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.