More Signs of the Anonymity Movement

By John Alekna

In a recent article in the New York Times (“Protect our Right to Anonymity”, 9-12-11), GW law professor Jeffrey Rosen editorializes for the expansion Americans’ legal right to electronic privacy.

This right has been eroded to near non-existence. Sure, as he mentions, a dozen or so states have made warrant-less electronic surveillance illegal, but the overwhelming majority offer no redress for this crime. More importantly, perhaps, new intrusive facial recognition technologies, like that found on Facebook, are completely blowing apart any notion of anonymity. Can we still be a free society without the ability to hide—online or in the real world? If there is no refuge from the identifying eye of corporations and the government, how can express our true thoughts without fear?  Let’s not forget that Common Sense was published by “An Englishman” and not by Thomas Paine.

The Supreme Court will soon rule on the expectation of electronic privacy in the case United States vs. Jones. We hope, as professor Rosen does, that the Court validates de jure what society is already coming to recognize de facto—electronic privacy as a basic right. We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed.