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Kaspersky CEO Wants To End Online Anonymity

I just saw this little gem on Slashdot this morning:

Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of well-known computer security
company Kaspersky Labs, is calling for an end to the anonymity of the
Internet, and for the creation of mandatory ‘Internet passports’ for
anyone who wishes to browse the Web

The very first thought I had after reading this and the articles on The Register and ZDNet Asia that it referred to was “This guy must have had an overdose of diet pills and they’ve caused his brain to shrivel up into something the size of a piece of buckshot.”  Then again of course there’s reason for him to think like that.  Just looking up the Wikipedia entry on him gives the first clue:

Kaspersky graduated from the Institute of Cryptography, Telecommunications and Computer Science, an institute co-sponsored by the Russian Ministry of Defence and the KGB in 1987

Given his history, I suppose it’s no wonder that he wants to eliminate anonymity but it’s obvious to me that he’s not thinking quite clearly here.  You see, while it is true that there’s a lot of people that abuse anonymity either to harass people or for criminal purposes that number is actually a small but extremely vocal minority.  Those who most need to make use of anonymity are, by definition, absolutely not interested in being noticed.

I’ve seen it said many times “If you’re not doing anything illegal then you have nothing to worry about.” or words to that effect and to that I respond Bullshit!, some things are just nobody’s flipping business!

Anonymity is necessary in order to have true freedom of speech.  It is the one way that unpopular speech can truly be protected and lets be clear about something.  Just because something is unpopular doesn’t mean that it’s wrong or that somebody doesn’t have the right to say it.  They do however, have the right to express themselves without fear of reprisal from oppressive governments, corporate entities, or just plain crazy people who might decide to oppress their speech with a shotgun if they knew their identity.

Everything is NOT everybody’s business.  That old reporter’s saw “The people have a right to know everything about everyone” is a damned lie straight from the pits of hell.  I myself frequently use both anonymity and encryption tools to conceal some of my activities online, not because I’m doing (or planning) anything illegal or that I’m being an ugly troll on some message board or blog, instead it’s but because what websites I visit, whom I communicate with and what I say to them is quite simply none of anybody’s business but mine and I want to keep it that way.

Others require anonymity in order to be safe from retaliation because they made the mistake of telling the truth about what some governments have been up to.  A very good read on the subject is “Dissent Made Safer: How anonymity technology could save free speech on the Internet.“.  You can also find more on the TOR website’s “Who Uses TOR?” page, the TOR Overview page also goes into detail about Why we need Tor and the Electronic Frontier Foundation is another source of plenty of reasons why anonymity is important.

“Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind.” Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60, 64 (1960). Great works of literature have frequently been produced by authors writing under assumed names.  Despite readers’ curiosity and the public’s interest in identifying the creator of a work of art, an author is generally free to decide whether or not to disclose his or her true identity. The decision in favor of anonymity may be motivated by fear of economic or official retaliation, by concern about social ostracism, or merely by a desire to preserve as much of one’s privacy as possible. Whatever the motivation may be…the interest in having anonymous works enter the marketplace of ideas unquestionably outweighs any public interest in requiring disclosure as a condition of entry. Accordingly, an author’s decision to remain anonymous, like other decisions concerning omissions or additions to the content of a publication, is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.” — US Supreme Court McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm

In closing I’ll say that I actually found it quite entertaining to read the comments on Slashdot about this story and I don’t doubt that Mr. Kaspersky has quite probably signed the virtual death warrant of his company because I have no doubt at all that this will inspire many sysadmins and IT people to look elsewhere for their security software solutions.  I know *I* will never buy his stuff.

Technorati Tags: fear of retaliation, tor, privacy, freedom of speech, anonymity, kaspersky, not your business, oppressive governments

What Is Freenet Classic OpenNet?

I’ve talked about Freenet here occasionally and while I think it’s easy enough to understand I still get occasional questions about just exactly what it is.  That, combined with the recent fork of Freenet Classic OpenNet from the original Freenet 0.5 project has prompted me to create this video that gives a basic overview of what Freenet is and how it operates.

In upcoming videos I’ll be covering how to install and use Freenet Classic OpenNet as well as several Freenet applications.  Frost, creating basic freesites and inserting them with the Freesite Insertion Wizard, Freenet Utility for Queued Inserts and Downloads and using Thingamablog to create flogs (that’s a blog within Freenet).

You can download Freenet Classic OpenNet or FCON from either

http://fcon.sourceforge.net
or
http://peculiarplace.com/freenet

Technorati Tags: freenet, p2p, encrypted, facilitate communication, oppressive government, freenet applications, share files, freedom of speech, repressive regimes, unblockable, anti-censorship, freenet video, freenet overview, file sharing, anonymous, censor proof, censorship

You Got A License For That Web Browser?

