Can you reasonably expect to engage in a lawful and routine business transaction
without the government keeping track of your activity? Do you have the right
to expect your email to be as private as paper mail? The U.S. government
is becoming much less timid about reading all internet traffic, ostensibly looking
Anonymity is vital to free political speech. In the first article on this page,
Jonathan Wallace says, "Given the importance of anonymity as a component of free
speech, the cost of banning anonymous Internet speech would be enormous. It
makes no sense to treat Internet speech differently from printed leaflets or books."
Anonymity is an important part of everyday life and should be carefully protected. So
many people today enjoy the "convenience" of direct deposit, ATMs, and credit
cards. But you'd better enjoy cash while it is still around, because when cash
disappears, you can be assured that every time a dollar "changes hands"
it will be taxed.
communications have an important place in our political and social discourse. The
Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the right to anonymous free speech is protected
by the First Amendment.
in Cyberspace: Anonymity on the Internet. U.S. and foreign
law enforcement authorities continue to regard anonymity as a threat to public order.
Various pending proposals would encourage, or mandate, changes to the infrastructure
of the Net that would eliminate it as a medium for anonymous discourse. (This
report is worth examining just for the footnotes.) [PDF file]
Pentagon drops plan to curb
Net anonymity: A Defense Department agency recently considered — and
rejected — a far-reaching plan that would sharply curtail online anonymity by
tagging e-mail and Web browsing with unique markers for each Internet user.
Lawmaker Wants to Make Anonymous Internet Posting Illegal. Kentucky [Republican] Representative Tim Couch
filed a bill this week to make anonymous posting online illegal. The bill would require anyone who contributes
to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site. Their full name would be
used anytime a comment is posted.
Comments on the article above. Pretty
clearly unconstitutional, see McIntyre v. Ohio Elec. Comm'n (1995) and the cases on which it
relies. Plus of course any such state law would likely violate the dormant Commerce Clause, because it
would end up affecting speech throughout the whole nation (given that even national ISPs would have to
implement such policies for all their users, because national ISPs "do business" in Kentucky).
in America: Does National Security Preclude It? Anonymous
speech has proud roots stretching to the origins of America. Gentlemen
calling themselves "Publius" wrote the Federalist Papers. Thomas Paine's Common
Sense was signed by "An Englishman." Today, computer programs that allow us to
encrypt emails — to scramble them such that only the intended "key-holding" recipient
can decipher the message — represent perhaps the newest incarnation of the old tradition
of speaking both freely and anonymously.
FBI Documents on
Encryption: Using the Freedom of Information Act, the Electronic
Privacy Information Center obtained several hundred pages of FBI documents concerning
the Clipper Chip and encryption. Many documents were withheld by the Bureau, and
those released are heavily sanitized. Nonetheless, the released material
demonstrates the FBI's belief that federal legislation is required to prohibit the
use of encryption products that do not provide law enforcement agencies real-time
access to encrypted communications.
CryptoHeaven: is a user-friendly, no-compromise
information-heaven crypto system, where no third parties, including server administrators and others, have
access to plain text version of transmitted information. Information is stored in encrypted form on the
server as generated by the client, and only the sender and the recipient possess the keys to gain access to
the information. Having the entire log of all transmissions made and all of the data stored on the
server does not give access to the plain text version of information.
Revolution In Money: The long-predicted "cashless society" has quietly arrived, or nearly so;
currency, coins and checks are receding as ways of doing everyday business; we've become Plastic Nation.
In the tangled history of American money — from tobacco receipts to gold and silver coins to paper money
and checks — this is a seismic shift. Time to pay attention.
Privacy Nightmare: Money
That Tracks You: Imagine currency containing a computer chip that can track where you got your
money and where you spend it. U.S. officials are reportedly considering this scheme.
Identity chip raises privacy
concerns: Hitachi has developed a chip that could be woven into paper money to help identify
counterfeits, and which could also have wide ramifications for the identification and surveillance technologies.