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UK Propose Registering Screen Names with Police 282

Posted by samzenpus
from the in-england-you-only-get-one-online-name dept.
Oxygen99 writes "In a series of kneejerk suggestions following this online rape plot, the UK Home Secretary, Dr John Reid has suggested that offenders on the Sex Offenders Register should register their online identities with the police. According to a home office spokesman this means that offenders, 'online identities would be treated in exactly the same way as their real name'. So, just how misguided is this and who's going to be the first to tell him?"
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UK Propose Registering Screen Names with Police

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  • Umm. Yay? [bizjournals.com]

    I'm not saying the intent is bad. But it's an enormous waste of money in my opinion.
  • Hmm, ok. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IflyRC (956454) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @12:17PM (#17905554)
    So who is going to be the first person to explain how free email web sites such as yahoo, hotmail, etc and new screen names can be gotten anonymously (for the most part) and can change daily, hourly or however fast you want to fill out the forms?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wodon (563966)

      So who is going to be the first person to explain how free email web sites such as yahoo, hotmail, etc and new screen names can be gotten anonymously (for the most part) and can change daily, hourly or however fast you want to fill out the forms?

      That is a good point, and the first thing I thought when I heard this on the radio this morning too.
      What it doesn't say is that they plan to make it compulsory for sex offenders to register any email addresses they use in the same way they must register street addresses and aliases. That way they can be charged with using a new email address even if they aren't caught doing sex offendery things.

      The idea is ok, just terribly thought through. how can they police it? Especially as at present they don't hav

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        how can they police it? Especially as at present they don't have the regular address and alias details for a large portion of the sex offenders register. How about they start by working out where they all live!

        They don't need to police it. They just need to show someone is violating the law so they can stepup surveilanc of the internet. And i seriously doubt this has anything to do with certain offenders.

        If they find someone who is commiting a crime, made a political statment contrary to the popular supp

    • Re:Hmm, ok. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sirch (82595) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @12:58PM (#17906306) Homepage
      What noone seems to have pointed out yet is that if they are caught breaking this proposed law by the police, they can be punished - without having to prove intent to molest etc.

      This is like making it illegal for convicted murderers to buy a knife - catch them doing it - receipts, CCTV, standard surveillance, and you can send them away without needing to prove they were going to try to stab someone.

      (OK, OK, flawed analogy, but it serves its purpose).
  • I wonder.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by works (995530) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @12:18PM (#17905570)
    What kind of spam you will get after registering.
  • oh no no no (Score:5, Funny)

    by physicsboy500 (645835) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @12:18PM (#17905578)
    my name is M0lester... not MOlester
  • Trusting... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slim (1652) <john AT hartnup DOT net> on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @12:20PM (#17905610) Homepage
    When I first saw this story, I thought the intention was that *everyone* register their screen names -- an unpardonable invasion of privacy, and clearly unenforcable, yet something I could imagine an Internet-ignorant politician might just propose.

    But it turns out that it only applies to people on the Sex Offenders Register, which isn't quite as bad. There's some precedent for "you break the law once, you sacrifice some of your rights".

    So I no longer see it as such a terrible invasion of privacy. But it does seem about as unworkable as asking burglars, upon release from prison, to call the local police station with a time and address before attempting any further burglaries.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      There's some precedent for "you break the law once, you sacrifice some of your rights".
      I wonder how that works in England.

      On the other side of the pond, ex-felons can't buy guns & have to do some paperwork to get their voting rights re-established... That's pretty much it. Everything else is social stigma.
    • by AlHunt (982887)

      But it turns out that it only applies to people on the Sex Offenders Register, which isn't quite as bad. There's some precedent for "you break the law once, you sacrifice some of your rights".

      Given the ease of changing your screen name, they know registering one particular online group is futile. How long until they make the leap to registering everyone who "goes online"? Maybe you'll need an "internet license" like a drivers license to log on. Make ISPs the traffic cops of the net, maybe?

