Grasses up

[Dave Birch] If you haven’t been over to Wikileaks, you should probably go and have a quick look before you read the rest of this post! There’s an article about it in a recent New Scientist, talking about how “onion routing” is used to provide anonymity. So people (eg, whistleblowers in large corporations) can obtain genuine anonymity online. I’m in favour of this, generally speaking, and it’s certainly necessary in a free society. But is it sufficient?

Suppose, for example, that I post a plausible-looking document that seems to show that the British Royal family are actually giant extraterrestrial bloodsucking lizards. How do you know whether it’s a genuine leak or a double-cross? If, for example, there’s a document purporting to be the Identity & Passport Service’s National ID Scheme Options Analysis, how can you be sure that it really comes from them (just to pick a mischievous example) or was made up by someone at No2ID? If we as a society agree that some from of whistleblowing is a social benefit — and yes, we must also accept that it means that some drug-dealing Nazi child pornographers will be able to take advantage of it too — then we should have systems in place to deliver it. And that doesn’t mean implementing anonymity.

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