Net Anonymity

For those of you who think we should keep anonymous comments because it preserves anonymity. Think again. Sure, maybe I can't go online and figure out who you are, but the people who own your computer, computer hookup, IP server, and search engine can. From today's NYT.

Buried in a list of 20 million Web search queries collected by AOL and recently released on the Internet is user No. 4417749. The number was assigned by the company to protect the searcher’s anonymity, but it was not much of a shield.

No. 4417749 conducted hundreds of searches over a three-month period on topics ranging from “numb fingers” to “60 single men” to “dog that urinates on everything.”

And search by search, click by click, the identity of AOL user No. 4417749 became easier to discern. There are queries for “landscapers in Lilburn, Ga,” several people with the last name Arnold and “homes sold in shadow lake subdivision gwinnett county georgia.”

It did not take much investigating to follow that data trail to Thelma Arnold, a 62-year-old widow who lives in Lilburn, Ga., frequently researches her friends’ medical ailments and loves her three dogs. “Those are my searches,” she said, after a reporter read part of the list to her.

Once upon a time people thought they could go to their doctor for help without retribution, but now we see that once insurance companies get hold of that info they cancel policies and jack up rates. The same could one day be true of your internet practices. Though, healthcare is only one issue, imagine going to WebMD and searching for senility and Alzheimer's. If you are 60 years old, you might suddenly find your rates skyrocketing or your coverage being dropped.

Lord forbid that you work for a hardcore Republican and he takes the time to view your internet activity here at BlueNC and DailyKos. The witch hunt is one my friends and it is only a matter of time before this issue hits the fan.

Comments

Not to mention...

that at my blog I can find out all kinds of information about who visits, where they are located, where they came from, what keywords they used to find the blog, what kind of computer they use, what their screen resolution is, what kind of connection they use, their provider, where they work or live (to some degree).

You have to be careful where you surf.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

I've tracked down "anonymous" commetors on this site

It only takes a few minutes with access to site logs and publicly available web tools. I've kept the results to myself—I only looked out of curiosity, and I didn't feel that it was my place to out people who chose anonymity. But if I can do it, anyone who cares can.