The Importance of Internet Anonymity

When I say this, I don’t mean the group Anonymous (though they have their uses of course)
What I mean is, the ability to not immediately have your actions tied back to yourself when interacting online.

You see, I was raised in the hey-day of the Internet, a lawless time when if you wanted to meet people you would have to join an IRC channel, or Bulletin Board.
These places didn’t ask you to sign up using your real name, instead they asked you to create a username, we all know what a username is, right kids?
Now of course we all have The Facebook, and according to The Powers That Be, you must only use your real name on The Facebook.

Now I am not going to say you shouldn’t use your real name on the internet, but my point is that this should be a case of being your choice.
There are many people for whom using their real name is not an option, whether they are a minor internet celebrity or someone who doesn’t want to be traced by an ex, in these instances it can be damaging to actually be forced to use your real name.

However, FB doesn’t require you to prove your identity unless someone reports you, so there is literally nothing stopping you from creating a dozen fake FB accounts in order to provide harassment and cause suffering.
Consider this, I have a legal name but I have a nickname, a username that I use across various websites, chat applications and so on, there are even some friends who, if you asked them about my real name would not be familiar, but you ask them about Silent and they’ll know exactly who you are talking about, in this instance is my nickname any less real than my given name?

People like FB would tell you that this is for security and to ensure that nothing untoward is going on, but we already know that they don’t verify everyone, why I could create a new account today and as long as the name sounds plausible I wouldn’t be questioned on it, so where is the security in it? Of course, some will use the old argument “if you have nothing to hide” and that is true, if you have done nothing wrong then you shouldn’t need to hide anything, but in this specific instance someone else may be the issue.
For one moment I would like you to imagine that I am a successful female model, everyone knows me by my performance name, now imagine I live in a relatively small town and I post (for example) a picture from my favourite cake shop to my private page in which I am now forced to use my real name, due to the quirks (read: absolute failure) of FB’s security system, that picture could be seen by people who know people who comment or something (really FB, why do I need to know my friends liked the update of someone I don’t know, it’s not relevant to me), so now someone completely unrelated to me can discern my real name and general location, now in what world is this secure?
I’m not saying that in this instance using a nickname is going to stop online stalking, but it would sure make it harder to find my location.

You will always have people who hide behind the veil of secrecy and anonymity to be arseholes, but these people are not dissuaded at all by the current system when they can just create a new account and be Bob Jones.
So we know that this system doesn’t allow us any security, Trolls can still use the system to troll, so why would you be required to use your real name? It’s actually quite simple, I’ll explain.

Facebook’s business is selling advertising.
Now we can look at advertising in two ways, either we use demographics (for example: Male aged 18 to 25) or we target ads specifically.
Do you remember in Minority Report, when all of the adverts begin addressing Tom Cruise directly? That’s what Facebook want to do.
They want to know that you were looking up a product on and then show you adverts for that product, so if you were deliberating that product you’ll click their link and they get paid.
Targeted advertising allows an advert to become more tempting, it is customised to you specifically, increasing their effectiveness.
If you, as an advertiser are promised “Bob Jones, aged 23 from Monroeville, Pennsylvania likes archery and zombies, does not like sports or reading” well that’s the gold standard of advertising right there, that tells you who, where, what and you really don’t need to know much more.
Why waste your time advertising football, he’s never liked a football page! Instead try advertising hunting supplies, he likes archery so it’s a comparable product.

I know one guy who truly believes that the nefarious nature of Facebook’s plot goes even further, I’m talking conspiracy theory level here and I may not believe things are that bad, but just because it’s not that bad doesn’t mean that this is good.
But for now, with how pervasive FB is, there’s just no getting away from them.

Now, I am not advocating digital anarchy, I am telling you that if my friends know me by a nickname then that should be an acceptable name for Facebook.
I am telling you that if a performer has a name that people know them by, then that should be an acceptable name for Facebook.
I am telling you that if someone is transgender and their personal identity doesn’t coincide with their legal one, then that should be an acceptable name for Facebook.

Do you have a preferred nickname? Why don’t you let the world know.


I am Silent, part time programmer and full time narcissist, gamer, geek and man on a mission.

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