You Know It’s Me

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9 Responses

  1. anon says:

    I knew that Dan Solove’s work was many worthwhile things, but an endlessly pourable liquid?

  2. Ari Waldman says:

    haha! thanks, @anon (apt name for a comment to the post, by the way). what an odd way for me to write that and my apologies to the more viscous and less pourable Professor Solove.

  3. Orin Kerr says:

    Ari, are you talking about *actual* privacy/anonymity or *perceived* privacy/anonymity? Consider this example:

    My peers, say 26-40, are the most agreeable. We remember when American Online had chat rooms that you could enter anonymously after creating a pseudonym (thanks to Co-Op reader and hopefully future prof AG for reminding me about that) and have seen the Internet change over the years. But, kids today, say under 25, do not have any conception of anonymity on the Internet.

    The irony is that AOL screennames were not anonymous at all. Every AOL screenname was associated with an account, and each account was associated with a real person, real address, and real credit card number for billing. All the government had to do to identify you was to serve a subpoena on AOL (no cause needed to so do) to disclose the name address, credit card info, etc. associated with the screenname. Actual identity was a subpoena away.

  4. Ari Waldman says:

    Thanks for the comment, Orin. Undoubtedly, users tend to think about perceived anonymity. As I explore more fully in my ongoing project, real anonymity is rare and getting more rare. However, the AOL case is an inapt stand-in example for websites that used to allow users (usually underaged users) to pop in to a chat room meant for kids to chat about, say, sex. I wanted to keep the conversation about anonymity rather about kids talking about sex, so I cleaned up the example. In any event, in my work, I am referring to actual anonymity and agree with you wholeheartedly about it being just a step away; users have a perception of anonymity that isn’t really there.

  5. Regarding “… could know it’s me by following my IP address.”

    I assume you know IP addresses don’t automatically map to people. Those who are serious about hiding their identity use different IP addresses, via various proxy servers.

    In fact, Wikipedia has an ongoing problem with people assuming multiple identities (“sockpuppet”), and IP address checking only catches the less sophisticated ones. And even that is complicated. There’s been quite a few scandals in this regard. See, for example:

  6. Ari Waldman says:

    Thanks for the comment, Seth! Indeed. I don’t mean to imply it’s as easy as clicking on a button and finding out that it’s Bob Dylan on the other end of a comment, but as a matter of practice and theory, there seems to me to be a very big difference between anonymity as such and obscured identity that could be cleared up. More importantly for my work, the trend is for less anonymity. There is a host of evidence out there showing a decrease in anonymity, but I’m always interested to see counter examples (or helpful examples!).

  7. Ari,

    It’s definitely worth checking out the online symposium that CoOp held on my article Cyber Civil Rights. In CCR, I argued that we ought to have an orderly articulation of the standard of care for website operators, rather than the blanket immunity as Section 230 is now interpreted. Citing Dan and Tal Zarsky, I argued that the standard of care should include requiring website operators to configure their sites to collect and retain visitors’ IP addresses. At the CCR symposium, Steven Bellovin, David Robinson, Michael Froomkin, and Nathaniel Gleicher addressed this suggestion, providing important criticism as a technical and normative matter. (Other folks had different, important critiques too, like Nancy Kim, Ann Bartow, Helen Norton, Dave Fagundes, James Grimmelmann, Paul Ohm, Orin Kerr, and many others). I would definitely read those criticisms. Also Denver U. Law Review did a symposium on my work on cyber harassment and cyber civil rights and Paul Ohm and Wendy Seltzer had really interesting feedback on traceable anonymity. Their comments and my response are published online with Denver U. L. Review. I would definitely check out those discussions and debates for helpful comments.

    Thanks for your fantastic blogging!!

  8. There is developing law on the First Amendment right to remain anonymous on the Internet. See e.g., Dendrite Intern., Inc. v. Doe No. 3, 775 A.2d 756, 342 N.J. Super. 134 (N.J. Super. Ch., 2001); Mobilisa, Inc. v. Doe, 170 P.3d 712, 217 Ariz. 103 (Ariz. App., 2007); In Re Anonymous Online Speakers, 611 F.3d 653 (9th Cir., 2010) and so on.

  9. Ari Waldman says:

    @Danielle: Thanks so much! Those resources are indeed excellent and I’ve already devoured some of them. Thanks for the suggestions!

    @David: Indeed. This is an important and developing area at teh state level. Dendrite is a particularly seminal case. Thanks!