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article imageFrance considers obligatory state-controlled web user names

By Michael Cosgrove     Jun 27, 2009 in Internet
No, today is not April Fool’s day. The French Law Commission is considering ways of obliging internet users to register their pseudonyms, or ‘handles,’ with a government agency in order to control “abuse.” Details were presented yesterday.
France is said to have more laws relative to its population than any other country in the world. China calls France “The country of laws.” Yet another law is being considered at the moment, and it is raising eyebrows in internet circles. French internet user news site ‘Ecrans” – ‘Screens’ published some details.
Yesterday, at a French Senate symposium called “Rights and Freedoms in the Numerical Society” organised by State Secretary in charge of the Numeric Economy Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Senator Yves Détraigne presented his idea that although people should have the right to be anonymous on the internet, this right should be repertoried and managed by public authorities.
Détraigne is the co-author of the recent French Senate report “Privacy in a world of numerical memory. For the reinforcement of confidence between citizens and the computer society.”
The report was ordered by the Law Commission.
One of the principles it defends is the right to be anonymous on the internet, and that people may separate their real identity from their internet identity.
Détraigne explained things a little more precisely. “People should have the right to be anonymous on the internet by using a pseudonym, but it should be a pseudonym that they couldn’t use freely, just like that, without any rules.” He went on to explain that the public authorities would be “the interface, the guardian” of secret identities.
More details are contained in the report. It explains the importance of internet users being able to “hide their real identities” at a time when “Identity-theft is often pointed out and states reinforce methods to identify individuals.”
It goes on to propose the implementation of a system in which “each individual would have the right to create his own alternative personality, distinct from that of the individual who uses it. In order to avoid that this right be used to commit offences, these alternative identities would be confided to an official body which would control it. In cases where offences are committed, the justice system could ask it for the real identity of the person.”
In other words, this official body would be the interface between the user, the justice system, and the state.
The symposium was open to the public, who had the right to ask questions. To a person who mentioned the absurdity of user names being regulated by such an authority, Senator Détraigne answered;
“It is indispensable in an organised society that, under cover of anonymity, people do not do whatever they like. Public authorities must maintain order. Freedom of expression is an important value, but that is no reason to propagate anything and everything.”
One French commenter remarked dryly “In other words, we would be anonymous, except that we wouldn’t be anonymous.”
You read it here first, on June 27 and not April 1.
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