The news in the UK are frequently filled with stories and reports of legal cases concerning blogs, tweets and comments made online. It seems that many people make these remarks often under the misapprehension that they are made under the cover of anonymity. However the idea that you can do anything online anonymously is fairly far from the truth.
This of course becomes very obvious when the individuals find themselves in court or in the media, however many young people still seem to fail to learn this lesson. The reality is that just as in real life, anything you say online is ultimately traceable to an individual – sure it can take some effort and there can be some exceptions. But overall it is important to act online in a similar way as you would act in real life.
The reason is that everyone who connects to the internet is assigned an IP address which is linked to the device they are using. If you access to the internet at home, then tracing this ip address is a trivial matter – it is linked directly to your name and address via your ISP (Internet Service Provider). Tracking any web visit, email or message sent whilst using your home computer is very straight forward indeed.
Even messages sent from an unmanaged internet connection using a smart phone or tablet can usually be traced. This is normally not directly through the internet address you’re using at the time but through connections related to those accounts. So is it possible to have any anonymity at all online?
It is possible, although it does take some effort – have a look at this video for example.
As you can see it is possible to make it very difficult indeed to track people online, but without taking these steps you should presume that everything you do can in fact be traced back to an individual. Of course the debate on anonymity/privacy online is often quite a heated one with strong arguments on each side.
Some people think that everything should be attributable to an individual indeed social networking sites like Facebook insist on people using real names to interact. Others point to the potential for abuse of this sort of data, and with the Snowden revelations which showed how the various security services routinely track and harvest our data – it’s difficult to argue with this.
Whichever side of the debate you side with, one things for sure – young people should be aware of the fact that they have a digital identity and it can usually be linked with there real life. It is probably not appropriate to encourage the use of all these tools which hide and anonymize your connection without stressing their responsibilities.