Anonymity and the internet

Paul Gallagher pcg at panix.com
Mon May 27 01:44:16 MDT 1996


Zeynep Tufekcioglu and others have pointed out that using aliases won't
protect you from the FBI.  True, but they shouldn't mock the
importance of anonymity of the internet.  I don't any particular
expertise on the subject, but I will points out a few things:

	Encryption and anonymous remailing services offer very good
protection, and aliases offer some protection from harassment.

	People determined to overcome the above, can.  For example,
the Church of Scientology got court orders to find out the names of
its opponents who used the anonymous remailer, anon.penet.fi (Finland).

	But most harassment is much less sophisticated. People
frequently receive threats of various kinds.  I've seen cases where
one poster reports another to the police or the Secret Service.  For
example, posters who jokingly discussed ways to kill Bush in order to
make Quayle President, received a visit from the Secret Service when
another Usenet reader reported them.  Another poster who in a moment
of anger wished Governor Wilson of California dead, also was visited
by the police, again reported by another Usenet reader.  People
who support gun control frequently receive death threats by e-mail,
often containing detailed personal information, indicating that the
threat may be more than idle.

	In short, declining to give your name won't protect you
>from the determined efforts of the state, but it will protect you
>from some of your fellow internet users.

	The threat may be small, but it is wrong to ridicule those,
like MIM, who insist on anonymity.

	If you're interested in anon.penet.fi, check out:
	http://www.stack.urc.tue.nl/~galactus/remailers/penet.html


Paul Gallagher
pcg at panix.com


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