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UK Government Report Recommends Ending Online Anonymity

timothy posted about 4 months ago | from the but-you-have-a-right-to-be-forgotten dept.

Privacy 282

An anonymous reader writes with a bit of pith from TechDirt: Every so often, people who don't really understand the importance of anonymity or how it enables free speech (especially among marginalized people), think they have a brilliant idea: "just end real anonymity online." They don't seem to understand just how shortsighted such an idea is. It's one that stems from the privilege of being in power. And who knows that particular privilege better than members of the House of Lords in the UK — a group that is more or less defined by excess privilege? The Communications Committee of the House of Lords has now issued a report concerning "social media and criminal offenses" in which they basically recommend scrapping anonymity online.

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Online in England, maybe (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576533)

Maybe they forgot that the Internet has no borders?

Re:Online in England, maybe (2)

DivineKnight (3763507) | about 4 months ago | (#47576901)

Or they didn't, and they're going for a power grab. I wonder which one it is...

Re: Online in England, maybe (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47577261)

That is the problem. If they want to end anonymity then they need to provide legal repercussions for ANYONE who would abuse the data being gathered on people. Even if its over a border and especially if it is our CORPORATE MASTERS. This would require something that governments the world over have proven themselves incapable of: saying no to billions or trillions of dollars in bribe/lobby/campaign contributions.

Re: Online in England, maybe (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47577503)

If they want to end anonymity, then they need to stop lying and just call themselves a police state, and make everyone forget about things such as "fundamental liberties."

Re:Online in England, maybe (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47577425)

Maybe they forgot that the Internet has no borders?

"...the Internets..." -- George Bush

The man was a visionary.

That's the British for you... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576543)

Dumb as a bag of rocks.

obvious solution is obvious (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576563)

All Brits officially change there name to anonymous coward. Problem solved.

Out me? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576567)

Fuck you.

Instead of (Good) morning (-1, Troll)

ruir (2709173) | about 4 months ago | (#47576587)

UK will also legislate the new greeting as Assalamu alaikum next. Be prepared.

Re:Instead of (Good) morning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47577453)

We're already prepared for racist pieces of shit like you ruir.

House of Lords? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576613)

What a backwards country.

Re:House of Lords? (5, Interesting)

iserlohn (49556) | about 4 months ago | (#47577033)

The House of Lords is a vestige political body with only powers to delay legislation, but because it is unelected (as of yet), it actually serves a very useful function in British politics.

Montesquieu, whose political theories heavily influenced America's founding fathers (especially regarding the balances of powers in government, which he greatly admired in the British government at the time), also supported hereditary aristocracy. In any case, most of the House of Lords are not longer hereditary peers, as life peers are now the norm.

The reason an aristocracy is *sometimes* desirable in government is that they do not have to answer to the whims of the masses as they are not elected. The political fervour that is whipped up in the populace, from security theatre / war on terror, the war on drugs, etc, takes a life of its own in a pure democracy. The idea is that you with an aristocracy, the actors can take a long term view and can judge and react independent of popular sentiment.

The British parliamentary system actually contains elements of three different types of government - Monarchy (constitutional, providing the head of state which is apolitical), aristocracy (the House of Lords comprises of hereditary peers and also life peers appointed for certain accomplishments), and democracy (the House of Commons). The House of Commons, as the constitution currently stands, holds all of the cards, but the House of Lords (and to a lesser extent, the Crown) also serves to temper the populist nature of the politics in the House of Commons.

As the government is formed by the biggest party in the Commons, the executive is formed by the biggest party in the legislature, it is no surprise that the British system is more productive politically - it rarely ends in gridlock like the US government. If it does (the government losing confidence of the Parliament), then new elections are called to end the gridlock. Arguably, if America adopted this system, it would be a huge step forward. This also points to a major advantage of a system with a unwritten constitution - the political system can gradually evolve, whereas in countries with written constitutions (such as the US), it is much more difficult for better or for worse.

Re:House of Lords? (4, Insightful)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about 4 months ago | (#47577163)

The political fervour that is whipped up in the populace, from security theatre / war on terror, the war on drugs, etc, takes a life of its own in a pure democracy.

Who whips up that fervor, the war on drugs wasn't started as a grass roots campaign, for sure, it came from the top. It's the same in the US and UK, I think, certainly with the same dark motivations and same ill-gotten power. Anonymity is a friend to the masses and an enemy to power. Whistle-blowers, leakers and disharmonious speech are threats to the status quo, the same one that provides the wealth they wield to have this alleged long-term view.

I don't disagree with the concept of having a ruling body that is not beholden to the mob, I just haven't seen any mechanism by which that body can be kept honest and magnanimous. That is the same spirit which brought down monarchies to begin with.

I'm certainly too ignorant to decide in what ways the UK system or the US system are better or worse, but in this particular example I do not see any significant difference.

Legitimate concerns (3, Insightful)

cowwoc2001 (976892) | about 4 months ago | (#47576621)

You disregard all the harm that anonymity causes online, from bullying, to hate speech, to terrorism.

I'm not saying the argument for Freedom of Expression is irrelevant, but the other perspective has legitimate concerns as well.

