Pay For Anonymity

I just got an email from I can pay them $9 bucks so my address and phone number isn’t easily accessible via WHOIS information even though ICANN decrees it so. There are a plethora of other places to find this information about me, even some have an actual accurate address, and those places provide this information freely. I’d bet most do not offer a hider’s fee like does.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how people’s data is on other people’s computers, not under their direct control, and that data is under different laws in regards to getting a warrant from authorities to access it. Granted, just about everything is up for grabs, but there is still some legislation to help it not get too out of hand. Not sure what the legislation is, I just “feel” like it’s there. Self delusion? Probably.

Someone wrote a blog entry last week on MXNA about how some such business was offering a service to parents to find out about what their children do online. They’d basically trawl blogs and MySpace, collect forum postings and other archived email list information, organize it, and send to parents.

The blogger countered with the idea that maybe someone would someday start offering services to hide your personal information from your parents. It’s feasible you could hire someone to lower the visibility of a lot of your online information, but never remove it. While there are millions yearning & yelling to be be heard, even you’re quiet musings can be found if you dig through the cacophony. I’m sure, though, much like security through obscurity, you could at least deter those not so determined.

Still, everything is saved somewhere, why try? I think I’ve tried for the most part to live by the mantra my dad taught me:

“You’re never sorry for something you didn’t say.”

I’ve only deleted 1 blog entry in my 6 years of blogging because I later would of preferred I had not said it. I didn’t regret it because I learned a valuable lesson, but I know it’s out there cached in a multitude of places.

Holding politicians and others in the public eye accountable for what they say has gotten easier with the advent & ubiquity of digital video & editing equipment. You can play back word for word what they said, in or out of context, and body check them on it. The same can be done using internet caching in blog comments (see comment #14).

Everything you do or say online is captured somewhere. I wonder at what point some of those places will start charging to erase data about you, and only you? This doesn’t mean the data itself is actually deleted, only access to the parts about you.

For example, if someone came to me, and told me they’d pay me $5 to remove all of their comments from my blog, I’d probably do so. However, it is conceivable I could delete those comments from being public, rebuild all of my blog entries that had that comment, and thus have no publicly facing pages that house that person’s comment. The comment would still exist where the rest of my blog data does, though, in my MySQL database. Do I charge extra? Do they have a right to have their data (their name & email address) removed from my database they freely and knowing gave it too?

If I go into a clothing store at the mall, can I pay the clothing store the next day to delete all security camera footage of me because I “had a bad hair day”? Assuming no crimes were committed that day, and they had no legal reasons to retain past footage, could they make money via charging me for such a service?

Would such services proliferate if many others started following the same model? Could I pay Target to remove video footage, Flickr to remove all of my photos and links, and Chattyfig to remove all archived emails? Am I truly paying for the illusion of anonymity? Once visible, can you ever truly disappear again? Will name identity changes become more prevalent in the future?

Online identities have been big business lately. Some have persona’s in forums and online games, some have ego’s based around them via XBox 360 badges, and some actually have totally different perceptions from the world at large online vs. off. What defines you and what you use to express yourself via your identity online defines internet & connectivity culture, and has ties to the presence sphere in the corporate world as well as Bluetooth devices.

If search engines are the bloodhounds to your digital scent, then multiple online identities are the solution to online anonymity. This cheapens the true depth of those identities, however, because you spend less emotional investment in them, and therefore less accuracy in how they portray you. You have less emotional attachment, and albeit less involvement.

Are there truly ghosts in the internet, or are they just digital superstition, an ideal for the paranoid?

3 Replies to “Pay For Anonymity”

  1. Hey Jesse,

    This is bordering on a topic I have been following very closely lately:

    Identity 2.0 is what they call it.

    Watch this presentation

    you know, due to the fact that our identity is strewn all over the internet in silos, we have no ability to manage it. The Identity 2.0 movement is something that intends to address this problem.

    The funny thing is, that most people believe the Indentity 2.0 approach will lead to less anonimity. Truth is though, as you have pointed out, that a new approach like Identity 2.0 would likely be in most people’s best interests.

  2. Actually here’s another great one from a guy from Microsoft:

    Laws of Identity

    Based on that definition, you can start to get a better idea of how badly our identities are currently being abused right now.

    It is interesting that you mentioned Bluetooth, it is labelled as one of the biggest breaches of identity as it uses an omni-directional identity transaction where a uni-directional is appropriate.

    In a way, we see benefit in the omni-directional transaction where it is used in a cool way, but according to the above mentioned laws, it is technically a breach. Remember Minority Report?

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