Rights to anonymity in cyber crime

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INTRODUCTION It is undeniable that in cyber world, everyone is able to create a number of personalities that no one could distinguish whether an identity is reliable or not; or, even leave a hole to cyber crimes to carry on internet frauds using different fake identities. Consequently, this circumstance might lead to much confusion and burden in terms of transparency and accountability in social networking. Recently, although some countries and online social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter have tried to have a new regulation of identity verification to avoid potential trouble[1], they still have to face with a bunch of objection from Internet citizens. What is the reason for their opposition? The answer is despite the proposal of Network real-name system to minimize the negative effects that can be caused by anonymity[2], a lot of Internet users believe that it is their right to register an identity with fake information will protect their private information better. This point of view becomes a reason of a long-lasting conflict between the identity verification and the right to anonymity. Within the scope of this research paper, our group would like to discuss about these two online identity verification systems by analyzing the advantage and disadvantage of them regard to different legal aspects. Eventually, we will come to a conclusion which one is better to ensure either the security of the cyber world and reasonable right of users or how to balance these two policies to strengthen the cyber law system. Key Words: Social Networking, Transparency, Accountability, Identity Verification, Right of Anonymity, cyber world, cyber crime.
  1. General concept of transparency and accountability in social networking, the identity verification and right to anonymity.
    1. Necessity of Transparency and Accountability in social networking
Social networking refers to “the practice of expanding the number of one's business and/or social contacts by making connections through individuals”[3]; more precisely, it is “the activity of sharing information and communicating with groups of people using the internet, especially through websites that are specially designed for this purpose”[4]. In a social network, no one could know each other well and it is quite easy to commit a cyber crime or infringement due to share an illegal material without the permission of the author or conduct a fake transaction. In these cases, who will be accountable for the wrong-doing actions and how to recognize him among the cyber identities. To deal with those questions, the definition of accountability and transparency comes first. Accountability is being responsible for someone for actions taken; about being able to explain, clarify and justify actions[5]. For example, the court has a right to know and hold A to account; and that A has a duty to explain and account for his actions. Transparency is about being easy to understand, and being open, frank and honest in all communications, transactions and operations[6]. It is possible to be accountable by providing a lengthy and technical explanation of every detail[7]; however, if this information is not clarified enough for the court and related parties, and if key facts are hidden by the sheer volume of information then the information is not presented in a transparent form. It could be said that the accountability and transparency may go hand-in-hand[8] in social networking because transparency is a necessary part of accountability, but - as defined above - it is not the same as accountability. For instance, in case the court decides to hold a cyber entity accountable for a copyright infringement, it must find out information about that these cyber identities, actions (transparency), but then the court must go to the further step of accountability will get involve to more than just information. It may need action by the courts to hold whether the questioned cyber entity accountable. Thus, transparency seems to be a first component of accountability[9]. In general, the relationship and process of transparency and accountability in social networking is quite complicated that comes to the result of the urgent need to have the Identity Verification system, which can help the court less burden when dealing with cyber world problems.
  1. Identity Verification system in cyberspace
According to Prof. Aaron P. Smith, “cyber identity”, also called digital identity, refers to an identity that is established, through participation and decision making, by a user in a digital community, or cyberspace[10]. However, until now there is no generic system for identification in cyberspace[11]. Nowadays, almost websites require the users to sign up with any private information such as name, date of birth, address… and even the bank account in any commercial transaction that make users find it inconvenient and insecure to disclose information[12], which lead to the tendency of using a pseudonym instead and no one could know about it. They call it as a means of “safety”. Nevertheless, in case their rights and proper benefit are breached or facing to the cyber identity theft, it is impossible for the users who provide fake information to sue a claim or guarantee their reasonable rights. Hence, it plays an important part to have the Identity Verification systems not only for websites to reduce the risks of cyber crimes but also for Internet users to protect themselves. Based on the proposal to have an Internet real-name system, a number of nations tried to put it into practice. South Korea is the vanguard to implement this system under the “Real Name Verification Law”[13]. After that, China passed “the Decision on Improving Network Information Protection”[14]. Swiss also issued Convention on Cyber Crime so as to have network regulation more concerted and be able to effectively prevent cyber crimes[15]. Although this system has enforced for a long time, the implementation and effect contain several gaps among countries (will be discussed precisely in the following part). One of the biggest problems arising from the objection of some Internet users would prefer the “Right of Anonymity” in cyber world.
