Is anonymity online your right?

Is anonymity online your right?

Summary: Do you have the right to be anonymous online? If so, when? Anonymity protects Syrian political activists, internet trolls and criminals alike. There are no easy answers.

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Do you have the right to be anonymous online? If so, when? Anonymity protects Syrian political activists, internet trolls and criminals alike. There are no easy answers.

Jessica Hill and Stilgherrian
(Credit: Neerav Bhatt)

Protecting dissidents from oppressive governments is usually seen as a good thing. But protesters hiding from police forces in countries like Australia or the United States are often portrayed as dangerous radicals or even terrorists.

Commercial forces are making it harder to stay anonymous, too. Online services want users to identify themselves with their real names, but we've previously heard how Google's real-names policy has been controversial.

Last week, I took part in a media140 Australia panel discussion on digital anonymity, along with Jessica Hill from ABC Radio current affairs, David Stewart from law firm Wrays and Karalee Evans from public relations firm Text 100. On this week's Patch Monday podcast, you'll hear my personal highlights.

Hill, for example, has been covering political events in the Middle East. For the safety of her contacts, privacy-enhancing tools, like TOR, which masks a user's internet protocol (IP) address, are essential. Yet from Stewart's point of view, TOR makes it hard to track down phishers and other criminals, and he hates TOR with a passion.

To leave an audio comment on the program, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone (02) 8011 3733.

Audio of the full two-hour panel discussion will soon be available at media140.com.

Running time: 31 minutes, 23 seconds

Topics: Government, Government AU, Privacy, Security

About

Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust.

He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit trap, clear a jam in an IBM model 026 card punch and mix a mean whiskey sour.

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  • It’s strange to think about how Internet privacy has changed over the years. It seems that for every technology or service that allows for more anonymity, another one is there too to trace the untraceable. It’s always best to assume that nothing is truly anonymous.
    MosaicTechnology