    • I know! Inform them by email and REQUIRE a receipt! So that they know that we know that they know...

      OK, what if direct enforcement isn't the idea? Maybe the idea is that if they find a registered person using a false identity (easier to detect), then it's clear that they're up to no good?
    • When I first saw this story, I thought the intention was that *everyone* register their screen names
      It probably is - don't confuse the stated intention with the real one.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by vertinox (846076)
      But it turns out that it only applies to people on the Sex Offenders Register, which isn't quite as bad. There's some precedent for "you break the law once, you sacrifice some of your rights".

      Are you aware that in US that you can be labeled by the sex offender by urinating in public (aka peeing in back alley) or an 18 year having sex with a 17 year old. Note the term sex offender does not expire and that 18 year old will be consider a sex offender at age 40 even if he married his 17 year old sweet heart and
  • John Reid = Plonker (Score:5, Informative)

    by SkunkPussy (85271) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @12:21PM (#17905642) Journal
    John Reid is a bloody idiot, and he is subordinate to the tabloids. He pumps out hair-brained schemes like this, that are frankly embarassing.

    We need to find a way to stop politicians (and tabloids) interfering with this country, because in general the UK functions very well without their accursed meddling!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @12:33PM (#17905852)
      I think the House of Lords should be replaced by the editorial board of the Sun, and the House of Commons should be replaced by the editorial board of the Mirror.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CmdrGravy (645153)
      Exactly, the home office should concentrate on doing its current job properly without wasting time thinking up nonsense like this. They can't even track down or keep tabs on people when they know there real names addresses so the concept that they'll be able to monitor the thousands of people forced to register "screen names" is simply laughable.

      Perhaps it was an error on the reports part but when I heard about this on the radio this morning it was described thus:

      "Sex offenders will register their screen na
    • by Bogtha (906264) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @12:48PM (#17906130)

      We need to find a way to stop politicians [...] interfering with this country

      It's called the House of Lords [wikipedia.org]. When the House of Commons tries to do something especially daft, it's possible for the House of Lords to stop or delay them.

      • by SkunkPussy (85271) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @01:30PM (#17906928) Journal
        And guess what...right now they're trying to make the House of Lords some combination of elected and appointed, which will be a massive constitutional disaster (see below)!!!

        Strengths of the current House of Lords IMO
        1) Not elected, therefore voting for stupid laws that get favourable media coverage doesnt really happen. Also members are not especially concerned with (or vulnerable to) the public's reaction to their votes. A fantastic counterbalance to the house of commons.
        2) Members of the House of Lords do not rely on their party to get elected. Therefore do not have to toe the party line. The party system inevitably prevents MPs representing their constituents interests, when they conflict with the party line.
        3) The House of Lords is the closest the country has to independent oversight of the House of Commons.
        4) As a result of 1+2, House of Lords is the only house that can be relied upon to vote with a conscience for what is right. E.G. House of Lords presented the strongest arguments against the Iraq War, which pretty much everyone in the country could see was a foolish errand bar Tony and his Cronies!

        Weaknesses of the current House of Lords IMO
        1) Hereditary peers - somewhat distasteful, and a likely inherent bias towards the Conservative party, though the more time goes on, the less likely this should be.
        2) Not strongly answerable to the press/people (I consider this a strength)

        The problem with making the House of Lords an elected house is that it will solve the "hereditary peers" problem, but remove every single strength of the house!! It will gut it, and subject all members of it to the Whips and party politics.

        The problem with making the House of Lords an appointed house is that it will INEVITABLY be stuffed with with people sympathetic to the government at the time. If there was a 20 year run of one party in charge of the House of Commons, then we could imagine a massive swing in the population of the House of Lords to representatives of that party! The House of Lords will no longer be independent.

