Privacy vs. anonymity

Yale constitutional law professor Jed Rubenfeld makes a distinction that, I think, advances the debate over government and corporate surveillance:  Privacy refers to the content of our communications, which is protected constitutionally.  But the fact of our communications, which the NSA is exploiting, is not.  What we need, Prof. Rubenfeld says, is legal protection for anonymity, so that individuals cannot be identified without due process. [Read more...]

Anonymity and temptation

The young rioters in England wear hoods and masks to hide their identities.  British authorities trying to tamp things down are pondering allowing police to require people to show their faces.

Anonymity is indeed tied to bad behavior.   Shame is one of those first-use of the law phenomena that helps keep our sinful natures from breaking out.  But when no one knows who we are, our inhibitions are released.  We certainly see this in the internet, when people in blog wars and email flames can become much more vicious than they would be in actual person-to-person contact,where the online bomb thrower is often quite a nice guy.

On the other hand, anonymity has its positive uses too, protecting legitimate privacy and shielding the individual from negative social pressures.

Is there a way to balance all of this?

Britain weighs personal freedoms against need to keep order – The Washington Post.


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