Pro-anonymity advocates have been saying for years that Freedom of Expression will fix all ills but we've seen a substantial rise of bullying, hate speech and terrorism-advocacy in the past decade. Saying that people will find the truth so long as it's out there, somewhere, does not seem to be working. Great in theory but doesn't work in practice.

We need to find a middle ground that will help curtain online abuse with minimal impact on Freedom of Speech, but the statue quo is not sustainable.

Re:Legitimate concerns (3, Insightful)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | about 4 months ago | (#47576645)

So you think making it possible for bullies to determine the RL identities of their victims is going the REDUCE online abuse?

Re:Legitimate concerns (2)

vux984 (928602) | about 4 months ago | (#47576705)

I am NOT at all even slightly for eliminating online anon; but playing the devil's advocate:

So you think making it possible for bullies to determine the RL identities of their victims is going the REDUCE online abuse?

No, but determining the RL identities of the bullies likely would reduce bullying, as they could be held socially and legally accountable for what they are doing.

Re:Legitimate concerns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576847)

No, but determining the RL identities of the bullies likely would reduce bullying, as they could be held socially and legally accountable for what they are doing.

Exactly - but that does not require an end to online anonymity. Only that the real identity can be established later, when something illegal happened.

This allows people to have anonymous discussions about - say - kinky sex. Nobody is identified, all speak freely. But then something illegal happens. could be bullying, could be child porn, whatever. Then the plice get a warrant, and get perpetrators identity from server operators and ISPs. We only need to expose the criminals, not everybody else.

Re:Legitimate concerns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47577097)

does not require an end to online anonymity . . . the real identity can be established later, when something illegal happened.

If the identity can be established later, what bloody good is such an anonymity?

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

MrBigInThePants (624986) | about 4 months ago | (#47577157)

Because that is working so well in the US....

I believe you just entered the..... ..... SLIPPERY SLOPE ZONE!......

DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHAAAAAAaaaaaaa.........erm

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

Kaenneth (82978) | about 4 months ago | (#47576899)

To paraphrase a quote on a different subject: "If you outlaw online anonymity, only outlaws will be anonymous online."

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

vux984 (928602) | about 4 months ago | (#47577089)

To paraphrase a quote on a different subject: "If you outlaw online anonymity, only outlaws will be anonymous online."

Actually the quote only really works with guns.

With guns, "only outlaws have guns" is a "problem" because guns confer confer considerable power over others to the outlaws.

With anything else, the response "So what?"

For example, if you outlaw wearing red, only outlaws will wear red. So what. It makes it easy for the police to round them up and toss them in jail. Good riddance to stupid outlaws.

And it follows that if you outlaw online anonymity, only outlaws will be anonymous -- again... so what? They are self identifying as outlaws, so its easy to just ban their pseuodoaccounts as soon as they pop up; and law-abiding society can all form ranks to just ignore them/mod them down/report them for being anonymous; etc.

These scenarios are not like guns; guns uniquely empower criminals in a way that isn't generally applicable.

*** AGAIN I'm playing devil's advocate here. I'm not even slightly in favor of outlawing anonymity (or the color red) -- just pointing out the flaw in the paraphrased argument. ***

Re:Legitimate concerns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47577381)

What happens when someone steals someone's account and does bad things? if they did it from their wifi too, I doubt the defense "well the browser headers indicate a different version was used"/"the router logs say there was another MAC address connecting to the wifi" would hold up in court. There isn't really an effective way to police machines that can process information millions of times faster than us.

Re:Legitimate concerns (3, Interesting)

JohnFen (1641097) | about 4 months ago | (#47576975)

determining the RL identities of the bullies likely would reduce bullying, as they could be held socially and legally accountable for what they are doing.

I don't see any reason to think this is true. The RL identities of most bullies are already known to those being bullied, yet the bullying persists.

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

vux984 (928602) | about 4 months ago | (#47577293)

The RL identities of most bullies are already known to those being bullied, yet the bullying persists.

I dunno, RL bullying tends to stay just within the law and/or incidents are very difficult to prove boiling down to he-said she-said. I ran into bullying at school at few times over the years -- and ran into first hand how hard it was to effectively combat -- they're criminals and thugs but evidence is nearly impossible, and even if the police or school want to help its really hard to get evidence or pursue a case.

When its gets anonymous and online two things happen -- the stuff is taken to whole other levels -- death threats, etc. Stuff that without anonymity would either not be made so brazenly and publicly, or could be effectively followed up on by the police since there is now real evidence of a crime.

Lol, I wish the guys who'd bullied me had posted their death threats etc on the school bulletin board, signed their names to it, all in full view of surveillance cameras. Shit would have come down on them for that.

Right now, for better or for worse, you can really go to town on someone online.

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

Jeff Flanagan (2981883) | about 4 months ago | (#47577499)

>I don't see any reason to think this is true. The RL identities of most bullies are already known to those being bullied, yet the bullying persists.

Yep, and some of the most abusive right-wing lunatics on twitter post under their real names, because in the wingnut subculture being horrible, and bullying anyone who's smarter than the Fox News manufactured-reality crowd, is something to be proud of. When a whole subculture sucks, being terrible holds no social repercussions.

Re: Legitimate concerns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47577289)

It may actually reduce ONLINE bullying but I'm afraid it will almost certainly result in more real-world violence and abuse.

