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Reasons for Preferring Anonymity

At 3:41 AM 9/4/96, Jon Lebkowsky wrote:

>The terms "responsibility" and "accountability" are misused, which is
>unfortunate, since I think we'd all argue in favor of taking responsibility
>for our speech/actions in a positive sense. The negative is in asking me to

This issue keeps coming up: "Shouldn't people be willing to take
responsibility for their speech and actions?"

No, actually, and I presented the fact that people are using anonymity and
remailers as evidence that clearly they are not willing to take
responsibility under their own, traceable True Names for their speech.

But the issue persist.

Well, why do people use anonymity in general?

* To call the IRS to ask questions. Maybe to ask what they should do if
they haven't paid taxes since 1983. Believe me, with the advent of "Caller
ID" here in California, I've learned to use payphones before calling the
IRS office over in San Jose. (As the Net takes on a larger role, what will
be the parallel to anonymous calls to the IRS? Obvious answer.)

* AIDS test results. And a whole panoply of similar queries. Caller
anonymity is crucial.

* Whistleblowing, obviously.

* Ordering of information and supplies is often done through agents, or
cut-outs. Coca Cola, as the story goes, orders supplies so as to
deliberately confuse those trying to deduce the formula for Coke (probably
a bad example, as the 80-90 years of Coke has probably made the formula for
Coke a kind of joke). But there are very real cases where businesses make
queries or orders and cannot tolerate traceability to them.

(Dyson's thought that maybe anonymity should be banned for businesses shows
her lack of understanding of the issues.)

* As a special form of whistleblowing, sometimes people have information
they feel should be disseminated, and have no desire to be "accountable"
for releasing this information. The release of RC4 code is an example. The
Dumpster diving of Mykotronx is another.

* Admissions and confessions. Those who use the various "recovery" groups
obviously feel no need to ensure "accountability" and "traceability," nor
should they.

* Their comments may affect their Real World jobs, their status in
organizations, their distant future political careers, etc. (In an age of
Web spiders, anything said may show up in future lawsuits, divorce
settlements, tenure reviews, political campaigns, etc.)

And so on.

John L. may wish that all people believe in being held accountable for
their speech and actions, but obviously this demonstrably is not the case.

Names are just another credential, another potential factor in a
transaction. Sometimes they help to close a deal, sometimes they are
unneeded. The notion that a government-issued name credential is necessary
for mutually-satisfactory transactions is just an illusion.

--Tim May (have any of you checked that I am really, truly who I claim to
be? Have you been dealing with me on the basis of belief that I am a
persistent personna, or because you saw me present an SS card?)

We got computers, we're tapping phone lines, I know that that ain't allowed.
Timothy C. May              | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,
[email protected]  408-728-0152 | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
W.A.S.T.E.: Corralitos, CA  | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
Higher Power: 2^1,257,787-1 | black markets, collapse of governments.
"National borders aren't even speed bumps on the information superhighway."