On anonymity and the internet

Very interesting post today on CNN.com from a writer for SI.com on how he tracked down two guys who lashed out online at him over an article he wrote.

Something to consider the next time you want to start a flame war.

Great article. I often wonder about the “real world” consequences of our virtual existences. It’s interesting that although the guise of internet anonymity is so strong, it’s also never been easier to track someone down if need be.

Youtube video comments are especially ridiculous. If some alien where to read the records of our internet lives, I think they’d leave with a very warped perspective of humanity.

Good article… the comments section is just sad though. Probably a bunch of people just hoping to piss him off enough to get a phone call.

Anonymity is a hopeless battle. Someone can always find you, if motivated enough. People should just learn to live with it, or not use the internet.

It has become not that difficult to find out who you are by your online “user” name. My wife, who works for the government, has a website that you type in the user name and it searches thousands of servers, web site host companys databases, and lists all sites where that user name is used. It will then cross link that name to the server, website host, etc, of each place the name is used. The more unique the user name is, the easier it is to find you. Even if you delete your account, that info has been stored somewhere by someone. There are “Places” on the net that charge you for the info in the guise of a phone book service. Collection agencies, protective srevices. lawyers, bounty hunters, etc use them. Your name and address, age, hobbies, profession, can be crosslinked to your user name if you ever put your location in your posted info, Like your garbage, if you put it out, it’s not protected.

Out of 44 searched sites on the “bounty hunter” version of the site mentioned above, there were 37 hits for my user name, some showed an actual name, all showed a town and how many different forums used that name with the same town.

Even the Mods here can find out where you are, what computer you are using, and if you have mutiple user names for that computer.
You make it easier by using the same info for each account on each forum you join.

“1984” happened a long time ago. You are being watched.

We’re being watched…mostly by each other and a few spammers.

I think it is just as “safe” to be completely open as to be completely closed. The more of our information out there, the less it actually means, because we are humans that can alter our behaviour unexpectedly. For example, I’ve never been interested in the stupid books and CDs that Amazon throws at me based on their view of my interests.

The benefits of being “open” are great. We get weirdos emailing us with crazy product ideas, students, other Porsche enthusiasts (even if I don’t like a Porsche made after 1999), etc.