Re:Legitimate concerns (3, Insightful)

ruir (2709173) | about 4 months ago | (#47576651)

Think of the children?? People will always find ways to be anonymous if they want, even if they have to tunnel connections to outside UK. The Internet is a global village, and the cat is out of the bag. Furthermore, terrorists will always be terrorists, and it is a lame excuse. It is like forbiding guns, and then the only ones having guns are the criminals. It does not work at all. As for dealing with hate speach, grow a pair, and ignore what you dont want to see/read.

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

cowwoc2001 (976892) | about 4 months ago | (#47576989)

Think of the children?? People will always find ways to be anonymous if they want, even if they have to tunnel connections to outside UK. The Internet is a global village, and the cat is out of the bag. Furthermore, terrorists will always be terrorists, and it is a lame excuse. It is like forbiding guns, and then the only ones having guns are the criminals. It does not work at all. As for dealing with hate speach, grow a pair, and ignore what you dont want to see/read.

Words have an impact.

In the case of bullying it has led to multiple deaths. In the case of terrorist advocacy, it has led to repeated violent/racist protests that has led to countless people getting hurt and in some cases dying. No one should have the right to advocate violence against all members of an ethnic group. Just look at what's happening in France.

I don't care about people's feelings getting hurt. I care about people getting physically hurt. These are legitimate concerns for which you have offered no solutions.

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

just_a_monkey (1004343) | about 4 months ago | (#47577107)

I propose we forbid (attack) violence. Then no-one will be hurt physically, and we can still have anonymous free speech.

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

cowwoc2001 (976892) | about 4 months ago | (#47577509)

I propose we forbid (attack) violence. Then no-one will be hurt physically, and we can still have anonymous free speech.

In practice, what ends up happening is that police is caught off guard and arrests are made after people have already died. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

Stargoat (658863) | about 4 months ago | (#47577277)

Words have an impact.

In the case of bullying it has led to multiple deaths. In the case of terrorist advocacy, it has led to repeated violent/racist protests that has led to countless people getting hurt and in some cases dying. No one should have the right to advocate violence against all members of an ethnic group. Just look at what's happening in France.

What you are proposing abridges freedom of speech. If a person decides to jump off a bridge because someone called them fat, too bad. We should have learned as a society that restrictions on actions do not make us safer unless those particular necessarily lead directly to harm of others. Advocating violence against an ethnic group, while reprehensible, should be protected speech. Shouting "Fire" in a crowded theater necessarily leads directly to the harm of others, so restrictions are acceptable.

What invariably ends up happening is government takes too much control. Just look at what's happening in England (to Tottenham's Yid Army or the ridiculously racist hit job the FA did on Luis Suarez for using the perfectly acceptable by South American standards word negrito). If you give government power, they will abuse it. Every time. The question should be: is the abuse worth it? In this case, definitely not.

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

cowwoc2001 (976892) | about 4 months ago | (#47577487)

Words have an impact.

In the case of bullying it has led to multiple deaths. In the case of terrorist advocacy, it has led to repeated violent/racist protests that has led to countless people getting hurt and in some cases dying. No one should have the right to advocate violence against all members of an ethnic group. Just look at what's happening in France.

What you are proposing abridges freedom of speech. If a person decides to jump off a bridge because someone called them fat, too bad. We should have learned as a society that restrictions on actions do not make us safer unless those particular necessarily lead directly to harm of others. Advocating violence against an ethnic group, while reprehensible, should be protected speech. Shouting "Fire" in a crowded theater necessarily leads directly to the harm of others, so restrictions are acceptable.

What invariably ends up happening is government takes too much control. Just look at what's happening in England (to Tottenham's Yid Army or the ridiculously racist hit job the FA did on Luis Suarez for using the perfectly acceptable by South American standards word negrito). If you give government power, they will abuse it. Every time. The question should be: is the abuse worth it? In this case, definitely not.

When protesters yell "Kill the Jews" and proceed to attack a nearby synagogue full of people I think we've reach the point where it's worse than yelling "Fire" in a crowded theater.

Re:Legitimate concerns (4, Insightful)

jbburks (853501) | about 4 months ago | (#47576667)

Hate speech is just that. Speech. It should never be prohibited.

Universities and others that make hate speech a crime are violating the principle of free speech.

Re:Legitimate concerns (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576679)

Fuck your middle ground you extremist pussy.

You dont own the internet, nobody does. You or anybody else have NO right to tell me or anyone they have to use any name online.

Go dig up a dead nazi and kiss her boot you fucking fagget.

Re:Legitimate concerns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576683)

What exactly is wrong with bullying, hate speech, and terrorism-advocacy? Put on your big girl boots and deal with it.

Re:Legitimate concerns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576903)

Bullying is a form of harrassing, which tends to be illegal. Even in free-speech countries like the U.S. Terrorism-advocacy tends to have its own special laws. Many countries has laws against "inciting riots", some have special antiterror laws.

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

scottme (584888) | about 4 months ago | (#47576685)

I'm not sure I would pay much if any attention to an anonymous troll's attempts to bully, denigrate or terrorise me. If you have something to say, do so from an identifiable account else expect to be ignored.

