Any readers who follow New Basement Tapes will have already seen this, or at least the headline. I think it’s important to spread this information far and wide, though, so I hope people will forgive me for the repeat: A UN agency is drafting a “trackback” standard, to remove anonymity from Internet communications. This seems, to me, like a pretty big deal, particularly in places where saying the wrong thing about the government on the Internet can mean jail time or worse.
Already, we know some portion of our Internet activities are watched, something many people suspected for a long time but couldn’t be sure of until recently. But at least getting to who was sending any given packet was tricky–and made trickier by certain software.
The right to private communication is implicit in the First Amendment and explicit in the ITU’s constitution (they are an agency of the UN); for an agency of the UN to be creating such a standard–and, as the linked article points out, to do so with the help of the NSA and the Chinese government, is unethical and hypocritical. The “technical” arguments in favor of this standard are extremely weak, and I find them unconvincing.
The beauty (and, yes, horror) of the Internet is its truly democratic nature. It is the one place where every person can express his or her opinion anonymously–without fearing reprisal from his or her government. That right is worth preserving. So I will be following the development of this story and posting updates here. I imagine there will be a petition coming out soon (if not, I suppose I’ll have to write one), as well.