Privacy / Does it Need an Update?

Today Ex-CIA official Kerr called for an update to Privacy . This 4th amendment territory has been pretty hot over the past few years. It underscores the maxim that the defense of liberty is eternal vigilance. His position is that we should not have anonymity on the net. Kerr stated :

"Protecting anonymity isn't a fight that can be won. Anyone that's typed in their name on Google understands that."
-Kerr, 11/11/07

I disagree completely. Anonymity is a huge part of freedom. It traces all the way back to when the federalist papers were written under psuedonym, for fear of treason / death by hanging. As tBS I am free to write about dominance and submission, soft bdsm, betty page (she is so hot), call centers, domestic violence, evil, good, tattoos, and as one of my colleagues has kindly pointed out, even whether or not yoga is porn. I can also talk about my government, bush republicans, over the top responses to terrorism, complicity in our system to the institutions of lobbyism and corruption. I can write about child abuse, rape, impropriety, and even backstabbing people who call themselves journalists, with nothing better to do than ruin friendships, and wreck virtual world projects. I can call into question the management experience and capabilities of my superiors, I can carp about my job. I can do anything I want here. And I do.

As long as you don't know who I am, things work. IRL I am a CEO of a small company. To give away my identity would be suicide. I have all kinds of things tying me down. Maybe its just a fantasy that I either free, or bound. It doesn't matter. Its my fantasy. My life. My blog. And you not knowing who I really am is part of the game. Just like the easter eggs I continually scatter throughout the blog. (hint:jpeg jsteg)

As with all good propaganda, there is a grain of truth in what our good government friend is saying here today. Privacy does need an update, but not in the manner suggested by the offical above where the dissolution of online anonymity is called for.

We do not need stronger, and more coherent means of protecting your identity, but fashioning another one that can be bound to an online self.

Thats right. I believe that you should have a handle, and a key to that handle that can be connected if and only if you are under serious investigation and only under very , very strict conditions. The government should be able to administer this key system, but under rules that make FISA some kind of walk in the park. The concept that you can have a real, coherent identity online that has nothing to do with your identity IRL (you know what that means.) and that identity bears consequence, builds reputation and otherwise lets you operate as you are, in the virtual and online world. And thats the answer.

This concept is nothing new to the hacker community. All of us have a name. And the result of part of that open source movement has been far reaching. Linux is good. Admit that.

In fact, in my role as a hacker I have trapped spammers. Think for a second about the Craigslist experiment (on the title post here regarding the reality of sex on the internet). How do you stop spamford? Flag him. Flagging on Craiglist is impossible without identity - otherwise holy rollers would shut down ever personals ad out there. And by that same token, so too would it be impossible to post some things without anonymity. For example, the fact that spamford is my bitch. :) - Just watch for those autoresponders and try to remember which post you clicked on and you can shut down even the ones that look really real.

Complete anonymity is impossible. That much I can grant you. But to replace that with real identity is homicidally insane. Now, ex-CIA officials may think its a good idea - but ask the bloggers in myanmar that are sending images of their government shooting reporters and firing into crowds of buddhist monks. Or women in Saudi Arabia who would dare question why they can't get a driver's license or are being ritualistically abused by their husbands. Ask Valerie Plame what revealing your identity means. And don't even get me started on copyright and flim clips. Don't even. Anonymity is important. As important as the question of who owns whats inside of your own head. <-- which is not so simple a question as you may think. .. the hand that rocks the cradle, baby..

Have an identity, but protect the key/ don't let anyone tell you that the key has to be public. Be anonymous, but when you're anonymous. At least answer the phone. Kerr is wrong. We don't need to breakdown anonymity, we need alternate , coherent identities that help us to winnow down the mass of information out there, and sift through it all.

We should base our system of privacy and identity on the existing tradition of government by rough consensus, and a concentric system of online identity that exists in the open source and online computer security adventure groups. This has a message from thee temple ov psychic y0uth. "your faith is my adventure". peace. word. may the light be with you