        If/when they convert the House of Lords to elected/appointed this country will lose one of its greatest strengths (a somewhat apolitical overseeing body). Regardless of whether the House of Lords becomes elected, appointed or some combination of both, it will represent an unprecedented transfer of power towards the party system and unlikely as it may seem, AWAY from the people the party system is meant to represent.

        If it is ok to have a constitutional monarchy, why should we not also have constitutional peers in the House of Lords?
      • by cliffski (65094)
        true, but they can also prevent popular legislation being passed as well. Despite overwhelming support for the ban on fox hunting, the lords delayed it by many years, mainly due to the fact that a big chunk of them are landed gentry who are pro-hunting, and not a single one of them is elected.
        Democracy. ha!
        The house of Lord is *not* a good idea, regardless of the occasional bit of sense that is accidentally spoken by the people who can afford to buy a peerage [wikipedia.org] and a seat in government.*

        * or in the case of
  • Why would this be a bad thing? I doubt that it is even possible, but the anonymity of the internet is basically the only thing that takes away its credibility. Internet security would be much easier, and internet commerce could become even more accepted and prevelant.

    You cannot just say whatever you want in a newspaper or in a public forum without people knowing who you are. Why should you be able to do it on the internet?

    --
    • I know I would be more accepting of commerce over the internet with convicted sex offenders if only they were registered.
    • by Qzukk (229616)
      Why would this be a bad thing? I doubt that it is even possible

      Then how much of your tax dollars are you willing to spend trying? If it's not possible, then why is throwing the government and money at the problem a good thing?
    • >You cannot just say whatever you want in a newspaper or in a public forum without people knowing who you are.

      "Name witheld by request"
      "A source who asked to be anonymous"
      Anyone handing out pamphlets on the street corner
      The authors of the Federalist Papers.
    • by mpe (36238)
      Why would this be a bad thing? I doubt that it is even possible,

      Because the "trying" wastes a lot of money which could be used for something worthwhile. e.g. Actual law enforcement.

      You cannot just say whatever you want in a newspaper or in a public forum without people knowing who you are.

      Newspapers certainly publish articles and letters with names and addresses withheld. Even when they public a name and town/city you'd often have to work hard to identify the person concerned. Also people speaking in
  • of the internet

    we're all witnessing how the birth of a powerful new medium is changing human society

    the first big impact of course is the absolute nullification of copyright laws: if you can point and click and disseminate millions of copies of books/ movies/ music with zero effort, copyright is for all practical purposes a dead concept

    the second big impact is the new mercuriality of identity. you don't know who someone is, where they are from, their sex, how old they are, etc., and yet you can form lasting
    • I think you're right. I was thinking about some of my online gaming friends. They are without real names, genders, or physical bodies-- to me-- but they /are/ a collection of ideas, opinions, emotions, and interactions.

      Those aren't the only things that count, but we are rapidly seeing the changes that prove those characteristics are the only requirements for discourse. I don't need my online friend's visage to miss discourse with him when he's gone. Reminds me of online funerals for deceased-in-Real-Life

  • I don't think that increased information gathering by the UK authorities is much of a problem, given that their actual will and ability to punish/discourage/reform criminals are pretty well zero anyway. What are they going to do to anyone they catch? 'Interview them under caution'? I don't see much point in prosecuting them for rape, given the conviction rate and sentences involved.

    The thing is that UK police have so little power, compared to most countries, to prevent or punish crime that when it wants
  • If online screen names were the same as real names, or if they could be made so for some subset of the population
    (i.e., people who would want to hide their identities for the wrong reasons) then this would make sense. But they're not.

