I originally wrote this piece in January 2011 as feedback to this article at Engadget.
This is certainly the most frightening story of the past decade. It is more threatening to personal liberties (and even to national security) than any terrorist organization.
There will probably be a very short time between implementation of a national cyber ID infrastructure and implementation of an effective means to mix/proxy or otherwise obfuscate the digital trails of a casual web surfer.
It’s likely that an eventual law would criminalize anyone who covers their tracks. But even if the use of an accredited-ID channel is optional, your liberty is threatened by the very existance of a national identity program. Think of Germany rounding up the Jews. Is the metaphor too extreme? Think of a prosecutor questioning a witness: “Mr. Smith, I see that you did not allow your identity to be tracked when you posted this message. What are you trying to hide? Only criminals hide their Internet ID!”
It is critical to a democracy and to our personal freedoms that we are not identified each time that we speak. Not even as a default option that we can easily override. When you walk into a bar, you may be “carded” so that you can purchase alcohol (just as you must present a credit card for an on-line purchase). But your ID is not recorded and then correlated with your statements to to other patrons or to the proprietor (in case you missed the metaphor, the proprietor is a government).
– Ellery Davies