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Old 07-03-2006, 12:09 PM   #1 (permalink)
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The Need for Anonymity

As society in general becomes more and more reliant on technology, we find that our personal privacy decreases. Whether you knew it or not, electronic communcations can be tracked rather well, and measures to prevent this (ie. encryption or other forms of secrecy) can often make you stick out as a suspicious figure, or at the least paranoid. The increasing trend of surveillance in some public places also hinders our ability to meet secretly in public as well.

Does this bother anyone? Do we care that our ability to speak anonymously might be compromised in a modern world where anonymous political discussion and dissent might be of benefit to us? Personally, I wouldn't trust any government with my private information, regardless of who was in power. However, I recognize that the paranoid streak in me is saying this, and that others might not feel the same way. Hence the question.
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Old 07-03-2006, 12:15 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Likely, all society will trend toward less privacy in general for the very reasons you have stated (quite eloquantly I might add), and thus we really have no choice should we decide to be a part of this society. In the long run I think the deterent value of this trend will be beneficial , as the cultures adapt to the new reality of limited secrecy. Eventually one might hope this bleeds uphill, and hits the power structure as well, as some indications are pointing already.
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Old 07-03-2006, 02:20 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Location: Buffalo, New York
Case in point:

I live in a community that has a very large public building issue looming - $145 million. Amongst the people who are against it is a man who owns/runs a local technology company. He has formed a variety of websites and forums running statements and negative issues about the project.

It just so happens that one of my family members is a member of the governmental unit proposing the project. That person, along with the rest of "management", has received a dumptruck-full of hate mail, negative comments online, and ugly calls on the local radio show.

If I wish to make any type of statement, I will need to anonymize myself to the greatest extent possible, because the person from that company may well be looking at IPs, and tracking those people who make comments supportive of the project on his websites. He has alluded to such activities in the past on his forum.

Anonymity is very, very valuable, and its value is increasing daily, IMHO.
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Old 07-03-2006, 04:58 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Location: Manhattan, NY
One cannot walk in Manhattan without coming across cameras, I used to be all upset over it, and when police have been able to track criminals back via private property cameras, the good outweighs the bad in my opinion.

NYCLU has been tracking camera installations since 1998,

Quote:
Surveillance Camera Project Summary

Over the last five months, a small but dedicated group of New York Civil Liberties Union volunteers walked the streets of Manhattan in search of video surveillance cameras. This group sought out every camera, public or private, which records people in public space. From the records they made of the camera locations, the volunteers produced a comprehensive map of all 2,397 surveillance cameras in Manhattan.

Clearly, video surveillance cameras have arrived on the streets of New York City. But it is up to us to decide if they are here to stay, and if they are, then under what conditions. At this stage in their proliferation, we need to take an active, not passive, role in the decision-making process that allows for the installation of video surveillance cameras.

The intent of this website is to raise awareness of the prevalence of video surveillance cameras in New York City, explain the threat they pose to our individual freedom, begin a long overdue, much needed dialogue on the topic and recommend ways to curb cameras infringement on our right of anonymity and to move and associate freely.
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Old 07-04-2006, 12:09 PM   #5 (permalink)
 
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Location: Waterloo, Ontario
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cynthetiq
One cannot walk in Manhattan without coming across cameras, I used to be all upset over it, and when police have been able to track criminals back via private property cameras, the good outweighs the bad in my opinion.
So, why don't we just have cameras everywhere, including our private homes, but make the video private so that the government needs a warrant to access that video. That way, if anyone is a suspected criminal, we can just get a warrant for their video and scrutinize their lives, at least, enough to know if they did the crime or not. We'd get a lot of criminals that way, so surely the good would outweigh the bad, right? Is this so different than what changed your thinking?
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Old 07-05-2006, 02:38 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Location: Ontario, Canada
Quote:
Originally Posted by KnifeMissile
So, why don't we just have cameras everywhere, including our private homes, but make the video private so that the government needs a warrant to access that video. That way, if anyone is a suspected criminal, we can just get a warrant for their video and scrutinize their lives, at least, enough to know if they did the crime or not. We'd get a lot of criminals that way, so surely the good would outweigh the bad, right? Is this so different than what changed your thinking?
There is an enorous gulf between private and public, as you are surely aware. The situation you describe is ... highly unlikely.

As for cameras in public spaces, they're great. They cut down crime and allow police to apprehend criminals. Thanks to the extensive CCTV system in London, that is how the 2nd group of bombers was caught. It also allows the courts to determine issues of police overzealousness.
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Old 07-05-2006, 09:36 AM   #7 (permalink)
 
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Location: Waterloo, Ontario
Quote:
Originally Posted by highthief
There is an enorous gulf between private and public, as you are surely aware. The situation you describe is ... highly unlikely.
It was hyperbole to demonstrate a point. There is no expectation of privacy in public areas, so there's no immediate concern with having cameras there... Except when you have enough cameras that you can track the movement of anyone from anywhere. Then, it's equivalant to implanting a tracking device on everyone, something I think people will object to.

Quote:
As for cameras in public spaces, they're great. They cut down crime and allow police to apprehend criminals. Thanks to the extensive CCTV system in London, that is how the 2nd group of bombers was caught. It also allows the courts to determine issues of police overzealousness.
I don't know, cameras haven't helped as much as I had hoped.

Remember, Rodney King was brutally beaten by police officers in front of a camera and, ultimately, faced absolutely no consequences...

Video evidence is nice to have in court (although not as good as one might hope, see what happened to Rodney King) but, until you get there, it helps surprisingly little. For instance, a photograph of a suspect isn't nearly as useful as the name of a suspect. Plenty of unsolved crimes have been caught on video because there's no way to get a name from a face. Thus, video evidence is only really useful if you already know who the person on the video...
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Old 07-05-2006, 11:37 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Location: Ontario, Canada
Quote:
Originally Posted by KnifeMissile

Remember, Rodney King was brutally beaten by police officers in front of a camera and, ultimately, faced absolutely no consequences...

Video evidence is nice to have in court (although not as good as one might hope, see what happened to Rodney King) but, until you get there, it helps surprisingly little. For instance, a photograph of a suspect isn't nearly as useful as the name of a suspect. Plenty of unsolved crimes have been caught on video because there's no way to get a name from a face. Thus, video evidence is only really useful if you already know who the person on the video...
They don't solve every case, but they have been proven to deter crime, especially certain types of crime - dealing, prostitution, theft most notably. Will they stop some loon going off his nut and shooting someone? Nope. That sort of crime is not rational and will not be deterred by rational means. But, as with the London bombers, it may help catch the bad guy afterwards, especially when video plus reward causes someone to turn the guy in.
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Old 07-05-2006, 12:35 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I don't really see a problem so much with video surveillance in public areas; in this respect I agree with KnifeMissile that we shouldn't expect privacy in public areas. I also realize that such surveillance can be a useful and practical deterrant.

Concerning other forms of communication, or simply the ability to meet in private, I'm more in line with MoonDog. We need the ability to communicate anonymously - not because we need more spammers or trolls, but because we need a shield from malevolent people that will inevitably rise to power. However, therein lies the problem: if malevolent people aren't in power now, then we see no reason to keep anonymity available, thus opening ourselves up for abuse.

I respect those who hold the view that anything worth saying should have a name attached to it, but I can picture a far more dangerous world where such a policy can easily get you in a lot of trouble.
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