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47576793)

You aren't a teen.

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

scottme (584888) | about 4 months ago | (#47577055)

Not for a long time - but I was a teen once, and I know how important others' opinions are to a person at that age. Learning which opinions to value and which to discount is an essential life skill, and acquiring it usually leaves a few scars. Believe me, the desire to insulate the poor darlings from the rough and tumble that develops character isn't going to help them in the long run.

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

ruir (2709173) | about 4 months ago | (#47576707)

Anyway, commenting again, either you are a liar, and enjoy trolling, your are an agent provocateur, or are a naive sheep. This is not about bullying, hate speech or terrorism, this is about censorship and control of the dissemination of the information. The online world is undermining the lies they are selling you in the stupid box and in the newspapers.

Re:Legitimate concerns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576715)

That is the same argument used against the First Amendment and America's free press and freedom of speech.

It plays well in Britain, which is why they don't have anything like our written Constitution but instead the Historical and Living Constitution of the United Kingdom which basically gives the citizen the rights the Commons is willing to let them have at any given time. Obviously the Commons is positioning to tighten the chain on the Brits again.

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

invid (163714) | about 4 months ago | (#47576721)

Unfortunately, for most people's everyday online activities, they can get traced back by a sufficiently informed an connected agency and are not truly anonymous anyway. I see a future where anonymity and privacy are going to fade away, and most people will just shrug and say 'meh'. We give away privacy for convenience ever time we use a credit card. We do it every time we use a smart phone. Currently, it only exists for those who actively try to be anonymous.

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 4 months ago | (#47576753)

There's also the ability for anonymity to be used to avoid bullying, etc online. The obvious example is speaking out against a tyrannical regime. If I post a political rant against a powerful public figure (be he the head of a country or some local mayor who uses the sheriff as his own personal guard dog) under the name "Jason Levine", it might be easy to track me down. If I post it as "Political WatchDog 1776" or some other pseudonym, it becomes harder.

To give a more concrete example, and one that affected me personally: There was this woman who was harassing people online. She was seriously mentally unhinged (thought that she spoke to god and that she was a prophet). She would accuse people of serious crimes and then contact their friends, family, places of business, etc to spread these accusations. Accusations which were totally founded in "god told me they did it" but accusations which the mere mention of could get people in trouble. (We're talking accusing a teacher of fooling around with kids. It's easy to picture a reactionary administrator firing a teacher just based on an accusation.) When she targeted me, though, I was using a pseudonym. (Slashdot is one of the rare spots I use my real name.) Since she didn't know my real name, she couldn't spread lies to my friends, family, work, etc. My anonymity helped save me from worse harassment.

There is a method of dealing with people who abuse anonymity. Go to a judge and present evidence that the anonymous postings constitute harassment, libel, etc. Get the judge to issue a court order which will give you access to the poster's IP address. Use that with their ISP to get their name. It's not fool proof, of course, but nothing is. This also keeps it from being trivial to find out a poster's real name just because you don't like what they said.

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 4 months ago | (#47577193)

I've witnessed similar behavior. One particular individual was of the hyper-partisan political nature - I will not speak details, but suffice to say he was one of those who strongly identified with left/right, and considered those of the opposite faction to be treasonous scum, and it his personal patriotic duty to purge the world of them. He got increasingly carried away with this in the usual agresssive internet flame wars, which culminated in him registering a domain name using the alias of one of his opponents and proceeding to impersonate them, both there and on various forums, posting material advocating for elimination of the age of consent and the benefits of sexual relationships with children. Fortunately his target was sensible enough to have never revealed their real name, but you can imagine what he could have gotten up to had he known it.

That particular case was political - but tribalism is human nature, and it could as easily have been nationalism, religion, sports team rivalry, or a fangirl attacking anyone who criticised her beloved Bieber.

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

JohnFen (1641097) | about 4 months ago | (#47576957)

You disregard all the harm that anonymity causes online, from bullying, to hate speech, to terrorism.

I haven't actually seen any evidence that anonymity causes any of those things. I have seen evidence that the lack of anonymity doesn't reduce those things. So yes, I disregard it until there is a good reason not to.

We need to find a middle ground that will help curtain online abuse with minimal impact on Freedom of Speech, but the statue quo is not sustainable.

Well, I don't agree that there is some kind of crisis that needs to be addressed immediately (let alone that we need to give up any rights for), but ignoring that: please explain how removing anonymity will curtail any of the things you bring up. Since it hasn't worked in parts of the internet where it's been tried, I seriously and honestly don't think it will.

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 months ago | (#47577003)

You disregard all the harm that anonymity causes online, from bullying, to hate speech, to terrorism.

No we didn't. Free speech easily trumps all of those concerns. Period.

It's better to live terrified in chaos, than safely wrapped in golden chains.

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 4 months ago | (#47577143)

The solution to many of these problems consists of having enough self-confidence to shrug off insults.

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

cowwoc2001 (976892) | about 4 months ago | (#47577497)

The solution to many of these problems consists of having enough self-confidence to shrug off insults.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm not complaining about words that hurt one's fillings. I'm complaining about words that lead to physically violence/death. When protesters yell "Kill the Jews" and proceed to attack a nearby synagogue full of people I think we've reach a point things have gone too far.

