Do We Have an Expected Right to Internet Anonymity?

Internet anonymity allows users to keep all the information regarding their personal, computer, and business information private while being active on the internet. Like any right or freedom, it can be very helpful or be heavily abused. If someone uses internet anonymity software because they are being stalked or harassed, then most would agree that their right to use internet anonymity is viable. But, if someone wishes to be anonymous on the internet so that they can distribute viruses or communicate with terrorists, than their access to these tools should be denied. From these two assumptions, we can only agree that idealy, internet anonymity should be evaluated on an individual basis. The means, nor the support are available to offer this kind of regulation to internet anonymity, so the debate remains, should it be legal?

One argument is that the internet anonymity should be a right just like the right to privacy or bear arms. But, because of its complex nature, I don’t agree that it can be categorized in the same way as some of our basic human rights. Internet anonymity is dissimilar from our right to privacy in that if one wishes to stay private in cyberspace then they can avoid the internet all together, and not have to worry about protecting their identity. The right to privacy entails that someone is seeking to gain information about you that you wish to withhold; if this information is so important, then your right to privacy allows that you have the right not to use the internet at all. If concern over anonymity is life threatening or invasive, there are legal actions that can be taken to remedy the problem.

To answer the question, “Do we have an expected right to internet anonymity?” I believe that we do not. “Anonymity” is a very broad term referred to in the list of basic human rights laid out in 1689 by our forefathers; Whom did not account for the massive advancement in communication technology. Something as dynamic as the internet cannot be defined or modified depending on rights established so long ago. Furthermore, anonymity and privacy are not synonymous with each other, and shouldn’t be examined as so. Privacy is a right that we all posses, allowing that the government or anyone for that matter cannot force information from us, that we wish to withhold. Anonymity describes the state of someone being present, but dissallowing anyone else to be aware of their presence. It is such a worthy debate because some people argue that anonymity is an invasion of privacy towards those who are ignorant to the presence of the anonymous person.

It might be more important to scrutinize the motives behind someone who wishes to stay anonymous while communicating in cyberspace; or, to turn the table around and try and find ways to make it more difficult for hackers to track internet users. If the issue were to focus on keeping information more secure , then internet anonymity would be a more ineffectual problem.

The issue can be whittled down to whether or not the software tools necessary to accomplish internet anonymity should be legal. Illegalizing these tools puts the government in a position where they are accused of assuming that everyone will abuse the option of internet anonymity. Illegalizing anything is a process that takes consideration of monetary effects and societal effects. Also, there are far more harmful ways of abusing the internet that are not illegal. It is more likely that the software will always be accessible in some form or another, legal or not.

A logical solution to this issue could be to allow all users access to the software, but only after examination on a needed basis. If it was illegal to bootleg the software and not to necessarily sell or buy it, then its use would be less likely to cause any type of harm. If there were companies authorized to sell the software under specific criteria as to who and why they sold it to individuals, then almost all parties involved in this debate would be satisfied. There is no issue about software being free and accessible to everyone, and there are no issues regarding the contingencies required upon purchasing certain types of software.

In conclusion, I do not believe internet anonymity to be a basic human right synonymous with privacy. The internet is a tool used by most to communicate with others and possibly to obtain individual legal and pertinent information. On the contrary, the Internet is not a world in which all of the people involved have a right to do, say, and act however they wish without responsibility. There are valid benefits to internet anonymity, which is why if one wishes to be anonymous while browsing cyberspace, than it should be possible for them to do so. But, because of its complicated nature it would be beneficial if those who choose to stay anonymous be required to purchase software under strict criteria and scrutiny.

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