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UK Government Report Recommends Ending Online Anonymity 282

An anonymous reader writes with a bit of pith from TechDirt: Every so often, people who don't really understand the importance of anonymity or how it enables free speech (especially among marginalized people), think they have a brilliant idea: "just end real anonymity online." They don't seem to understand just how shortsighted such an idea is. It's one that stems from the privilege of being in power. And who knows that particular privilege better than members of the House of Lords in the UK — a group that is more or less defined by excess privilege? The Communications Committee of the House of Lords has now issued a report concerning "social media and criminal offenses" in which they basically recommend scrapping anonymity online.
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UK Government Report Recommends Ending Online Anonymity

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  • by Joe Gillian ( 3683399 ) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @03:49PM (#47576677)

    If you read the proposal by the House of Lords, it's completely infeasible. What they want is for websites to have verified identity information on hand, but then allow people to post anonymously or using a pseudonym. This is infeasible for several reasons, mostly that to truly verify someone's identity, you need a government-issued ID number. I'm not British, but in the US, that would be the Social Security Number. Now, let me tell you what happens when a government forces SSN identification for things that should not need an SSN.

    Some time ago, there was an insanely popular MMORPG in South Korea known as Lineage 2. The administrators behind Lineage 2 (I believe the game was owned by Microsoft but I can't say for sure) required that anyone registering a Lineage 2 account (which required a monthly fee) give them their Korean Social Security Number (KSSN) which works exactly like the US SSN does. I don't recall whether this was because the Korean government was scared of anonymity and demanded it, or because the game's owners wanted it for verification and were not required to get KSSNs by the government, but in any case, a KSSN was required to play the game.

    A few years later, Lineage 2 got hacked. The database of KSSNs they had was leaked, meaning that the identities of thousands of people were freely available on the internet. After the Korean government learned of the Lineage 2 hack, they actually tightened their restrictions - all MMORPGs operating in Korea were now required to ask for a KSSN upon account registration, even for F2P games.

    The result is that any time an MMORPG gets hacked in Korea, KSSNs get dumped. It also led to things like mass identity theft - players from outside Korea who wanted to play the Korean version of various MMOs (the ones based in Korea are usually regularly updated in Korean but not in the International versions) would have to find a leaked KSSN and use it.

    Requiring an identity verification for anything but the most major financial transactions (insurance, banks, employment) should never happen. A credit card verification is different - you can verify a credit or debit card without needing an SSN - and should be enough for pretty much everywhere.

  • by JohnFen ( 1641097 ) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @04:25PM (#47576975)

    determining the RL identities of the bullies likely would reduce bullying, as they could be held socially and legally accountable for what they are doing.

    I don't see any reason to think this is true. The RL identities of most bullies are already known to those being bullied, yet the bullying persists.

  • Re:House of Lords? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iserlohn ( 49556 ) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @04:30PM (#47577033) Homepage

    The House of Lords is a vestige political body with only powers to delay legislation, but because it is unelected (as of yet), it actually serves a very useful function in British politics.

    Montesquieu, whose political theories heavily influenced America's founding fathers (especially regarding the balances of powers in government, which he greatly admired in the British government at the time), also supported hereditary aristocracy. In any case, most of the House of Lords are not longer hereditary peers, as life peers are now the norm.

    The reason an aristocracy is *sometimes* desirable in government is that they do not have to answer to the whims of the masses as they are not elected. The political fervour that is whipped up in the populace, from security theatre / war on terror, the war on drugs, etc, takes a life of its own in a pure democracy. The idea is that you with an aristocracy, the actors can take a long term view and can judge and react independent of popular sentiment.

    The British parliamentary system actually contains elements of three different types of government - Monarchy (constitutional, providing the head of state which is apolitical), aristocracy (the House of Lords comprises of hereditary peers and also life peers appointed for certain accomplishments), and democracy (the House of Commons). The House of Commons, as the constitution currently stands, holds all of the cards, but the House of Lords (and to a lesser extent, the Crown) also serves to temper the populist nature of the politics in the House of Commons.

    As the government is formed by the biggest party in the Commons, the executive is formed by the biggest party in the legislature, it is no surprise that the British system is more productive politically - it rarely ends in gridlock like the US government. If it does (the government losing confidence of the Parliament), then new elections are called to end the gridlock. Arguably, if America adopted this system, it would be a huge step forward. This also points to a major advantage of a system with a unwritten constitution - the political system can gradually evolve, whereas in countries with written constitutions (such as the US), it is much more difficult for better or for worse.

  • by RDW ( 41497 ) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @07:00PM (#47578117)

    Maybe they forgot that the Internet has no borders?

    No, they remembered:

    http://www.publications.parlia... [parliament.uk]

    'The only way as we see it to resolve questions of jurisdiction and access to communications data would be by international treaty.'

    Coming soon to a legislature near you!

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"