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Privacy Government The Internet

Senior Homeland Security Official Says Internet Anonymity Should Be Outlawed (dailydot.com) 532

Patrick O'Neill writes: A senior Homeland Security official recently argued that Internet anonymity should outlawed in the same way that driving a car without a license plate is against the law. "When a person drives a car on a highway, he or she agrees to display a license plate," Erik Barnett, an assistant deputy director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and attache to the European Union at the Department of Homeland Security, wrote. "The license plate's identifiers are ignored most of the time by law enforcement. Law enforcement will use the identifiers, though, to determine the driver's identity if the car is involved in a legal infraction or otherwise becomes a matter of public interest. Similarly, should not every individual be required to display a 'license plate' on the digital super-highway?"
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Senior Homeland Security Official Says Internet Anonymity Should Be Outlawed

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  • Basically no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maroberts ( 15852 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @10:51AM (#51335671) Homepage Journal

    Because of the First Amendment, including the right to say things anonymously which has been upheld by the courts numerous times,

    • Re:Basically no (Score:5, Insightful)

      by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @10:54AM (#51335691)

      .... as we creep slowly-- no rapidly descend towards fascism. Why don't they rename DHS to DACL-- Department of Anti-CIvil Liberty?

      • Re:Basically no (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @11:27AM (#51336013)

        Because they need to name the department with phrasing that makes it seem like it's job is to do something tremendously good while it really has a nefarious purpose. So something like: The Department of Freedom Protection. They "protect" freedom by locking it away where nobody can use it sort of like how a toy collector locks a toy away to keep it in mint condition.

      • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @01:20PM (#51337209)

        The problem isn't Homeland Security. There job is to find threats, and see if they can have solutions to solve them.
        When you work security the tyrannical solution is often the easiest one.
        You want your PC secure from hackers. Unplug it from the network, cant do that make sure your firewall has 0 outside ports and the inside ports are setup for talking to only the servers each system needs to talk to. Such IT security is hard, because the End users are rapidly changing what they want and the cost to build such a secure system isn't worth the expense.

        Law enforcement and security would have an easier job without civil liberties, not because they have nefarious purposes, but because it will make their job easier.

        Our jobs as citizens is to let our officials know that we value our freedoms and what we are willing to give up for security, and what security we are willing to risk not having to keep our freedoms. It isn't cut and dry but these department report to a higher political offices, who will need to take their recommendations and decide to accept or reject them. These political office need to be elected by the citizenry. If we refuse to be involved citizens then the easiest path will soon follow.

         

        • Erh... no.

          Security is not only confidentiality. That's only the C in CIA. Your responsibility is also in integrity and, and that's going to be the problem here, availability.

          Your job in security is that the people who have the right to access data, and only the people who have a right to access data, can access that data and that the data they access cannot be created, altered or deleted without knowing who did what change and, if applicable, why.

          My job isn't just to shut shit down. That's easy. You don't n

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'm sorry - the first amendment lets you say what you want but has no guarantee implicit within it of any anonymity. The courts likewise have not granted anonymity; they say that you are responsible for your speech. Now, the analogy they give - a car analogy no less - is good. Today we have the "IP Address" which is finally becoming well known as the identifier of an account with an ISP and not as an identifier of a specific person (much like a mailbox is shared between all occupants of a house). The licens
      • Re:Basically no (Score:5, Informative)

        by Eric T Duckman ( 4391433 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @11:15AM (#51335915)

        I'm sorry - the first amendment lets you say what you want but has no guarantee implicit within it of any anonymity. The courts likewise have not granted anonymity; they say that you are responsible for your speech.

        The supreme court disagrees: https://www.law.cornell.edu/su... [cornell.edu] "Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority"

      • Re:Basically no (Score:5, Informative)

        by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @12:03PM (#51336367)

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
        http://cs.stanford.edu/people/... [stanford.edu]
        http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-... [findlaw.com]
        McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334 (1995), is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that an Ohio statute that prohibits anonymous political or campaign literature is unconstitutional. Writing for the Court, Justice Stevens asserted that such action is protected by the First Amendment, and therefore violated the constitutional principle of freedom of speech.