Re:Legitimate concerns (1)

jeIIomizer (3670945) | about 4 months ago | (#47577519)

You disregard all the harm that anonymity causes online, from bullying, to hate speech, to terrorism.

No, I don't. Anything could be abused, but it's 100% anti-freedom to say it should be banned merely because of that. These are not legitimate concerns. Freedom is more important than safety.

Pro-anonymity advocates have been saying for years that Freedom of Expression will fix all ills

No, they haven't.

but the statue quo is not sustainable.

It is and has been sustainable. There is no "middle ground" which doesn't violate people's privacy and speech rights, which makes any such "middle ground" 100% unacceptable. Why not move to North Korea?

and what happens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576623)

when members of the house of lords or house of commons get their and their families' now-non-anonymous use of the internet publicized? you know damn well they aren't all squeaky clean, and i'd wager the vast majority of them have done something online that the 'public face of the government' says is a no-no.

That's not UK Government policy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576625)

...that's just a committee report from a somewhat powerless and usually out of touch chamber.

Fuck it ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576637)

We're all screwed.

Embrace the horror, drink beer, watch bad TV, listen to them when they tall you all is fine.

That, or start voting from the rooftops, your choice, we're all fucked anyway.

The New World Order of Fascists is almost complete, so why bother with the social niceties any more?

Have government go first. (5, Insightful)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | about 4 months ago | (#47576639)

If government wants to have peeps into our private lives, I say they should offer themselves up first. Have every government employee's financial records, emails, purchases, and other records completely public. Install GPS trackers on them so we can all track their movement. Put cameras in their homes, cars, and offices so that we can watch them 24/7.

If they want the panopticon, let them go first.

Re:Have government go first. (0)

randomhacks (3420197) | about 4 months ago | (#47576875)

Could you please explain what govement employee financial records and private lives have to do with freedom of speech? It doesn't. The govement doesn't want to look into people private lives. The internet is fundementally a public space and if you break the law then you should be accountable. I.e. if you bully people online then it should be possible to find and bring you to justice.

Re:Have government go first. (1)

amalek (615708) | about 4 months ago | (#47577203)

if you bully people online then it should be possible to find and bring you to justice.

Have we really come to the point that we'd choose to end something as important as the right - and the ability - to remain anonymous, all for the sake of catching bullies and bringing them to justice?

Completely infeasible (4, Interesting)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 4 months ago | (#47576677)

If you read the proposal by the House of Lords, it's completely infeasible. What they want is for websites to have verified identity information on hand, but then allow people to post anonymously or using a pseudonym. This is infeasible for several reasons, mostly that to truly verify someone's identity, you need a government-issued ID number. I'm not British, but in the US, that would be the Social Security Number. Now, let me tell you what happens when a government forces SSN identification for things that should not need an SSN.

Some time ago, there was an insanely popular MMORPG in South Korea known as Lineage 2. The administrators behind Lineage 2 (I believe the game was owned by Microsoft but I can't say for sure) required that anyone registering a Lineage 2 account (which required a monthly fee) give them their Korean Social Security Number (KSSN) which works exactly like the US SSN does. I don't recall whether this was because the Korean government was scared of anonymity and demanded it, or because the game's owners wanted it for verification and were not required to get KSSNs by the government, but in any case, a KSSN was required to play the game.

A few years later, Lineage 2 got hacked. The database of KSSNs they had was leaked, meaning that the identities of thousands of people were freely available on the internet. After the Korean government learned of the Lineage 2 hack, they actually tightened their restrictions - all MMORPGs operating in Korea were now required to ask for a KSSN upon account registration, even for F2P games.

The result is that any time an MMORPG gets hacked in Korea, KSSNs get dumped. It also led to things like mass identity theft - players from outside Korea who wanted to play the Korean version of various MMOs (the ones based in Korea are usually regularly updated in Korean but not in the International versions) would have to find a leaked KSSN and use it.

Requiring an identity verification for anything but the most major financial transactions (insurance, banks, employment) should never happen. A credit card verification is different - you can verify a credit or debit card without needing an SSN - and should be enough for pretty much everywhere.

Re:Completely infeasible (1)

ruir (2709173) | about 4 months ago | (#47576719)

Maybe the "hacking" is just a lame cover up for someone selling or abusing that information.

Re:Completely infeasible (5, Informative)

ledow (319597) | about 4 months ago | (#47576755)

Worse,

In the UK there is no compulsory identification. My brother does not have a single identification document. No driving license, no passport, no "ID card" (we've never really issued them since WW2 except for a brief, abandoned, experiment*). He has a normal life.

So, what are you going to use for ID? National Insurance Number? It's meaningless and doesn't correspond to much. It's not even CLOSE to the American SSN, and you can freely give it away without fear.

Driving license number? Some people don't drive.
Passport number? Some people don't have a passport at all, and may never have had one.

Then, you're into pseudo-ID that isn't definitive and isn't legally required.

The UK is one of the few countries in the world where it's perfectly legal to NOT CARRY ANY ID WHATSOEVER. If you're ever challenged by police, they can ask you to prove who you are but that "proof", because of the "no ID card" thing, can be as low as someone recognising you. Precisely because there is no single definitive means of identification.

