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[ NNSquad ] Saving Internet Anonymity -- The Struggle is Joined

	    Saving Internet Anonymity -- The Struggle is Joined


Greetings.  What's the fundamental problem with "cyberspace" -- that
is, the Internet?

There are various issues to choose from, but if you didn't put
"anonymity" near the top of your list, you're not alone.

Yet the drumbeat from the self-appointed guardians of our Internet
safety -- calling for "the end" of Internet anonymity -- is growing
ever stronger, and with it are increasingly shrill calls for some form
of verifiable ID that could (proponents hope) track your every move on
the Internet and on every connected site.

This of course is the wet dream both of law enforcement with usually
laudable goals, and of totalitarian governments (or would-be,
could-be, once-were, or might-become totalitarian governments) who are
increasingly cowered by the raw power of communications -- not subject
to easy centralized control or muzzling -- that the Internet provides
ordinary people.

So the bogeymen of Internet nightmares, like the "bad trips" of a
thousand geeks on acid, are being trotted out into the public
discourse with increasing frequency and ever-escalating levels of
doomsday rhetoric.

A couple of months ago, in "Microsoft's Police State Vision? Exec
Calls for Internet 'Driver's Licenses'" ( http://bit.ly/aAygfz ) and
"Google and the Battle for the Soul of the Internet" 
( http://bit.ly/6JMnFC ), I touched on some of these issues, and I noted
not only why anonymity was important -- even though it can be 
abused -- but how attempts to stamp out anonymity will tend to negatively
impact honest citizens much more than criminals or terrorists -- and
creates enormous risks of governmental abuses down the line.

Now comes word that at a "cybersecurity conference" sponsored by
Russia and held in Germany, some notable Russian and U.S. attendees
were in agreement that the basic evil of the Internet is the
existence of anonymous usage ( http://bit.ly/9pw4ki [New York Times] ).

The clarity with which some attendees have divined anonymity as --
they hope we believe -- our vicious and powerful adversary was notable
in the absolute conviction of their statements.

"Anonymity is an invitation to criminals," said Col. Gen. Boris N.
Miroshnikov of the Russian Interior Ministry -- an organization that
certainly has well understood both the "big picture" and the minutia
of running a police state at various times in its history.

Chiming in agreement: "Anonymity is the fundamental problem we face in
cyberspace" -- was Stewart A. Baker, fellow at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies in Washington, and former chief
counsel for masters of SIGINT -- communications interception and
intelligence behemoth NSA -- the National Security Agency.

It doesn't take a crystal ball to foresee the direction in which these
parties would very much like to take their arguments.  The basic
strategy of such "political" battles hasn't changed very much in more
than two thousand years.

Just as some anti-Net Neutrality groups have chosen a designated 
enemy -- Google -- as their scapegoat for Big Lie arguments, we're now
seeing the specter of the Internet Criminal -- the Internet Terrorist,
being groomed to serve in the call for universal Internet user
identification and control.  Straw man fallacies, exaggerations,
misrepresentations, and a heady dose of "Do it for the children!" will
be invoked like demons called forth from the pages of the

Needless to say, this will not be a war of a mere few skirmishes or a
single major battle.  This will likely be an extended struggle -- in
legislatures, courtrooms, and the courts of public opinion around the
world -- for control over a critical aspect of the very soul of the
Internet -- plus the hearts and minds of its users.

It's up to us.  The struggle is joined.

Lauren Weinstein
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800
Co-Founder, PFIR
   - People For Internet Responsibility - http://www.pfir.org
Co-Founder, NNSquad
   - Network Neutrality Squad - http://www.nnsquad.org
Founder, GCTIP - Global Coalition 
   for Transparent Internet Performance - http://www.gctip.org
Founder, PRIVACY Forum - http://www.vortex.com
Member, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren's Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenweinstein