Social Question

Smashley's avatar

In the future, will internet users still be anonymous?

Asked by Smashley (5717points) 1 month ago

Much of the antisocial behavior we see online comes as a direct result of the anonymous nature of most websites and apps.

Consequences for antisocial behavior can’t exist beyond the platform unless a real world identity is linked to it in some way. Many of the troubles with social media lies in fake accounts, and the fact that some people just can’t make that connection between their online behavior and the real world, even when using their real name. E-commerce has elements of anonymous and non-anonymous transaction – to the benefit and peril of consumers.

It seems to me that over time, the trend should be towards non-anonymous spaces. A single universal online profile, directly tied to a government ID number, hopefully used in accordance with well thought out laws and regulations, that every reputable website will use, seems likely.

I’m sure there will always be a space for anonymous activity, but those spaces would start to become scary and disreputable to the general public, and corporate money would flow into the “safe” net.

What do you think? Too Orwellian to ever support? Inevitable? Only for the rich?

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15 Answers

Inspired_2write's avatar

Ip address isn’t hard to locate the users.
Hackers and secure websites can and will locate users if they need too.
Ever view the TV series called “Catfish” where they demonstrate how to locate users online?
Also just key in “how to locate an IP users address” and it shows how easy its done.

Smashley's avatar

So you’re saying yes to the government ID, since there’s no real anonymity anyway?

Inspired_2write's avatar

@Smashley
Yes, since they already ARE doing that anonymously.

Inspired_2write's avatar

@Smashley
Congrats on reaching 5K !

si3tech's avatar

Do you imagine that internet users are anonymous now?

KNOWITALL's avatar

No. Anonymity has been gone a long time. Watch ‘Don’t F$&k With Cats’ on Netflix. Valuable lessons there.

elbanditoroso's avatar

They aren’t now. If someone really wanted to track me down, it’s not that hard.

Smashley's avatar

@si3tech @elbanditoroso, @KNOWITALL
No, I don’t believe we are truly anonymous on the internet, but we are effectively anonymous for most purposes. The fact that identifiying information can be gleaned is not the same as the complex interplay of social contracts and consequences that populate the real world, and encourage pro social behavior. Misbehavior can occasionally harm the reputation of an internet user, but all they really risk is that account on that platform, and accounts are usually free and unlimited. Maybe someone could find out their address and go confront them, but that requires a decent amount of know how, and a lot of resources.

Part of the solution I described would be to link a unique profile to a persons government ID. Users could no longer make dozens of fake accounts to spread misinformation, troll, or join groups to undermine them. If they behaved in such ways using their unique account, an appropriate social reaction would befall them.

Sagacious's avatar

They aren’t anonymous now.

Smashley's avatar

Getting kinda tired of non answers, actually. Read the whole question please.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@Smashley you are not anonymous now ! Should I repeat NSA knows !

Mimishu1995's avatar

I don’t quite agree with your government solution. It sounds too Owellian to me. This solution effectively puts too much information and power into the hand of one entity, and you already know how power corrupts people. Not all governments work for the well-being of the people.

Besides, I think people have already come up with better solutions to trolling. Some websites only allow one account per user. Some ban the use of Tor and will block users or at least ask users to complete capcha if they detect usual IP activity. I even know a VPN that will record people’s online behavior and claim to use their logs as evidence in case of criminal investigation. There are already actions being taken without having to do too much harm to anyone’s real life identity. Granted, trolls will be trolls, but I think at least we have found a middle ground between preventing antisocial behavior and giving normal people enough privacy.

Smashley's avatar

@Mimishu1995
True that any system like I’m proposing would have the massive power and potential to be abused, but so does any government regulatory body. We give control and oversight of most commerce, banking and finance to the government, the same with most forms of transportation and communication. The US has a constitution that allows for new branches of the government with new regulatory powers for the common good. The checks and balances of our constitution are designed to provide integrity and accountability within these new institutions.

We don’t like the DMV, but the fact that we don’t get to drive on roads without providing them our social security numbers, proving our address, paying their fees, affixing their plates, reading their eye chart, and posing for their awful pictures, under penalty of fine and imprisonment, is something we just take for granted.

If we need to be monitored and infinitely archived to make us behave well, so be it, but to entrust the private sector to do that ethically is ludicrous. Government is really the best we’ve got for these kinds of things.

Single accounts per user are good, but there are inherent problems. If there is real verification that you are real, like a name and address or a credit card, then it’s just a less efficient version of the same model, and no real reason why a big company won’t eventually create a popular model that quickly spreads and becomes the global standard. Same issues, but again it’s the private sector in control.

Sagacious's avatar

@Smashley Just say Thanks for answering.

Smashley's avatar

@Sagacious – I’m thankful for real engagement on a question I took a long time to craft and think about.

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