        Mrs. McIntyre was fined $100 dollars for distributing anonymous election materials against a levy tax. In the case the Ohio Election commission vs McIntyre, the federal supreme court overturned the fine because:

          * The decision in favor of anonymity may be motivated by fear of economic or official retaliation, by concern about social ostracism, or merely by a desire to preserve as much of one's privacy as possible.
          * More-over, in the case of a handbill written by a private citizen who is not known to the recipient, the name and address of the author adds little, if anything, to the reader's ability to evaluate the document's message.
          * Thus, Ohio's informational interest is plainly insufficient to support the constitutionality of its disclosure require-ment.
          * Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
        Doe v. Cahill represented another victory for the protection of free anonymous speech on the internet. The precedent was notably applied in Mobilisa, Inc. v. Doe in 2007[6] and still serves as the standard for anonymous internet speech and defamation "in the context of a case involving political criticism of a public figure."[2]

        http://cs.stanford.edu/people/... [stanford.edu]
        http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-... [findlaw.com]
        The 1960 case Talley v California , was the first major win for anonymous speech advocates. Mr.Talley was arrested for distributing a handbill that was calling for a boycott of certain businesses in the area because the businesses did not hire minorities.

          Justice Black reason for repealing the Los Angeles Ordinance was:
                "Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind. Persecuted groups and sects from time to time throughout history have been able to criticize oppressive practices and laws either anonymously or not at all."

        http://cs.stanford.edu/people/... [stanford.edu]
        http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-... [findlaw.com]
        The final watershed case on this topic is NAACP v Alabama . The issue was whether the NAACP had to give a list of its members to the State of Alabama before it could operate there. In the end, the NAACP was not required to give a list of its members because:

                "We hold that the immunity from state scrutiny of membership lists which the Association claims on behalf of its members is here so related to the right of the members to pursue their lawful private interests privately and to associate freely with others in so doing as to come within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment." ....

        Next!

    • by khasim ( 1285 )

      Stupid First Amendment.

      Why can't we be more like China and Russia and Iran? Who wouldn't want to live under a government that could track everything about you?

      Or, without the sarcasm, why the fuck does Erik Barnett have a job in our government? Wouldn't opposing the First Amendment be seen as a negative during the interview process?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by roman_mir ( 125474 )

      Correct, and the courts upheld anonymity of super PAC donors so if money is speech (and I agree that it is, because money is used to buy media time to promote a message) then the Internet is speech, because internet is money that is used to build and maintain this media that is used for speech.

      • ... if money is speech (and I agree that it is, because money is used to buy media time to promote a message) ...

        Perhaps it is, but ideally money does not equal speech. The idea that the more money you have the more speech you have (or more specifically, political access) is counter to the idea that all men are created equal.

    • So nice that law enforcement in this country is so willing to piss and shit all over the Constitution.
      A form of treason as far as I'm concerned...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is against making it any more difficult to spy on people. You shouldn't be surprised by this. Also, he should get fucked. We have freedoms, and it's not our patriotic duty to help anyone take them.

  • Absolutely. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @10:52AM (#51335675)
    It's really no different than the way you are required to wear visible identification when walking on the sidewalk, or how you are legally obligated to put a return address label on all correspondence that passes through the postal system. Oh, wait...

    You see? I can select my analogies to support my viewpoint too.
    • Think of the children, you monster.

      Any moment now we could have a horrible incident where somebody typing drunk on Facebook would make a stupid typing error, go crashing through all of the firewalls and accidentally kill five children on a Minecraft server. If that drunken-surfer was anonymous, the families might not know who to sue.

    • I might be able to get behind that visible identification idea. I forget people's names all the time and it'd be nice to just read the name tags that are required for for everyone to wear.

    • It's really no different than the way you are required to wear visible identification when walking on the sidewalk, or how you are legally obligated to put a return address label on all correspondence that passes through the postal system.

      You can make fun of the situation, but I was arrested last year for not having ID while hiking in the woods. The cop clearly stated why I was being arrested, he said in so many words that it was illegal not to carry an ID.

      The police have always crossed "just a little bit" over the line, but with the situation as it is now, "just a little bit" means our rights are completely and totally gone.

  • With the rise of social networks and federated authentication, I don't think we are that far off from this.

    I think it is only a matter of time before we all have a private key bound to an identification card or something similar.

    • And to take it even further: eventually only "approved" devices will be allowed to connect to the public Internet.
      • "To the american public internet"

        There fixed that for you....

