It was reported last week that Donald Kerr, the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, made the controversial proclamation: "Protecting anonymity isn't a fight that can be won." At an October conference, Kerr, in advocating for greater information sharing between intelligence agencies responsible for national security, stated that "in our interconnected and wireless world, anonymity - or the appearance of anonymity - is quickly becoming a thing of the past." Kerr urged that we "move beyond the construct that equates anonymity with privacy and focus more on how we can protect essential privacy in this interconnected environment." By "essential privacy" he appears to mean - albeit oxymoronically - that the government, particularly the intelligence community, knows who you are and has information about you, but must work within "a system of laws, rules, and customs with an infrastructure of Inspectors General, oversight committees, and privacy boards" that govern the use of personal information. Kerr backed up his thesis by pointing out his "willing[ness] to share my credit card number and expiration date with a person I have never seen," and his ability "to get past being anonymous in" such online transactions. He also highlighted the fact that many young people freely provide all sorts of personal information on websites like MySpace, Facebook and YouTube. There are two problems with these statements. First, Kerr completely dismisses the value of anonymous speech in a free, democratic society.
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