Last Updated Jan 12, 2011 11:35 AM EST
A Chilling Effect on Speech and Privacy
The relative anonymity of the Internet has its downsides. People can post illegal media, hate speech, and other offensive content with little to no consequences. The only identifiers are their computer IP address and, perhaps, an email address, the latter of which can be made for free on GMail, Hotmail, or countless other services in two minutes. The negative outcomes of this anonymity have been well documented, most recently the rash of suicides from online hate crimes.
However, the anonymity also allows us to take full advantage of the Internet. It is as simple as searching for particular information, viewing certain media, or reading controversial material and not fearing that the U.S. government (or worse) is keeping tabs on your actions.
Corporations are already working hard to erode user privacy:
- Facebook sharing the private data of millions of users with advertisers
- Google (GOOG) scanning user email, but saying it doesn't actually read it
- YouPorn and other sites reading user browser history without permission
Identity Theft Will Become Easier
A universal internet ID could also make identity theft a bigger risk. It just doesn't seem possible to protect the individual:
- Would this government ID be a standalone identifier, like a social security number? If so, knowing the ID itself would make theft much easier.
- Would the ID be a handle/password combination? The handle would probably be public, which means a thief could nab the password and use the identity.
- What would the ID contain? If it kept the user's address, phone number, and other details, getting it stolen would be tantamount to being mugged -- or worse.
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- Is Facebook Incompetent, Ignorant, or Simply Arrogant?
- Google Will "Scan" Your Email, Not "Read" It. What Hypocrisy
- Why Privacy Advocates Should Thank YouPorn for Ending "History Sniffing"
- Consumers Hate Online Tracking, but They Also Don't Understand It
- Here Comes the Obama Privacy Steamroller to Flatten High Tech