        • If you think this will be limited to America you are foolish.
          • If you don't think the US government would demand of it of the rest of the world to fight terrorism you're a fool.

            America is pioneering the new global fascism, all while pretending to be promoting justice, liberty, and freedom.

            Make no mistake, America has ceased to be about any of these things. Not for Americans, and sure as hell not for anybody else.

            • Don't be foolish. All governments are on board with the idea. They don't need America to demand it. They want it too.
  • Who knew? (Score:5, Funny)

    by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @10:56AM (#51335707)

    Bad car analogy guy works for the DHS

  • Finally! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @10:56AM (#51335713)

    They've finally decided to fall in line with China's views on internet policy. Pretty soon all the major world governments will look pretty much the same.

  • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @10:57AM (#51335723) Homepage Journal

    The only way to have truly free speech is to speak anonymously. Otherwise, you have "free speech" but there will be "consequences". Like how in Soviet Russia you were "free" to say anything you liked, but there might be "consequences" like getting sent to Siberia.

    • by Evtim ( 1022085 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @11:27AM (#51336009)

      Joke from communists times:

      An American goes to Moscow and eventually gets into discussion with a commoner about human rights and free speech. The American says "Look, I can go in front of the White House and shout that the American president is shit and nothing will happen to me". The Russian guy thinks a bit and says "Well, I can too go in front of Kremlin and shout that the American president is shit and nothing will happen to me".

      Here comes the depressing part. Today I think the American will be arrested for shouting in front of the White House and charged for terrorism. And this post of mine is already recorded as it contains the T word and also has "American president is shit" phrase. Welcome to Guantanamo...

      • Today I think the American will be arrested for shouting in front of the White House and charged for terrorism.

        I hear you, but luckily it's not that bad yet. Back in 2011 some protesters were arrested and charged with failure to obey a lawful order. They were told to "move along" and failed to comply because they'd handcuffed themselves to the fence and couldn't. That arrest and charge had been the practice for decades, but in 2011 the government took the new step of prosecuting. Prior to that, protestors were always offered the option of posting $500 bail and forfeiting it rather than going to trial. If they did th

    • by rlp ( 11898 )

      Anonymous political speech is just "Common Sense".

  • License plates (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @10:57AM (#51335725) Homepage Journal
    License plates don't even identify the driver of the vehicle. Think about it for 5 minutes.
    • Re:License plates (Score:5, Interesting)

      by swb ( 14022 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @11:21AM (#51335969)

      But you know, in a lot of states that doesn't prevent traffic cameras from being used to fine the owners of cars even if they weren't the drivers of the cars.

      Fortunately in Minnesota, the state supreme court ruled them unconstitutional because they shift the burden of proof from the state to the vehicle owner.

      • I want to be the guy who collects the fees and issues the license plates to 340 million people & collects the yearly license fee.

      • That is because the owner of the car is responsible for the car even if they aren't driving it. I doubt it is different in Minnesota.
  • by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @10:58AM (#51335747)
    Lets just lock everyone up in cells, its much easier that way.
  • Super-highway? Wasn't this Bill Gates' vision of a Microsoft-controlled alternative to the Internet? I haven't heard of it since playing Space Quest 6.
    So go ahead. But get away from the Internet.

  • or a license, or a registered vehicle, unless I am driving on public roads. I used to work on a farm, and the 12 year old son would drive the rusted out jeep around the property all the time.
    • I am sure there will always be "Internet backwaters" in the New World Web... but only criminals will use those...

  • by The Evil Atheist ( 2484676 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @11:09AM (#51335851) Homepage
    Given how law enforcement can't tell the fucking difference between a clock and a bomb, I wouldn't trust them to know the difference between opinion and a terrorist act. Maybe if they demonstrate they're not incompetent. But we know that will be never.
  • "The license plate's identifiers are ignored most of the time by law enforcement."

    Are automated plate scanners implemented/common yet? When they are, ALL visible plates will be queried.
  • "When a person drives a car on a highway, he or she agrees to display a license plate,"

    That's because cars maim and kill thousands upon thousands a year.

    > 100 years of anonymous phone calls and blackmail and ransom notes via snail mail didn't ruin the planet either.

    • "When a person drives a car on a highway, he or she agrees to display a license plate,"

      That's because cars maim and kill thousands upon thousands a year.

