The Future of the Web? No Anonymity

Posted on August 10, 2010 7:34 AM by Rob Williams

There seems to be a billion different perspectives on what the future of the Web is going to be, but according to Google’s ever-vocal CEO, Eric Schmidt, the future is… with a total lack of anonymity. A comment like this from Mr. Schmidt of course comes as no surprise, as it was also him who once said that if you wanted privacy, you probably had something to hide.

Schmidt isn’t alone in this thinking, and in some regards, I agree that it’s true sometimes. On occasion, we have disgruntled beings invade our forums and flame our site and content, and of course, almost all of them remain anonymous. There are people who like to remain anonymous simply because when they get off the PC, they don’t want to be tied to anything. I personally can’t disagree there (unless it comes down to what’s essentially a verbal hit and run like mentioned above, of course.)

Coupled with the recent comments that the future of the Web is no anonymity, Schmidt goes on to mention that privacy doesn’t equate to anonymity, and everyone has a right to it. He even mentions that it’s natural. But he also mentions that if you’re trying to commit a terrible crime, you shouldn’t be able to do so with total anonymity. There have been many cases in the past where search records have helped convict people, and from that regard, it’s hard to disagree with his thinking.

We come to a moral divide, though. Do we either give the thumbs up to anonymity, or take it away? Crime or not, people have the right to remain anonymous, so it seems as though we can either have one or the other… not both. As it is, most of us are anonymous online to the extent that we’re merely just numbers, but services like those that Google offers could easily identify us in a real way to law enforcement if need be.

It’s a very tough subject, and one that surely doesn’t have a definitive answer. What are your thoughts on this?

“Privacy is incredibly important,” Schmidt stated. “Privacy is not the same thing as anonymity. It’s very important that Google and everyone else respects people’s privacy. People have a right to privacy; it’s natural; it’s normal. It’s the right way to do things. But if you are trying to commit a terrible, evil crime, it’s not obvious that you should be able to do so with complete anonymity. There are no systems in our society which allow you to do that. Judges insist on unmasking who the perpetrator was. So absolute anonymity could lead to some very difficult decisions for our governments and our society as a whole.”

Source: Network World

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