Welcome one and all to this debate, which my side of the house is very excited about.
If somebody were to go down the street wearing a balaclava, heavy gloves, a mask and plain black clothing, you'd probably assume you were looking at a burglar. It may or may not be true - there are all manner of reasons why somebody might not want to be seen walking down your street. Some of them may even be legitimate. But the unusual nature of the situation warrants some suspicion.
The internet is just like that. Most of us browse the internet like we walk down a street. We don't ordinarily cover our faces. Some degree of privacy is to be expected - for example, many web browsers send a "Do Not Track" header that prevents advertisers from showing advertisements targeted to you (pretty much). But anonymity is not technically a way to ensure privacy (you could still track the same anonymous user across websites) nor does privacy need to mean anonymity.
This debate is not about privacy. It's about the 16-year-old kid who opens a proxy to bypass his school's firewall to watch porn. It's about the hackers who steal personal photos from a celebrity's account on a cloud hosting website. It's about the people who make fake accounts on debate website time after time, to send out a few love spam messages. Yes, it is about the secret agents, working in secret right now to plan terrorist attacks against the western world.
And yes - it's about pedophiles.
Because unlike the prime minister's assertion, the victims of these crimes will not be anonymous. Some random 8-year-old girl who just got her first computer is not going to be installing Tor and opening a secure shell. She's going to be hitting the chat rooms and making a Facebook page to tell all the world exactly who she is. And even if her internet access were to somehow be anonymized, her actions will still be visible to all. Even if nobody knows what her connection is, when she puts up that awesome photo she just took of her neighborhood on her fancy new Instagram, people will know exactly where to find her.
The reason that little girls will always act that way is the same reason most ordinary people act that way - they want to be connected. The whole point of the internet is that it makes communication better. Facebook, for example, is basically a huge town hall that you can go to and meet people at whenever you like. Were it not for the internet, then in all likelihood, I would never have met you, and you would never have met me. But were it not for non-anonymity, I wouldn't know that you're you, and you wouldn't know that I'm me. That totally defeats the purpose of communication.
But criminals are exactly the kinds of manipulators that want to create a false identity - to deceive. They want to hide the fact that they're criminals and not get caught. This is because being caught will lead to serious consequences for those criminals. Because we - the rest of society - want to protect our most vulnerable, we want to both prevent criminals from believing they can get away with being anonymous online, and when the crimes do occur, to track those criminals and bring them to justice.
Internet anonymity is completely unnecessary in the sense that if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear. But beyond that, it's what actually allows cybercriminals to get away with their crimes. If it were not for security researchers finding flaws in the software criminals use to hide their tracks, most cybercriminals would never be caught.
Internet Anonymity cannot actually be totally prevented. It's part of the internet by design. That does not mean, however, that we should support it. I enjoy tomato sauce, for example, but that doesn't mean I enjoy squeezing the last little rests out of the packet because I don't want to see it go to waste. It seems like every time they design a new nozzle for tomato sauce they always find a way to make it slightly harder to squeeze out.
On side opposition we're aspirational about the internet. We dream of an internet where people can communicate without fear, and where privacy is respected. But anonymity is hardly the solution to this problem. This dream we have can only be realized when there is complete honesty. Hence the very important work, supported by side negative, of security researchers across the globe, both helping catch the bad guys and keeping the good guys secure when they do stuff like buying a new stovetop online.
A follow-on reason for this is that not all crimes actually have a victim directly, but are still crimes for very good reason. If you want to pass money on to a terrorist group in secret, for example, that's possible via the internet. Lugging a briefcase stacked with $100 bills personally to the terrorists' headquarters is far more difficult in this day and age. We need to stop these kinds of criminals as well. The young man I mentioned earlier who broke school rules to watch porn is another example - we want our young people learning, and that's what school internet should be for.
As the leader of the opposition I therefore call upon this house to oppose the motion, and look forward to both an exciting debate, and an internet we can believe in.
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2014-09-12 05:48:48 | Speak Round