  1. Right of Anonymity in cyber world
…“Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”[16]... Anonymity is derived from the Greek word “anonymia”, meaning “without a name”, in the common usage it refers to the state of an individual’s personal identity, or personally identifiable information, being publicly unknown[17]. In the modern world of the information society, anonymity is defined as an aspect of informational privacy[18]. Anonymity is also considered as a part of social interaction; that means reducing the disclosure of your identity to certain persons or certain areas of social life and society. It is true that all of web browses leave some vestige of personal information through the huge storage cached in Internet; all these information represents us in the cyberspace and it led to greater support for anonymity appearance[19]. However, as mentioned above, some try to abuse this right to commit crimes on cyber world; thus, in order to establish better monitoring of the Internet and protect the cyber security, certainly it has been observed the high demand of anonymity on the web, but the anonymity is a concept that raising fear in our mind since someone would take illegal actions and cyber crimes. This consideration would meet strong arguments from the Internet participants who support of the human right as freedom of speech and censorship avoidance[20]. Thus, between Identity Verification and Right of Anonymity, which one is better to protect either the security of the cyber world and reasonable right of users? How to balance these two systems? What is the recommendation to strengthen the current cyber law system relating to these on-going arguments? The answer is based on the comparison between the two policies in different legal aspect as below.
[1] Adrianne Jeffries 2012, “Facebook's fake-name fight grows as users skirt the rules”, available at http://www.theverge.com/2012/9/17/3322436/facebook-fake-name-pseudonym-middle-name, last visited on 11 October 2014. [2] Park Dong-yeol 2012, “Real-names or False-names? How to Best Enforce Internet Etiquette”, The UOS Times, available at http://times.uos.ac.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=1371, last visited on 11 October 2014. [3] Margaret Rouse, “Social networking”, available at http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/social-networking, last visited on 11 October 2014. [4] Cambridge Dictionary Online, available at http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/business-english/social-networking, last visited on 11 October 2014. [5]“Defining Accountability and Transparency & Key Principles” (para 1), available at http://www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk/guidance/code-of-fundraising-practice/guidance/accountability-and-transparency-guidance/defining-accountability-and-transparency-and-key-principles/, last visited on 11 October 2014. [6] Id, para 2. [7] Id,. [8] Id,. [9] “ICTs for Government Transparency”, http://www.egov4dev.org/transparency/definitions.shtml,last visited on 11 October 2014. [10] Aaron P. Smith, “Real Vs. Fake: Identity Creation in Cyberspace”. Published by ProQuest Information and Learning Company, 2008. p.6. [11] Hal Abelson and Lawrence Lessig, “Digital Identity in Cyberspace”, White Paper Submitted for 6.805/Law of Cyberspace: Social Protocols, 10 December 1998, p.1. [12] Nabeth and Thierry, “Understanding the Identity Concept in the Context of Digital Social Environments”, FIDIS Deliverables (FIDIS) 2 (2), May 2006, p.74–91 [13] Song Guangxing and Yang Pingfang, The Influence of Network Real-name System on the Management of Internet Public Opinion, Public Administration In The Time Of Regional Change (ICPM 2013), 2013, p.48,49. [14] in the 30th session of the Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress [15] Id, note 13 [16] The European Convention of Human Rights Art.8(1). [17] Dirk Voorhoof, “Internet and the right of anonymity”, in J. SURCULIJA (ed.), Proceedings of the conference Regulating the Internet, Belgrade, 2010, p.2. [18] Id,. [19] Pierluigi Paganini, “The right to anonymity on Internet and legal implications”, available at http://securityaffairs.co/wordpress/6452/intelligence/the-right-to-anonymity-on-internet-and-legal-implications.html, last visited on 12 Oct, 2014 [20] Id,.
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