    Detterance seems like the right approach here: there's no way to prevent people from misbehaving, but you can make it costly.
    So let's say: go ahead and choose any screen name you want. If you use a fictitious screen name in a way related to a crime,
    then some extra penalty ge

    • If you use a fictitious screen name in a way related to a crime, then some extra penalty gets added in, no questions asked, no appeal.
      Because Micky Mouse would get serious jail time for tax fraud.
  • by British (51765) <british1500@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @12:34PM (#17905862) Homepage Journal
    So we(or ie they, the UK) are giving up liberty for either reasons of:

    1. Terrorism
    2. Sex Offenders

    So that's it, huh? One is getting to be annoying, the other is 100% laughable. Call me closed-minded, but we're paying waaay too much attention to "sex offenders", especially when being considered a sex offender is so broad, taking a leak at 3am in public when drunk would get you on the list.

    We need that V guy sooner than later.
  • Why dont they demand all criminals to register their names? And why stop with registering their screen names, why cant we pass a law demanding that all criminals to give adequate notice of their intent to burgle homes, mug pedestrians and hold up banks? Imagine the teller saying, "No Mr McFly, you have not issued prior notification of your plan to rob this bank. You might have, but you how it is with paper work. So please come tomorrow to rob us." Or handing the money over in a fast, efficient and safe mann
  • The FA doesn't say if these two men were already on the Sex Offenders Register, but in any case, how would requiring offenders to register their screen names prevent people NOT on the Sex Offenders Register (i.e., not previously caught) from preying on people?

    Of course this approach in unworkable as unverified online accounts are as easy to get as air, but suffering the lack of logic has never been a problem for a government...

    Not to incite a flamewar, and I know the recidivism rate among sex offenders

  • by iamacat (583406) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @12:37PM (#17905940)
    After all, this would only get sex offenders lynched by neighbors in Second Life. This law will not stop anyone from registering a fake name. But if someone is found acting suspiciously online, and that someone turns out to be an anonymous sex offender, he can be prosecuted without having to prove every conversation that took place. Chances are, he was about to look for more victims, since he obviously no longer minds breaking the law.

    The real problems to be concerned about are:
    • People being branded as sex offenders too easily, say for mooning in a public place
    • This registration being extended to pot smokers, traffic violators and yes regular law abiding citizens
    • And most of all, the actual Megan law. If someone served their time, they should get a crack at being normal citizens with friends and no threat of violence.

  • This isn't really a YRO issue. Felons having reduced rights is a long-standing tradition, and I for one wouldn't care to give it up. There are some obivous attack avenues we need to watch (like making sure that laws don't get written that make everyone felons; this is not an exhaustive list), but the principle is sound.

    In a US context, I'm a bit uncomfortable with the low bar of "sex offender", but all in all, this isn't much different than the other things sex offenders are already obligated to do, and it'
  • Another poster pointed out [slashdot.org] that erstwhile "maverick" McCain has sponsored a similar bill in the US Congress. My question is, do these bills have any regulations regarding the release of this information to the general public? Or will they tacitly authorize spammers, script-kiddies and soccer-moms to go whole-hog on this particular group of untouchables?
  • ...if they can't even keep track [telegraph.co.uk] of where registered sex offenders live?

  • I keep hearing about all these hoops sex offenders go through, but what about other criminals? Yeah, sex offenders are bad people, but do murderers have to register? Are they put on a neighborhood watch list and have to go around announcing themselves to their neighbors? Why are sex offenders treated so harshly after prison? I'm not trying to troll or anything, I am really wondering why they are the targets so much. Are they the most likely group to repeat their crimes? What about drug dealers or carja
  • This is is a result of what "Yes Minister" (a BBC TV comedy and book) called the politicians' syllogism:

    We must to something.
    This is something.
    Therefore we must to this.
  • by DigitAl56K (805623) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @01:05PM (#17906450)
    Think about all of the mistaken identities. Especially when many people on different services can share the same nicknames. I can't even count how many times I've tried to register one of my less geeky nicknames on a service and been told it's already taken.

    One day some perv will go missing from his parole program and you'll have police on your doorstep asking you to prove your identity because suddenly by virtue of this name registration there is reasonable doubt that you are who you claim to be.

