We ramble about code, technology and life. Sometimes we actually code...

Freedom via anonymity

by Kyluke McDougall on 1 March 20143 min read

Today we see every major social networking, forum or even general website requiring you to register on their site using your real name and surname. This trend has been reinforced by the ability to use Facebook or Google as authenticators when creating or verifying an account.

This may seem very convenient at first but is it? What are the consequences of giving every website, of which the location, country and/or continent are often completely unknown?

Do you really want Google to know your medical conditions or questions and be able to pin them to your name and location?

Scenario: You're logged into Google and use it's services on the desktop and on your phone.

Here's what Google knows:

  • Where you live
  • Where you work
  • The route you travel to work
  • How long it takes you
  • How many people are in your home
  • Who is in your home (wife, son, daughter)
  • Your personal problems
  • What you want to buy
  • What porn you enjoy
  • Which news you follow and your interests
  • Your hobbies
  • Medical issues
  • Financial problems

This functionality extends itself into every website you visit that has a Google +1 button.

Facebook does the same thing.

Anonymity online is a very tricky subject. On the one hand, you need to be able to identify your users if they want to purchase something. This is important.

In a regular store you verify who you are by physically being there which is obviously not possible online. However, is it really necessary to be forced to provide ALL of your private data (think Facebook & Google+) in order for you to post a question online or answer another user?

I don't think so. The usage of handles has filled this gap perfectly. A handle is a nickname given to you either by your peers or more likely and more commonly by yourself to uniquely identify yourself with. This works because your personal information is still kept confidential and your identification is taken care of.

By giving a website access to your Facebook or Google account for login verification, you could also be giving that website access to your personal information stored on the Facebook servers.

Anonymity online is important and something which should not be taken lightly.

Everything online can be treated as written and archived. A decent company will always have backups or their data, whether on-site or off-site. This means, even when you hit the delete button on an old post, it quite possibly can still reside on backups distributed around the world.

Carefully take into consideration which websites you give your email address, name or surname. These form part of your identity online and anyone can view what you have posted publicly on the internet. Google your own name and see for yourself.