Douwe Osinga's Blog: Do we need Digital IDs

Friday, October 10, 2003

Do we need Digital IDs

Kevin Werbag predicts the coming battle whether we'll Digital IDs will become mandatory. A lot industries will be asking for them, with seemingly convincing arguments. But the ability to be anonymous has achieved great things on the Internet. It will be a high price to pay if we loose that.

On the Internet nobody knows you're a dog, the old saying goes. But not for long. Their are a lot of powerful parties that want to end anonimity on the Internet and they'll be leaning on our governemnts to require Digital IDs to surf. They'll claim we'll need it to fight illegal copying of music, spam, terrorisme and that old stalward, kiddie porn. It will sound convincing: you need a drivers license to drive on the highway, so why no driver license for the Information Super Highway?

The openness of the Internet makes it vulnerable to misuse. But if you close it, you also close a source of new ideas. Anybody can implement a new protocol on the Internet and start using it. This is why so many good ideas have developed so fast: you don't need a lot of resources to write a blogging system and maybe more importantly, you don't need a license.

Ubiquous Digital IDs will stop this, because it will require all software to be compatible with it. Not a problem for Microsoft or Sun, but it will be for the new Dave Winer or Shawn Fanning. Stopping innovations at the grassroot level will be high price to pay.