The end of anonymity: tracking the netdogs to their kennels

I am just starting to catch up after a party conference season which saw some quite sophisticated discussion on the interplay of politics and IT: from the power, or otherwise, of the blogocracy to the tensions between net freedom and the need to protect the vulnerable.

The new media, as opposed to old ICT, lobbyists were there in force – but many were PR professionals whose lack of understanding as to what was practical, let alone what is happening as the business models of their clients clash with economic and political reality, was all too transparent.  

It was interesting to see infrastructure suppliers anxious to point out what they were doing to protect their customers in a converged world while opposing intervention by regulators and governments – because the latter have yet to understand the Internet of the last century, let alone that which is now coming onto being.

I was, however, particularly struck by a comment at an excellent event organised by Vodafone and the Teachers Unions under the title “Teachers v. young techies: who’s in charge?” on the impact of converged social networking on the world of education. This was run at all three main party conferences. Parts of the discussion were as I expected but one comment set me thinking. 

This was to do with the technical incompetance and naivety of most of those who believe that their on-line misconduct (from cheating and cyberbullying, through happy-slapping and worse) cannot be tracked and traced. It is becoming increasingly apparent that those in charge of providing technical support for the school, college or local police can now trace most traffic to its source, provided they have the time and motivation to do so.   

The astonishment of those conduct has beeen such as to lead major network operators to help the police track the cyberdogs to their kennels (fixed or mobile) illustrates a need to update ICT education at all levels to include not only privacy, security and self-protection – but also the awareness that “whatever you do on-line will be recorded and may be used in evidence against you”: whether by a teacher, policeman, potential future employer, fraudster or sexual predator.       

Uufortunately, few of the internet enthusiasts who crammed into events like “”Collaboration or control? Political and the Internet in the 21st Century” also attended those on how to handle the downside. Hopefully, the Parliament and the Internet conference on 16th October will bring the two sides together – but I doubt it.