Monday, 15 September 2008

Is the end of anonymous internet nigh?

This article from Cnet:

A United Nations agency is quietly drafting technical standards, proposed by the Chinese government, to define methods of tracing the original source of Internet communications and potentially curbing the ability of users to remain anonymous.

The U.S. National Security Agency is also participating in the "IP Traceback" drafting group, named Q6/17, which is meeting next week in Geneva to work on the traceback proposal. Members of Q6/17 have declined to release key documents, and meetings are closed to the public.

The potential for eroding Internet users' right to remain anonymous, which is protected by law in the United States and recognized in international law by groups such as the Council of Europe, has alarmed some technologists and privacy advocates. Also affected may be services such as the Tor anonymizing network.

At Slashdot, where I first found the link to this story, there was also this insightful comment from a poster:
"When anonymous internet is a crime, only criminals will have anonymous internet. As usual, this would be a law that will almost exclusively affect the law abiding."
Although I am no tech whiz (just look at the layout of my blog) or activist, my initial impression of this kind of thing is that it will end up something like the war on drugs - costly, time-consuming, and ultimately unwinnable. At this point I could go on a rant about the meddling Chinese government, the hypocrisy of the American government,or general outrage against the powers that be, but I also think this kind of plan may have some positives. After all, the internet offers an effective medium through which criminals can interact with one another. I'm sure the best of these will be able to continue to do so no matter what, but this may help in cutting out the less sophisticated stuff.

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