Anonymity in Cyberspace: Finding the Balance

Earlier this year, the International Association of IT Lawyers (IAITL) organized the First International Conference on Legal, Privacy and Security Issues in Information Technology in Hamburg, Germany. The conference covered a broad range of topics, such as electronic signatures, e-commerce, artificial intelligence, data protection, electronic payments, security, and so on. The papers presented provided an excellent insight into the current policies, perspectives, influences and challenges in the area of IT Law.

I was unable to attend this conference, but found this paper online, which seems especially relevant to aspects of my research: “Anonymity in Cyberspace: Finding the Balance” by Mohamed Chawki.

Anonymity in cyberspace is a major concern for the global community. The introduction, growth and utilisation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) have been accompanied by an increase in criminal activities. With respect to cyberspace, identities are easily cloaked in anonymity. Once a message sender’s identity is anonymous, cyberspace provides the means to perpetrate wide spread criminal activity to the masses, with little chance of apprehension. On the other hand, anonymity in cyberspace allows whistle-blowers and political activists to express opinions critical of employers and the government enables entrepreneurs to acquire and share technical information without alerting their competitors, and permits individuals to express their views online without fear of reprisals and public hostility. On this basis the question of whether a State or a government can create a narrowly tailored restriction on cyberspace anonymity without violating the privacy remains unresolved. Accordingly, this paper seeks to address and analyse the following issues. Firstly, it starts by presenting the concept and several types of anonymity. Secondly, it focuses on the Internet and how it can be achieved, and why it is an essential tool for free speech. The paper will also describe proposals to outlaw anonymity over the Internet, since it has often been tied to criminal activity by law enforcement bodies. Finally, the paper concludes that total anonymity may be possible through the use of privacy-enhancing technologies such as those offered by Anonymizer.com and Freenet. Moreover, educated legislators can criminalize most true anonymity in cyberspace and still pass security.

[via Pogo Was Right]

Author: Michael Zimmer

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