So, in that atmosphere, how any single website would ever be able to "authenticate" your ID, I have no idea. Banks generally require two forms of ID to open a bank account, which can include things like bills addressed to you, and a wage slip. Neither are actually proof of ID, but you can get a bank account with them.

My brother ran into no more trouble than usual getting a bank account. He has no definitive form of ID in existence. How does that translate to a non-anonymous Internet?

*We had a voluntary ID card scheme a couple of years ago. It was completely abandoned and all the people that paid for the cards wasted their money and never got a refund. The cards are useless and now not accepted as proof of ID, despite a hugely complicated sign-up process. I can just imagine the response to "another" ID card fiasco....

Re:Completely infeasible (1)

Lost Race (681080) | about 4 months ago | (#47577399)

So, what are you going to use for ID?

So, in that atmosphere, how any single website would ever be able to "authenticate" your ID, I have no idea.

How about tamper-resistant cryptographic biometric devices? Use your government-issued fingerprint reader to log into Big Brother's system, then each server is required to make sure you have a valid current login certificate from BB before providing any services. Complete records must be kept indefinitely and will be audited against upstream connection logs.

Nobody is required to have government ID, but network service providers are prohibited from communicating over the Internet with anybody who isn't logged in with Big Brother.

Obviously this only works within one jurisdiction. Foreign Internet users would have to be handled separately, if at all.

I guess it would be easiest to manage this at the ISP level -- ISPs would be required to require proof of identity (via secure biometric reader) at regular intervals from all users. Then you don't necessarily have to bother auditing web, email, etc, servers.

Re: Completely infeasible (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 4 months ago | (#47576955)

Not unfeasible at all, unless they need actual identites. For example here in Norway all phone numbers must have an owner identified with our version of an SSN, even unlisted and prepaid numbers. So an easy way to have an "id" is to send a one time code to the cell during registration. That account is now linked to my phone number which links to my id. If they're hacked, all they have is phone numbers. Many discussion boards already do that to reduce spam and make bans more effective

Another value of anonymity (3, Insightful)

Alomex (148003) | about 4 months ago | (#47576681)

It greases up communication. If I had to attach my name permanently to this comment, at best I would have to spend 15 minutes fully thinking out every implication of it, at worst I would likely not make it at all.

However using either AC or a pseudonym I can post my initial thoughts and let someone else support/refute some of the points using their own personal experience and knowledge.

One arrives to the truth much faster by collaborative debate than by solitary thinking or not posting at all.

Re:Another value of anonymity (1)

randomhacks (3420197) | about 4 months ago | (#47576941)

You're not anonymous. You have created a slashdot user and online name for yourself. http://slashdot.org/~Alomex [slashdot.org] You could have clicked the 'Post Anonymously" button but you didn't. Therefore, if you were breaking the law then it would be possible for the goverment to find you by contacting slashdot and requesting your information.

Excess Privilege? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576695)

And who knows that particular privilege better than members of the House of Lords in the UK — a group that is more or less defined by excess privilege?

That's cray-cray! Here I thought the members of the House of Lords were defined by the fact that they were appointed by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister, not on the basis of being "excessively privileged."

Re:Excess Privilege? (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 4 months ago | (#47576791)

The members of the House of Lords were defined by the fact that they were appointed by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Dennis: Listen, strangely dressed men sitting in old buildings distributing titles is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical fourteenth-century ceremony. If I went around saying I was Emperor, just because some old guy threw a piece of paper with a title at me, they'd put me away.

Re:Excess Privilege? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 4 months ago | (#47577223)

The Lords can't actually do anything themselves these days. The only power they have is to block the commons, something they rarely do. Some consider them a useful safeguard against popular fads - as they don't have to worry about reelection they can take a longer-term view, and not get caught up in the public's demand for hasty ill-considered action on a particular issue.

They Understand Just Fine (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576711)

Every so often, people who don't really understand the importance of anonymity or how it enables free speech (especially among marginalized people), think they have a brilliant idea: "just end real anonymity online."

I disagree. These people understand perfectly well the importance of anonymity. Which is precisely why they want it banned.

Outlawing this fun too? (5, Funny)

niftymitch (1625721) | about 4 months ago | (#47576741)

At a local pizza shop. I placed my order
and paid cash. She asked:

Q: May I have your name sir?

A: Yes

After a while I hear on the speaker.

"Yes, your pizza is ready".

Re:Outlawing this fun too? (1)

taustin (171655) | about 4 months ago | (#47576949)

"My name is Mr. Cash Purchase. I do not have a fixed address. I do not have a telephone."

Not Short Sighted At All (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576743)

They don't seem to understand just how shortsighted such an idea is.

It's not short sighted AT ALL. It may not be conducive to your view of how things and/or the internet should work but it isn't a short sighted suggestion in any way, shape, or form. It works, 100%, towards their true goals and aspirations - to hold people accountable for what they say, to better track who is saying what, and to shut people up. They may attempt to sell it as beneficial for something else to make it more favourable to the public, but that's their goal and it's a long term goal which ending anonymity would accomplish in both the short term and long term.

Nothing short sighted about it at all.

The DOW Crashes (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576747)

Down just about 4%.

