The question as to what should represent people online has has generated some mighty fine posts and comments recently. Here is a short list of people strongly supporting some form of pseudonymity or even anonymity:
- Caterina Fake: Anonymity and Pseudonyms in Social Software
- Andy Weissman: Everybody wants to be special here (in praise of pseudonymity)
- Jyri Engeström: untitled G+ post
- Chris Pool / moot: 4chan Creator Doubles Down on Web Anonymity with Canvas (via The Atlantic)
- Jillian York: A Case for Pseudonyms (on the EFF blog)
- Fred Wilson: Are Real Names Required For Real Socializing
I firmly agree with the need for both pseudonyms and even anonymous expression on the Internet. That does not mean that every service has to support it. That should be the choice of the service provider and if someone like Facebook wants to have only real names they should be able to do that.
As it turns out though, the potential to construct any kind of anonymous service is under attack at this very moment with HR1981, another over-reaching bill coming out of Washington. The bill should more aptly be numbered as HR1984 because it combines a motherhood and apple-pie title “Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers” (who wouldn’t want to do that?) with far reaching data retention requirements for ISPs.
In essence, HR1981 would require ISPs to maintain for each account (which of course has real identity and billing information), an 18-month record of the assigned IP addresses. Because the IP address is visible to every service, any kind of breach or government access to the ISP data has the potential to completely de-anonymize the users.
I have used PopVox to express my opposition to HR1981 and encourage everyone else to do the same (or write directly to your representative).