Google CEO: The End of Internet Anonymity

Matt Barton's picture

A few weeks back we were having a discussion about Blizzard's short-lived plan to require real names on its forums. Although that effort failed, Google CEO Eric Schmidt would argue it's just a temporary victory for fans of anonymity. According to Schmidt, the current situation is simply too dangerous, and eventually governments will require some type of verification. He also points out that current AI technology is good enough to identify you anyway, simply using online posts, Facebook photos, and so on. Anyone paying attention to the news has noticed these trends already, particularly in China and countries with fundamentalist regimes. I'd also point out the flap over Wikileaks; I could easy see the politicians using that hubbub as an excuse to impose tighter restrictions on the internet. How will the quality and quantity of information on the internet change without anonymity?

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Rowdy Rob
Rowdy Rob's picture
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Joined: 09/04/2006
Anonymity: no money in it.

Anonymity is destined to be thrown to the trash bin of history, since there are many difficulties in controlling or targeting anonymous people. It's easier to sell someone something if you know who they are and what their "statistics" are like (interests, level of income, where they live, etc.). Of course, it also has a "chilling effect" on "free speech," political or otherwise. I'm not saying anything anyone doesn't already know here.

Eliminating anonymity will probably help clean up a lot of the "sickness" that's spewed on the Internet, since everyone will be accountable for what they do or say. In that sense, it might be better.

But how do we know that the "statistics" of a person will actually match the person? Until they eliminate "hacking," it seems quite reasonable to assume that "real people" will be hacked, and nefarious people will use these accounts to do evil things under another's real name, or even TO these people directy. Of course, that's happening already, but I suspect such crimes will explode under a "real name Internet."

Then, there's the fact that many people have common names. My name is common, with many people having the same first, middle, and last names as me! What happens then? Confusion? Bureaucracy has already ruined peoples' lives who have similar names to another (for example, California was (is?) forcing people to pay for child support for kids they never had, simply because another person with the same name didn't take care of his business).

It's no secret that anonymity is an illusion on the Internet, but an "alias" can provide somewhat of a unique identity, as long as you don't hide behind it to say or do mean things.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Unique Names
Rowdy Rob wrote:

Then, there's the fact that many people have common names. My name is common, with many people having the same first, middle, and last names as me! What happens then? Confusion? Bureaucracy has already ruined peoples' lives who have similar names to another (for example, California was (is?) forcing people to pay for child support for kids they never had, simply because another person with the same name didn't take care of his business).

That's why I think eventually more people (besides the Japanese, who already do it) start naming children with unique characters or names. There should be a database somewhere that parents must consult before choosing a name for their children; if a person with their chosen name already exists, they should choose another or have one randomly or algorithmically assigned (for pleasant sound, etc.) If you think that most people have three different names, the possibilities are nearly infinite without having to make up new words or letters.

I also like the idea of newly married couples coming up with a new last name rather than just use one or both of their parents'. I didn't do it, but the thought did occur to me.

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TripHamer
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Joined: 07/31/2010
The Internet is a Public Place.

Yeah, the internet is a public place anyway, so I have no illusions of privacy. Other than transactions....hopefully. If you wouldn't do it out on the street, you may not want to do it online either.

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Catatonic
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Joined: 05/20/2006
Looking at the original

Looking at the original quote, I don't think Schmidt means that anonymity will vanish. I think he meant that governments will set up their own authentication systems that web sites can use to verify you, just as you currently use your Facebook or Twitter account to log in to third party sites and applications. Twitter already does verification for some celebrity accounts. Presumably a government could issue a verified online account to anyone who gets a passport, driver's license, health insurance card, etc.

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