They're not just movies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576751)

Idiocracy is what the USA is becoming with its pro-religion, anti-science path.
V for Vendetta is what the UK is becoming with its cameras everywhere, suspect everybody who's not in a position of power attitude.

The UK Needs this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576769)

The UK needs this to criminally charge people who use slurs like "faggot," "nigger," or "british."

No chance of ending anonymity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576781)

Sorry. No one can end anonymity online; it's impossible. Even with IP monitoring, deep packet inspection, token requirements, you name it. There are some very clever people working towards maintaining anonymity, and they will not be dissuaded from their goals.

Re:No chance of ending anonymity (1)

JockTroll (996521) | about 4 months ago | (#47577481)

That's simply naive: the people who have the know-how to maintain anonymity are few, and once they're a small enough number, rounding them up for some legal harassment and the occasional armed break-in in the middle of the night will make them see the light. There is safety only in numbers, and the numbers are dwindling fast. You don't want to be singled out for harassment, do you? Remember: in the mind of the layman online crime == child pornography.

Freedom of speech doesn't require anonymity (0)

randomhacks (3420197) | about 4 months ago | (#47576787)

I think this is a great idea. Freedom of speech / expression doesn't require anonymity. Everyone seems to forget that we had freedom of speech before the internet and for freedom of speechm to work, you actually need some basic rules of fair play. This protect other basic rights which are required for society of work. I.e. You need to be able to stop people being hateful, terrorising or bullying each other. You also need to stop things which might negatively affect national security, publc safety and basic human right.

Re:Freedom of speech doesn't require anonymity (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47577067)

urine idjit
apparently, YOU seem to forget that we had anonymity WAY before the tubes...
apparently, YOU don't have ANYTHING controversial to say (which are the only things worth saying), so you don't care that your status quo statements are attributed to you...
gosh, what a risk-taker, what a shit-stirrer, what a...
oh, wait, i was being sarcastic: when people talk about having the 'courage of your convictions' to speak truth to power, there are a LOT of convictions that don't require ANY courage, because they are approved of by the powers that be... you, for example: you will NEVER say anything that could get you in trouble, because you are an authoritarian and WANT Big Daddy to make the mean people shut up...
AND you understand NOTHING of what the concept of free speech actually means... for YOU, 'free speech' means 'speech that doesn't make me feel bad', like most... but the real test of free speech, is letting your worst enemy spout his most vile invectives, THEN you are for free speech...

Re:Freedom of speech doesn't require anonymity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47577127)

The problem with this thinking is that it ignores the possibility of abuse. What's there to stop people from claiming any degree criticism, be it positive or negative, is simply hate speech and/or bullying?

of course they do (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 4 months ago | (#47576805)

cant support those pesky freedoms now can we?

Real report link (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576833)

After many clicks, I came finally to the real report and the section on Anonymity.

http://www.publications.parlia... [parliament.uk]

and the bold part is here,

From our perspective in the United Kingdom, if the behaviour which is currently criminal is to remain criminal and also capable of prosecution, we consider that it would be proportionate to require the operators of websites first to establish the identity of people opening accounts but that it is also proportionate to allow people thereafter to use websites using pseudonyms or anonymously. There is little point in criminalising certain behaviour and at the same time legitimately making that same behaviour impossible to detect. We recognise that this is a difficult question, especially as it relates to jurisdiction and enforcement.

So it seems they are not complete idiots, just trying to make things easier for investigative purposes. How they want people to identify themselves, well, that's another story.

Your truly,
A.C.

CAPTCHA: thanks

Tomorrow's news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576851)

UK house of lords wants to have veto right on legislation.

Re:Tomorrow's news (3, Informative)

hguorbray (967940) | about 4 months ago | (#47577073)

The sad thing is that in recent years the Lords have been the main supporters of privacy and human rights in the UK government and are in fact more progressive and against government overreach than the House of Commons -partially because they are more non-partisan and not beholden to party or private interests for their positions (apart from being born or made a lord of course)

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jul/09/house-of-lords-commons-democracy

http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2013/08/28/the-contemporary-house-of-lords/

-I'm just sayin'

Turn about is fair play (1)

Atrox666 (957601) | about 4 months ago | (#47576853)

The UK Government recommends scrapping anonymous users.
As an anonymous user I recommend scrapping the UK Government.

Sure, let me start... (1)

pla (258480) | about 4 months ago | (#47576855)

Hi, I'd like to create an account. Oh, you need my "real" name and address? Sure:
George W Bush
Walker's Point
Kennebunkport, ME 04046

Oh yes, please do sign me up for advertisements from your partners! And I love newsletters and can't get enough insurance offers.

Anonymity has never existed on the internet (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576857)

There has never been true anonymity on the internet. Anonymity is an illusion. There have always been ways to identify people over the internet.

Re:Anonymity has never existed on the internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47577465)

Ways to identify devices, at best... But anyone could borrow or steal my phone or PC and suddenly appear to be "me." They're not. They could be a family member, friend, or thief, or just the cat at the keyboard. What doesn't exist on the internet is foolproof identification. And, it really can't be done with today's technology.

House of Lords Report != UK Government (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576959)

If you're going to write about people not understanding things, then confusing the conclusion of a House of Lords report with the position of the UK government does not help.