    Papers please!
  • I'm sorry, but I disagree with standard slashthink in this regard. I think the anonymity of the internet is its greatest weakness, not strength. I'm a huge believer in freedom of speech - that is, you have the right to say what you want, and no government should take that from you. However, that doesn't mean you have the right to hide. They are different concepts altogether.

    I think the internet would be a far better place if people who spoke up did so under their real identity.

    -Jeff
    • by QCompson (675963)

      I'm a huge believer in freedom of speech - that is, you have the right to say what you want, and no government should take that from you. However, that doesn't mean you have the right to hide. They are different concepts altogether.

      Tell that to those freedom-haters who wrote the Federalist Papers. Or here is what the EFF has to say about the subject:

      Anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse. The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the right to anonymous fre

  • Message to Home Secretary: you do not have to emulate China's civil rights policy to achieve their economic success.
  • [tinfoilhat]Yes, it's unenforceable. Yes, they know it's unenforceable.Yes, they will use it's enforceability to justify new draconian controls on the internet (like DRM, but more evil and less greedy). Think of the children!![/tinfoilhat]
  • by QCompson (675963) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @01:28PM (#17906896)
    More laws and restrictions are proposed being placed upon sex offenders? How shocking.

    Are the the US and UK only capable of passing laws that pile more restrictions and harsher punishments on sex offenders?

    It's become such an easy gimmick for politicians and legislators. In the US at least, politicians can sit on their hands and do nothing for years on end as long as they push forward a few new anti-sex-offender laws right before election, and the public applauds. The laws don't even have to be effective, or even enforceable. If the public hears about any single sex-crime in a nation of 300 million people, then there is a cry for harsher punishments, more restrictions, more databases, more cops posing as 14 year old girls online, more internet surveillance, more ex post facto laws, and less freedom for us all.

    Many of the laws are shamefully overbroad. Keeping some guy who got caught peeing in the bushes or leering after a 16 year old girl from living within city limits does nothing to protect the community. Effectively ending some college students life because he downloaded some naked picture of a child off of Kazaa isn't helping.

    There are millions of children in the US who are without healthcare or living in severe poverty. Yet everyone is much more concerned about those scary child predators lurking on Myspace. The 24/7 attention each sexual-related case receives in the media make sex-offenses seem like a huge problem, but is it really worth all of the panic and expenditure of law enforcement resources?

    Sex-offenses have turned out to be the perfect tool to distract the public from any other issues. It's just so easy to beat up on a group that no one is willing to defend.

  • If I were a sex offender and this law got passed, I know exactly what I'd be tempted to do... sign-up for ~50 new screen names a day. Basically, (Number of sex offenders in the UK) X (Average number of new screen names per person) = A LOT of paperwork for the police. So much, in fact, I doubt they'd have the ability to do anything else. Which would lead to either this law getting changed/removed or an automated system. If it's the latter then there should be enough white noise & overlap (ilikekids i
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Cederic (9623)

      Sign up? Way I read it, any name you use in a chatroom. So set up an IRC server on your own machine, connect, and use an IRC script to
      - sequentially generate all legitimate IRC names, starting with a, then b, then eventually zzzzzzzzzz
      - use /nick to set that as your irc name
      - send an email to the police informing them of your new online identity

      Then start on the email addresses you have under the domain you own.
      a@example.com
      b@example.com
      By the time you reach 999999999999999990000000zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.aaa@exa
  • by Dizzutch (578793)
    [rapeman69] /nick iLikeBoys23
    * rapeman69 is now known as iLikeBoys23

    I'm sorry, but i don't see the point, maybe the British government should spend some time on IRC.
    1. buy millions of email addreses from spammers for $peanuts
    2. ditto Myspace IDs
    3. write a script to combine these and mail them to the registry as alleged offenders
    4. chaos!
  • Absolute BS (Score:3, Funny)

    by LParks (927321) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @01:58PM (#17907500)
    What's next? I'll have to register at the laundromat when I go to get the blood out of my clown suit?

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