      > 100 years of anonymous phone calls and blackmail and ransom notes via snail mail didn't ruin the planet either.

      Cars don't maim and kill people! *People* maim and kill people.

      Thats why license plates on cars are absurd. People should have barcodes tattooed on their foreheads at birth!

  • The Homeland Security position, as a car analogy:

    If digital privacy was an electric car, Homeland Security would disallow privately charging it. Instead, they'd make it mandatory to charge all electric cars from licensed diesel generators in the designated 'charge-up' stations. These generators would suffer from frequent fuel shortages.
  • Horses did not require a licence plate to use public roadways.

  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @11:20AM (#51335965) Homepage

    How about as an official at ICE you do something more productive like bust some people employing illegal immigrants. You know, what your day job ordinarily entails, not pontificating about the Internet.

  • >> Erik Barnett, an assistant deputy director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement: "...should not every individual be required to display a 'license plate' on the digital super-highway?"

    While you're at it, why not just add a little yellow badge icon to every Jew on the Internet. No harm there, right?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • Its perfectly legal to drive around without a license plate. Just not on the public roadways. You can drive all over your farm in that old unlicensed pickup, or a brand new one for that matter!

    Virtually none of the internet infrastructure in the US is public road way. The telco's own all of it. The government can make whatever rules they want for accessing .gov systems but they haven't any right to tell AT&T if they must or must not allow anonymous traffic to flow over their network. Well no right

    • You can also use your computer on your LAN. Just don't connect it the "public" internet without a license plate. Get it? The telcos will fall in line with this idea. They probably suggested it.
  • When they outlaw freedom, only criminals will have freedom.

    That America is beginning to forget the historical reasons why anonymous speech is a protected class of speech is scary. That America has pretty much decided all other freedoms are options is utterly terrifying.

    All of these new school fascists who think the only way to protect liberty is to take away liberty, and the only way to defend your rights is to curtail them ... these asses need to be hung for treason.

    That oath you took to defend and uphold

    • That America is beginning to forget the historical reasons why anonymous speech is a protected class of speech is scary. That America has pretty much decided all other freedoms are options is utterly terrifying.

      Americans are not taught real history. They are taught the sanitized, approved version. Likewise they don't really think for themselves. They usually select their opinion from a menu presented by the mass media.

  • I may not agree with the frostiness of your piss, but I will defend to the death your right to stream it!
  • And they keep saying the same thing about firearms......
  • by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @11:38AM (#51336123) Journal

    Except it isn't. All those LPRs (license plate readers) is logged, by both public and private firms and stored for god knows how long. Then the data is used to create temporal databases to know where your car goes and when, extrapolates your patterns.

    Currently, the only uses of the private LPR database that I know of are for either reposessions or serving court documents, but I could clearly see private detectives finding the data useful for a multitude of other uses.

    Similarly, the state (as in government) can use the traffic camera video feeds networks to identify vehicles in real-time, and find out when the last encounter was and where. The difference here is no warrant is needed, they already have the data, and they can retroactively search their database (which potentially is every second of every traffic camera feed anywhere).

    The fact that data may be discarded is a fleeting one, as storage prices come down, and processing power and resolution increases, it will be considered an intelligence "failure" not to have every moment captured, recorded, stored forever, and searchable.

  • Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Urban Nightmare ( 147344 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @11:43AM (#51336171)

    Why do we continue to put up with this from our Governments? There are a great many of us that see the harm that these types of laws cause our freedoms, but the unwashed masses don't. How do you wake these people up that their security does not have to come at the cost of freedom. They still think they are free and I'm sure the Germans thought they where free during WW2 just as long as you didn't disagree or say anything against the Government. They also call people who can and do voice their concerns on this slow decent to fascism, alarmists or anarchists. Most of those that I work with just don't care about these types of laws. All they care about is whats on TV tonight and make sure they can download their music and TV. After that they just don't care. It's just to much work to have to think. Maybe this is why my blood pressure is to high. I should stop caring also.

  • "Senior Homeland Security Official Says Internet Anonymity Should Be Outlawed"

    Well, of course, did you really expect him to say anything different?

    It's about as shocking a headline as, "Convicted Pedophile Says All Children Should Be Prohibited From Wearing Clothes", or "Wal-Mart Exec Says People Should Buy More Stuff From Wal-Mart."

