Throughout history, there have been a number of reasons why individuals have taken to writing or producing art under a pseudonym. In the 18th century, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay took on the pseudonym Publius to publish The Federalist Papers. In 19th century England, pseudonyms allowed women—like the Brontë sisters, who initially published under Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell—to be taken seriously as writers.
Today, pseudonyms continue to serve a range of individuals, and for a variety of reasons. At EFF, we view anonymity as both a matter of free speech and privacy, but in light of International Privacy Day, January 28, this piece will focus mainly on the latter, looking at the ways in which the right to anonymity—or pseudonymity—is truly a matter of privacy.
A tradeoff exists. E-reader users may sacrifice a degree of privacy in order to benefit from technology. And since the technological advantages are definite and the threat to privacy often seems like a vague possibility, it’s a trade that many consumers would deem fair.
So why would critics even bring up the concept of privacy? Does it really matter if our reading habits are being tracked?
The American Library Association points out, “Privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association.” According to ALA, when people are concerned that their reading habits may be shared with others or used against them, they may limit their search for information. Their fear of judgment could restrict what they are willing to read. Therefore, the loss of privacy is also the loss of freedom.
Sounds like a good resource.
Google quietly published Good To Know yesterday.
Good To Know aims to inform internet users about what’s going on with their Google data, and guide users to tools they can use to control how their data is used. Within limits, of course.
If you wonder what Google thinks it knows about you, and what you can do about it, you’ll want to give Good To Know a close look.
Amazon does not intercept encrypted traffic, so your communications over HTTPS would not be accelerated or tracked. According to Jon Jenkins, director of Silk development, “secure web page requests (SSL) are routed directly from the Kindle Fire to the origin server and do not pass through Amazon’s EC2 servers.” In other words, no HTTPS requests will ever use cloud acceleration mode. Given the prevalence of web pages served over HTTPS, this gives Amazon good incentive to make Silk fast and usable even when cloud acceleration is off. Turning it off completely should be a viable option for users.
We are generally satisfied with the privacy design of Silk, and happy that the end user has control over whether to use cloud acceleration. But this new technology highlights the need for better online privacy protections. As companies continue to innovate in ways that make novel uses of—and expose much more personal data to—the internet cloud, it’s critical that the legal protections for that data keep up with changes technology.[…]
Huzzah! :) (It’ll be interesting to see how they do this…)
Proponents of pseudonymity scored a major victory today [10/19], when Google executive Vic Gundotra revealed at the Web 2.0 Summit that social networking service Google+ will begin supporting pseudonyms and other types of identity.
LibrarianInBlack: Libraries Got Screwed by Amazon and Overdrive
Transparency vs. Anonymity
(I’m in favor of pseudonymity myself, as you still have a consistent ‘name’ but don’t have to use the name you were given at birth.)
All web connections from your tablet will connect directly to Amazon, rather than the destination web page. Amazon will keep this connection between your Kindle Fire and EC2 open indefinitely while you are actively surfing, reducing the latency and connection times to retrieve web pages.
Hopefully you can start to see the problem here. All of your web surfing habits will transit Amazon’s cloud. If you think that Google AdWords and Facebook are watching you, this service is guaranteed to have a record of *everything* you do on the web.
It’s a rather frightening thought. And the article goes on to note that it appears even secure (https) connections will be handled via Amazon’s servers… potentially everything you do via this browser is trackable. Yikes.
ReadWriteWeb also has an analysis up: The Implications of Amazon’s Silk Web Browser
… Amazon goes on to say that Silk is going to be learning from the “aggregate traffic patterns” of Web users. In short, Amazon is watching you.
And not just in aggregate. Each Kindle is tied to an Amazon ID, which gives Amazon a great deal of information about you already. Introducing Silk into the mix and Amazon is going to be in a position to know a great deal about your Web browsing habits along with your buying habits and media habits. Now Amazon is in a position to know what books you buy, what shows you watch, the Web sites you visit and much more… .
As the line between social media and privacy continues to erode, I often think about these words by Gabriel García Márquez, “Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life.” Sometimes in social media, we intentionally or often, unintentionally, blur the lines between who we are (outward facing), who we are (introspectively), and who we want to be.
A recent example of such a mistake is when former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner accidentally published a direct message as a live Tweet. Suddenly, his public, private and secret lives were one and unfortunately (or fortunately) his once separated worlds were introduced to one another with devastating effect. With reference to Dr. Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters, we must be careful not to cross the streams.
This happens every day. Whether we admit it or not, the truth is that just like in real life, our actions and words that we share online affect how people see us. It’s the discrepancy in how others see us and how we see ourselves that begins to create the potential for confusion and conflict online that ultimately affects the value of our digital persona or brand. And, this is why Facebook’s more “open” Open Graph launched at the recent f8 event is something you and 800 million other people need to think deeply about before the new Facebook Timeline is unveiled.
Three years ago, after the suicide of a popular actress who had been bullied via the Internet, South Korea introduced a radical policy aimed at stamping out online hate. It required contributors to Web portals and other popular sites to use their real names, rather than pseudonyms.
Last month, after a huge security breach, the government said it would abandon the system. Hackers stole 35 million Internet users’ national identification numbers, which they had been required to supply when registering on Web sites to verify their identities.
The South Korean experience shows that “real name” policies are a lousy idea, and privacy threats are only one reason. Online anonymity is essential for political dissidents, whose role has been highlighted in the uprisings in the Arab world, and for corporate whistle-blowers. In the United States, the Supreme Court has found a constitutional basis for protecting anonymity.
Why, then, are the calls for restrictions on Internet anonymity growing?
» via The New York Times (Subscription may be required for some content)
Here’s why we need a critical debate about Google’s Real Name policy: first, because it embodies a highly controversial theory of human behaviour, that the way to maximise civility is to abolish anonymity – even though everyone knows Muammar Gaddafi’s real name (though not how to spell it) and no one knows the name of the kind driver who slows to let you cross the road.
Second, because it embodies an equally controversial theory of identity: that our lives are best lived when we have a single identity that persists in all contexts over time, so your grandparents get the same experience of you that your lover does, your boss sees the same side of you that your toddler does.
Next, because social services exert pressure on non-users – when all your friends join G+, the pressure mounts on you to do the same.
And finally, because the policy Google espouses is likely to exact costs on its users long after they made their “use/don’t use” decision, and those consequences are not easy to discern in advance.
This last reason is the most important one. Google suggests that our internet use is a series of fair trades: I’ll give you the management of my identity if you give me easy social experiences and easy logins across multiple services.
The post that linked me to this article makes an excellent additional point: “Lewis Carroll wrote fiction yet Charles Dodgson wrote mathematics textbooks…even though both happened to be the same physical person.” This separation of identities would not be possible on Google Plus, even with the Circles functionality, since Circles still require that all of your contacts see your ‘real name’, even though you can compartmentalize the interactions you have with groups of those contacts.