According to a story on ITnews there’s some people arguing that it’s time to require a kind of “internet drivers license” before allowing people to go online for the first time.

Australia’s leading criminologist thinks online scams have escalated to such a point that first-time users of computers should have to earn a licence to surf the web.

While I’m glad that this is brewing in Australia and not here in the US, I’ve no doubt that there is plenty of people that would like to see it happen here.

If nothing else, something like that would be a genuine nightmare to enforce.  For that matter, how would it be enforced?  Would unlicensed surfers suddenly face having their blogs yanked from every website directory and pulled off of the server that’s hosting it?

Then there’s the privacy issue because some of that was talking about using biometrics, chips and what have you to essentially require a user to validate their identity before connecting to the net.  Seems to me that this would only make it easier to track an individual’s activities and even block them from certain websites that the government has decided aren’t good for you.

Isn’t there enough of this kind of thing going on in places like China and Iran?  Don’t we have enough domestic spying going on as it is?

Technorati Tags: tracking, privacy, censorship, internet license

First it works, then it doesn’t.  One day it’ll boot, the next it won’t.  This laptop has so far been quite an adventure.  Even when it does boot, there’s this nearly undefinable feel to it that tells me that it’s days are numbered and that every time it boots up or performs something that I want it to do, it’s life expectancy is decremented.

Now that I have finally managed to recover the last bit of data from it’s hard drive that I had wanted to preserve the pressure is finally off and I don’t have to feel like I’m in a race against time, I can concentrate on the obvious permanent solution to my laptop issues, replacement.

samsung notebookcomputerTo that end I’ve spent a good deal of time browsing sale pages, looking for the ideal replacement computer.

One good possibility is the Samsung NC10 netbook.  It’s equipped with the relatively new Intel Atom processor, has a healthy 160 gigabytes of hard drive and a feature that I like is it’s battery life.  This sucker’s actually claiming up to 8 hours of battery life!

I’m not 100% sure about having a display that’s only 10.2 inches after getting used to my Desktop’s 17inch CRT but I’m thinking that I can adapt to using it for portable use.  Portable computing being the key factor.  It’s the kind of thing that would allow me to always have a computer handy for those times when I either have a few moments to work on a project or run across something that just begs to be written about but all too often gets forgotten or over-ridden by more immediately pressing concerns before I get a chance to do something about it.

Technorati Tags: replacement, laptop, portable, battery life, computer

Google Ordered To Reveal Blogger Identity

In another assault on people’s right to anonymity, a judge has ordered Google to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger who apparently had some “less than complimentary” things to say about the Vogue cover model Liskula Cohen.

I think that there’s a couple of lessons here.  First, even when writing in a so-called “anonymous” blog on blogger, the things you write can easily come back to haunt you, especially if they fit the legal definition of libel.  Second, If you want to blog anonymously it *IS* possible to do so but it takes somewhat more than just signing up for a blogger account, even if you do so with phony information

It seems to me that it almost doesn’t matter what the topic is.  Somebody could write that they think rice-burners are more prone to accidents and before you know it they’re hit with a lawsuit by a Japanese motorcycle maker and they’re hoping that their San Jose motorcycle accident attorney can help them come up with numbers to back up their statement in order to quash a libel suit.

Part of the whole issue with anonymous (both those using casual or strong anonymity) is the same issue faced by everybody else that takes time to so much as tweet something and that is the ever growing tendency for people to slap somebody with a lawsuit at the slightest hint of anything that even might be considered legally actionable.

Anyone planning to write an anonymous blog (or do anything anonymously) needs to remember that “In Most Cases, You Only THINK You’re Anonymous“.  Just simply creating a Blogger account, even with false information, does NOT make you anonymous by any stretch of the imagination.

To be truly anonymous takes some effort.  One very good place to start would be to use the Tor Browser Bundle to browse anonymously.  It’s a combination of the TOR network and a portable version of Firefox that’s had it’s settings tweaked to maximize privacy.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not in any way support using tools like this for criminal or libelous purposes.  However I *DO* support and strongly believe in the right of people to be anonymous.  Anonymity is an important part of any free society, something that was expressed very nicely by Justice Stevens in the McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission case in 1996:

“Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority… It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation – and their ideas from suppression – at the hand of an intolerant society.”

The problem is that while the majority of people who use anonymity software are never heard from, there are always a vocal minority who will abuse it and make life difficult for those who truly need to be anonymous.

Technorati Tags: anonymous blogger identity, tor, anonymous blogging, tor browser bundle, anonymous web browser, google ordered reveal, anonymity software, abuse of anonymity, anonymity, anonymous blogger

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