It’s interesting that a gaming company would want to move in the direction of requiring users to use their real names for their applications, which is very similar to what the Chinese and South Korean governments have implemented.

Real Name Registration System Implemented In South Korea

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Any South Korean websites with at least 100,000 users per day must supply  real names and resident registration numbers in order to submit comments on websites.

Government, media and foreign owned websites are required to comply with South Korea’s ‘Act on the Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and User Protection’, which was in effect April 1, 2009.

Google is protesting this law by removing the ability to upload videos by users in South Korea.

Good for Google.

The disturbing trend is that this type of law is now being adopted in other countries like China, possibly even the United States.

Real-Name Registration Required for News Websites in China

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In China, in order to comment on a news website, you must register your true identity before you are allowed to post comments.

What’s next? Controlling which websites are allowed and not allowed if they don’t validate a users true identity? Probably…

While this isn’t surprising as it’s coming from China, what may be surprising is if this trend starts to spread to other democratic countries like Canada and the United States.

It’s likely that type of action would be part of a larger move, something such as the ‘Internet Kill Switch’ that’s been recently introduced by Senator Joe Lieberman.

This effectively means, no more anonymity on the Internet.

Peer Into the Minds of Anonymous Online Posters

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Boston.com contacted some people who frequently comment on their website to talk about anonymity. They share their thoughts and experiences and you get a good idea of the background of these people. They are normal people.

Boston.com tried contacting the trolls etc. but none of them would talk.

This is what stood out for me and justifies why anonymity is important…

… while preserving some measure of anonymity, so that, say, a closeted gay student would still feel comfortable posting a comment about the climate at his high school.

I don’t agree with the registration system where you have to provide a “real name” and “real address”, as these can easily be faked.

I don’t have to carry identification when I walk the street do I?

Anonymity and The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Disaster

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Quick summary if you haven’t already heard: Leroy Sticks (which is also a pseudonym) created a parody/fake Twitter account, BPGlobalPR, that mocks BP and the way they are handling their response to the oil spill disaster. The account has proven to be a BIG success.

As of Day 52 of the oil spill, @BPGlobalPR currently has 155,000+ followers and appears on 4200+ Twitter lists. As of Day 55, the verified corporate account @BP_America has but a paltry 15,000 followers. Here is a sample of what @BPGlobalPR has to say:

Investing a lot of time & money into cleaning up our image, but the beaches are next on the to-do list for sure. #bpcares

Tar balls in Florida? BP’s very own paid “reporters” aren’t so sure they exist. Stay informed people! http://ow.ly/1Xs9C

This is what @BP_America is saying

Cleanup crews work around the clock, despite heat. More than 27,000 people & 5,500 boats involved. I appreciate their dedication. ^Tony

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about anonymity and how its going the way of the dinosaurs due to the increasing popularity of social networking. Situations like the oil spill tend to make me think otherwise and make me realize just how beneficial anonymity can be for everyone.

Admittedly, anonymity is a grey area, as it can be used for right or wrong reasons. However in certain circumstances, it can have positive effects, even in the face of negative situations.

In this case, behind the anonymity of @BPGlobalPR, is 160,000 followers who have real identities, who aren’t anonymous. Many of these people are angry that this disaster has resulted in the loss of innocent lives, lost jobs and an extremely polluted environment. In turn, these followers are spreading the same messages to their own audience.

In retrospect, I don’t think ‘Leroy Sticks’ would have been nearly as successful in getting the attention that he does had he used a real name and real picture. While the content would have been the same, it probably wouldn’t have been as successful compared to what parody and anonymity can achieve.

The anonymity of BPGlobalPR let’s people judge only the content it delivers on Twitter. What is important is what’s being said, and not who is saying it.

How Do You Manage Your Online Reputation?

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The article goes on to discuss the results of a survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project regarding reputation management and social media. One conclusion that was drawn was that 18-29 year olds were the least likely group to trust social networking sites.

On one hand, I understand the need to manage one’s own reputation online. People must protect themselves from people that feel the need to discriminate or gossip, have loose lips or become judgemental about things that don’t concern them.

On the other, I find it disappointing that people have to resort to censoring themselves and monitor everything they do, just to ‘fit in’, wherever it might be. It sounds a lot like high school, but I think it’s actually the other way around: high school is a lot like life.

At the end of the day, I do believe that if pictures, blogs or personal information are freely accessible on the Internet, it’s fair game for any one to view it.

That is why people must protect themselves.

This is what I suggest:

  1. Google yourself to see what content “your name” is associated with.
  2. Continually monitor your name by creating ‘Google Alerts’ that are sent via email or RSS
  3. Create an extra account on Facebook for professional (work) use only, separating if from your personal life.
  4. Get your name as a domain name. If you have a common name, you may be mixed up with someone else. Get it before someone else does.
  5. Check your friend’s social networking photo albums to see if they have any photos of you that could be considered ‘inappropriate’ (your friends may not have strict privacy settings)
  6. Review your privacy settings on all social networking sites and lock them down if necessary. Remember to test it out to see what it looks like.
  7. Think about what you want to say before posting it as a comment on social networking sites, discussion forums or news articles. Could your comments be used against you in the future?

I enjoyed this quote from the article…

Stefanie Juell, a 28-year-old in Westchester County, N.Y., has become increasingly aware of this. So she recently opened an extra Facebook account after her supervisor and people she’d met through work started to friend her on her personal account.

“You don’t exactly want to reject your supervisor,” she says. “Nor do you want him or her to see everything that your friends write on your wall or the pictures that people tag of you.”

As a site note, Googling yourself use to be referred to as ‘ego surfing’. CNN also reported about the same Pew Internet report but it wasn’t as extensive as the Toronto Star article that I posted.

Is Anonymity Going The Way of the Dinosaur?

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Is anonymity going the way of the dinosaur, with the rise in popularity of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter?

From the Youtube comments:

The point of anonymity: to fight back in a world where people get offended and expect the world to conform accordingly.

Christopher Poole talks about the good and bad of anonymity and how it has affected 4chan.

Anonymity has been a part of the Internet for a very long time. It’s becoming a more prominent issue as the Internet becomes a part of our every day lives.

I believe anonymity has every right to live and stay alive on the Internet. We walk the streets without the requirement of having identification papers on our bodies, so why should it be the same online? We might as well have identification papers on us at all times if anonymity on the Internet is abolished.

If there is no anonymity, then that means everything you do or so, will be tied to your name forever. People may forget, but the Internet won’t, because there will be a permanent digital archive of everything we do and it can all be read about like it happened yesterday.

There Is Always A Price To Pay When You Put Yourself On The Internet

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Money lending companies are looking up customers seeking loans on Facebook, Twitter etc. to check their status updates and see if there are any indications of risk to lending that person money. i.e. Facebook status: still job hunting

“If I go on Facebook or Twitter and see information that doesn’t match, it could indicate something is wrong,” said Rob Garcia, senior director of product strategy at Lending Club, a peer-to-peer lending network based in Redwood City, Calif.

My opinion is, if the information is available on the Internet, it is fair game, unfortunate as that may sound.

This is probably the best quote from this article…

“There is no such thing as a free Facebook account,” he said. “You don’t pay to use it, but you give up privacy in exchange for using its service. The way Facebook makes its money is by selling its user’s information.”

People choose to post whatever they feel like at that moment in time on the Internet. You just never know, how that information may be used against you later on.

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