  • Police officers and others in most jurisdictions openly identify themselves when working. They have uniforms, badge numbers, easy-to-recognize motor vehicles, etc.
    When they work covertly, they have warrants for the precise task and duration.
    So if this idea has wings at all, let's start with all legal monitoring - the equivalent of road blocks and license checks. All should be completely open and visible to the users of the highway.
  • Why don't they just inject subcutaneous GPS trackers in all of us at birth and be done with it?
  • You only have to display a license plate on public roads. If I'm on private property (like the vast majority of websites out there), I'm under no obligation to do so. You could argue that any time you're on a .gov website, you shouldn't be anonymous, but on private ones? No, if they're okay with me being anonymous, you don't get to tell them otherwise.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @12:29PM (#51336651) Homepage

    I think Homeland Security should be disbanded. and the rights of the american people restored.

    But then I'm not hell bent on controlling people.

  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @02:38PM (#51337909) Homepage Journal

    It was circa 1979 when I ran head-long into the demand to remove anonymity as a system programmer for Control Data Corporation's PLATO network:

    I was directed to remove the anonymous posting option of the precursor to Usenet: PLATO Notes.

    The reason? Legal liability suffered by CDC for libel due CDC's lack of "common carrier" status under the FCC law of the time. A common carrier could not be held accountable for the contents of the information it carried.

    When CDC refused to go mass market with PLATO, I accepted a position with a newspaper chain that had conducted a market test of something like PLATO notes for a metro area and found a huge demand [slashdot.org]. Although they figured out that their business as a newspaper would be endangered by opening up their network to permit everyone to provide content, the rationalization of "no common carrier status" was trotted forth with great facility.

    Nowadays, with Facebook routinely censoring politically incorrect content by its users, and Facebook becoming a kind of de facto recentralization of control of the network effect for the masses, Facebook is actively pursuing a course of action that basically _asks_ to be sued for libelous posts by its users. It isn't hard to project this to ISPs when people use their internet connections for damaging ends -- particularly when you now have ISPs routinely "cooperating" with government and its propaganda arm via copyright enforcement on behalf of mass media.

    I did anticipate some of this in the aforelinked 1982 essay as follows:

    The question at hand is this: How do we mold the early videotex environment so that noise is suppressed without limiting the free flow of information between customers?

    The first obstacle is, of course, legal. As the knights of U.S. feudalism, corporate lawyers have a penchant for finding ways of stomping out innovation and diversity in any way possible. In the case of videotex, the attempt is to keep feudal control of information by making videotex system ownership imply liability for information transmitted over it. For example, if a libelous communication takes place, corporate lawyers for the plaintiff will bring suit against the carrier rather than the individual responsible for the communication. The rationalizations for this clearly unreasonable and contrived position are quite numerous. Without a common carrier status, the carrier will be treading on virgin ground legally and thus be unprotected by precedent. Indeed, the stakes are high enough that the competitor could easily afford to fabricate an event ideal for the purposes of such a suit. This means the first legal precedent could be in favor of holding the carrier responsible for the communications transmitted over its network, thus forcing (or giving an excuse for) the carrier to inspect, edit and censor all communications except, perhaps, simple person-to-person or "electronic mail". This, in turn, would put editorial control right back in the hands of the feudalists. Potential carriers' own lawyers are already hard at work worrying everyone about such a suit. They would like to win the battle against diversity before it begins. This is unlikely because videotex is still driven by technology and therefore by pioneers.

    The question then becomes: How do we best protect against such "legal" tactics? The answer seems to be an early emphasis on secure identification of the source of communications so that there can be no question as to the individual responsible. This would preempt an attempt to hold the carrier liable. Anonymous communications, like Delphi conferencing, could even be supported as long as some individual would be willing to attach his/her name to the communication before distributing it. This would be similar, legally, to a "letters to the editor" column where a writer remains anonymous. Another measure could be to require that only individuals of legal age be allowed to author publishable comm

  • by ITRambo ( 1467509 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2016 @04:27PM (#51338879)
    Why did Bush create Homeland Security? Was it to spy on us, to to stop terrorists? The first does not stop terrorists, it just takes away freedom of privacy. Go do your jobs, you lazy people at Homeland.

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