European Countries Seek to Curb Online Anonymity

Filed as News on February 25, 2007 8:12 am

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In an effort to aid the investigation of crimes and terrorist attacks, some European countries are proposing to outlaw the use of phony information in opening email accounts or setting up websites. AP reports that the German and Dutch governments have started to create legislation that would make it illegal to provide false information to ISPs when signing up for email addresses. These laws would also require telephone companies to save detailed information on customer usage.

While the purpose of banning anonymous email addresses and websites may be for the safety of the public, users are concerned about the possible privacy implications of such legislation. There are worries particularly with government examination or even potential commercial use of the personal information attached to email addresses. Spammers could potentially get hold of such information. Also, anonymous bloggers can no longer be so.

It is also argued that such directives would not deter any determined individual from conducting communications (whether meant for innocent or criminal purposes) that cannot easily be traced, given that various methods for anonymizing and encryption exist.

Still, the Netherlands and Germany are only just moving ahead in their implementation of the Data Retention Directive of the European Union (PDF file), which, in summary, requires communications providers to retain for up to two years information about data such as the origin, intended destination, type of communication, and even the physical location of mobile communications equipment (Wikipedia). The deadline for EU members to comply with the Internet-related aspects of the directive is in May 2009.

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