Kurt Opsahl, a senior staff lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group that defends online free speech, privacy and intellectual property rights, said Kerr's argument ignores both privacy laws and American history.In other words, anonymity is necessary since government is not always benevolent, and free speech by the individual is valued by society.
"Anonymity has been important since the Federalist Papers were written under pseudonyms," Opsahl said. "The government has tremendous power: the police power, the ability to arrest, to detain, to take away rights. Tying together that someone has spoken out on an issue with their identity is a far more dangerous thing if it is the government that is trying to tie it together."
On the other hand, blogger Bee contends that...
"an overdose of anonymity is fatal to every kind of constructive communication"In her blog entry, she links to Kevin Kelly's contribution to the book What Is Your Dangerous Idea?, i.e. "More anonymity is good"
which highlights the dangers of too much anonymity:
"...in every system that I have seen where anonymity becomes common, the system fails...Communities infected with anonymity will either collapse, or shift the anonymous to pseudo-anonymous, as in eBay, where you have a traceable identity behind an invented nickname. Or voting, where you can authenticate an identity without tagging it to a vote...Kelly concludes that...
Anonymity is like a rare earth metal. These elements are a necessary ingredient in keeping a cell alive, but the amount needed is a mere hard-to-measure trace. In larger does these heavy metals are some of the most toxic substances known to a life. They kill. Anonymity is the same. As a trace element in vanishingly small doses, it's good for the system by enabling the occasional whistleblower, or persecuted fringe. But if anonymity is present in any significant quantity, it will poison the system."
"Privacy can only be won by trust, and trust requires persistent identity, if only pseudo-anonymously. In the end, the more trust, the better."The above discussion clarifies for me the value of anonymity, its relation to privacy, and its limits. More importantly, it introduces the concept of pseudo-anonymity, i.e. anonymity that is traceable to a particular identity.
Pseudo-anonymity can be a means to bridge the requirements of national security without sacrificing privacy. In practical terms:
- The Telecommunication Companies and Financial Institutions need to implement technologies that will mask the identity of its users. These masking technologies will prevent the identity of the persons from being known (even by the Government) without the application of the corresponding unmasking technology.
- The Government Intelligence Agencies can then continue to monitor the masked communications and/or transactions without any court order.
- Once anything suspicious comes up, the Government Intelligence Agency can then apply for a court order requesting the unmasking of the relevant communications or transactions, i.e. linking these communications or transactions with a particular individual.