David Anderson

Jews... as usual... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47576967)

http://balder.org/judea/Hate-Speech-Laws-Immigration-Jewish-Influence-Britain.php

It's all right there, undeniable facts - the Jews have taken away our right to free speech, so we can't protest about their ongoing crimes against us.

They can scrap it after they rip TOR from my (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47577027)

cold dead hands.

They've wanted to end anonymity for a long time (2)

Ken_g6 (775014) | about 4 months ago | (#47577115)

Since at least The Federalist Papers. [wikipedia.org] I'm glad they didn't succeed then, and I hope they don't succeed now.

Check this! (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 4 months ago | (#47577119)

I am in sympathy, but overuse of the class warfare meme-du-jure "privilege" makes me wanna pee on a puppy.

Anonymity of speech is a core aspect of freedom of speech, and is needed to prevent retribution against speakers.

Believe it or not, this includes retribution by cliques of folks who speak "check your privilege" every other paragraph. They want to expose, say, petition signers to get things on a ballot for the expressed (literally) purpose of harassing them, which the Supreme Court found "troubling", even as it approved the FOI request.

Anonymity protects everyone from all would-be centers of power.

Re:Check this! (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 4 months ago | (#47577131)

Du jour, and I was not anon. Peeze no retributtys.

OK then Lets Start by the UK Goverment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47577199)

They Want this and have nothing to hide . All UK government and Worker at all Level will be the First to Have their Anonymity removed during the Trial Phase of this experiment and not just at Work but home too and their family . Let them explain to their sibling that's what they want for everybody .

I wished all these online new measure was Tested on those who propose it First (US or UK ).

Buy them One Way tickets to North Korea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47577247)

If they love North Korea so much let's buy them ticket there.
Totalitarian regime at their feet, they can spy all day long without any anonymity. Shoot the crowds with the real bullets.

Dreams can come true. Just put your fat asses on the plane to North Korea.

The british government runs on anonymity (4, Informative)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 4 months ago | (#47577271)

One of the techniques the government has for allowing the discussion of sensitive issues, without starting a witch hunt is called The Chatham House Rule

Meeting held under this rule do not allow the the disclosure of who said what. The "what" can be reported, but no-one is permitted to say who said it. That permits people to express views, or ask "what if" questions (and get considered, informed answers) without having to always play to the (media) audience and make guarded, ambiguous and watered-down statements.

Since the government recognises the value of these sorts of meetings (as well as the established protocol of "off the record" briefings, which cannot be quoted) it's ludicrous that they would think that removing anonymity would be a good idea. This can only be one of those "silly season" media reports, usually made up by journalists who are bored as politicians are away during the summer months.

so when does this end? (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 4 months ago | (#47577325)

I know the spying, healthcare cost hike-causing, horrible foreign policy bullshit is dead and buried in 2 years when Obama goes out of office. I mean seriously, the presidential candidates have 2 options. Be against the ACA or lose. So when does that happen in England? When do those camera-placing, filter-enabling, anti-privacy morons get booted out of office? Please tell me it's not a lifetime term.

Privilege? (2)

brit74 (831798) | about 4 months ago | (#47577365)

How the heck did this turn into a discussion of "privilege"? Yeash. Everything is not about "privilege" and the good guys vs the bad guys isn't defined by who has more "privilege". The idea of ending anonymity online is important for everyone, not just the "less privileged". In most cases, when a website has a comments section which is based on Facebook usernames, I just don't comment at all. I really don't need anyone mining my comments 5 or 10 years from now, so I just flat-out refuse to participate on those discussions, for fear that my comments will be taken out of context or misunderstood and then used against me. That creates a chilling effect for free speech *for everyone*.

They can ask for my name. (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 4 months ago | (#47577391)

But as far as the internet is concerned, I have ten names and none of them are my real one.

They can't take away what doesn't exist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47577413)

Until the day we are all implanted with impossible-to-fake brain implants, and communications online become 100% secure, then there is really no real way to prove who someone is by whatever device was used (or password) anyway. Any kind of biometric can be faked (or will someday) and any kind of security can be breached. You can make it harder for criminals, but not for long anyway.

Has nobody here ever let a friend use their phone or PC in their lives? Or used one owned by someone else? It's one thing to get a false positive when it's something repairable like a "stolen identity" but it's far worse to get a false positive when someone's freedom or life is at stake. It's a shame politicians (and even some IT professionals) just don't seem to understand such a simple concept.

Oh wait, the brain implants are probably on their way.

What? (1)

thieh (3654731) | about 4 months ago | (#47577449)

I didn't realize we still have online anonymity, especially after all the hardware hacks and backdoors and stuff from the Snowden leaks

I would like to formaly logde a complaint (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47577517)

Please register this complaint and forward all communications to my personal office in the royal kingdom of the most humble Crown prince of Nigeria. Verification of my Identity is of foremost importance as is verification of your office and position. My officers would be pleased to but their burden is so high. For a nominal fee to WESTERN UNION we could please verify the legitimacy of your government, right of governance and personal details so that I may speed the process to perform the handshake. Please verify my identity my name is Mr Fu kmeoff Crown prince to be

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