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Most everyone today uses the Internet on a daily basis to the benefit of their personal lives as well as their businesses; but is “Big Brother” watching?  If some powerful figures in control of major Internet sites have their way in the future it is certainly a possibility. 

The Internet has never been totally anonymous based on the IP address read by the sites you visit.  But the ways in which you send emails to friends and associates or conduct business (online banking, bill pay, etc.) allows for some anonymity today to protect personal security and, as some advocate, freedom of speech.

Randi Zuckerburg, marketing director of Facebook (and sister of Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerburg) recently took part in a panel discussion on this topic and said she believes that Internet users should not be allowed to hide their identities when using the Internet.  She told the panel, "I think anonymity on the Internet has to go away.  I think people hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors."

 

Remember when you signed up for your first email account, you had to come up with a name you would use.  Some people actually used their “real” names without thinking twice about it but, I think you’ll admit, most people developed some type of anonymous Internet pseudonyms (something like PapaBear44@InternetSite.com) to hide their personal identities to everyone but friends and families.

 

The former head of Google, Eric Schmidt, also believes Internet anonymity is a real threat and called it a “dangerous” problem and, in his view, something the government will eventually be forced to regulate.  As a matter of fact, Google was criticized recently for a policy that insists that individuals use their “real names” on their new Google+ social media website.  There is evidence that a number of Google+ users, who used a traditional anonymous Internet name rather than their “real name,” not only had their Google+ account cancelled, but all associated Google accounts closed for failure to maintain the policy of using actual names.  Google apparently is taking this very seriously.

 

Those who advocate full disclosure on the Internet are insisting that more online abuses and illegal activities are definitely possible because people are currently able to conceal their identities behind these non-descriptive Internet monikers.  Proponents of a full disclosure policy on the Internet believe that anonymity allows criminals and sexual predators to more easily stalk their potential victims.   By hiding their identities they can easily and “innocently” gain access to chat groups that protect the identities of their members thus making it easier for criminals to target their victims over the Internet. 

Privacy is an issue that we tend to guard with all of our might.  So many personal records today (banking, medical, personnel) are transmitted over the Internet and, I believe, should be guarded and genuinely protected.   Law enforcement and government agencies also must maintain a semblance of privacy to keep information away from the “bad guys” and secure local, state and national security.

Keep this in mind.  If Internet anonymity is critical to you, there are ways to protect yourself.   You might want to consider disabling the “cookies” settings on your computer.  Cookies are text that is sent to the browser about the Internet sites you visit.  This information is stored by the server and sent back to the site each time you enter the site.  Cookies also contain important information like passwords and login information that are considered a privacy risk by most Internet users.  There are a number of web browsers that will automatically delete all cookies when you close your browser.   Might be a good idea to find one.

I am certain that Internet anonymity will be a topic of discussion for many years based on the massive growth of social and business Internet sites like Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn, which are specifically designed for the exchange of information; sometimes very personal information.  Consider this, if you were walking through a “dangerous” part of town you would probably remain very aware of your surroundings.  The same applies to the Internet; just be careful of the information you provide on the Internet to maintain as much personal security and privacy as possible.  

But it’s more than that; although the idea of Internet anonymity may protect us from possible personal hazards, this idea will also diminish our personal freedoms guaranteed by our country’s most cherished documents (the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution) which have formed the values of the country we live in today.  We are a country that prides itself on hundreds of years of freedom, among them freedom of speech.   It’s a very hot topic to keep your eye on in the months and years ahead.

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