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Anonymity in Cyberspace: Finding the Balance

Date: July 09, 2006
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Mohamed CHAWKI

... (visited 03/01/2006).
6 The term “identity” is commonly used arbitrarily and imprecisely in popular media and literature and the terms “identity
theft” and “identity crime” are frequently used interchangeably. Occasional misusers are not surprising because in the
contemporary context, the traditional meaning underlying those concepts have become increasingly known as information and
information technology (IT). The Oxford English Dictionary defines “identity” as “the set of behavioral or personal
characteristics by which an individual is recognised”. The traditional use of the word “identity” spoke to one’s name, familial
membership and occupation. The contemporary meaning of “identity” has, however, assumed a candidly IT connotation that
extends traditional meanings to include such things as one’s consumer and credit histories, financial accounts, and Social
security number. It is this contemporary usage of “identity” that is at issue when it comes to conceptualizing identity theft. See
J. COLLINS, Preventing Identity Theft Into Your Business (New Jersey, John Wiley), [2005], p. 7; J. MAY, Preventing
Identity Theft (N.Y., Security Resources Unlimited), [2004]; G. NEWMAN, Identity theft (U.S. Department of
Justice, COPS), [June 2004], p. 7.
7 See G. du PONT, op. cit. P. 192.
8 See Ibid; M. GOODMAN and S. BRENNER, The Emerging Consensus on Criminal Conduct in Cyberspace (U.C.L.A J. L.
&TECH.), [2002], 3, 4-6.
9 See E. HENSEN and J. BORLAND, New Assault Weapons Pose Threat to Web, available at CentNews.com
10 See Clinton Taking up Web Security, available at:
(visited 05/01/2006).
11 See A. LEPAGE, Libertés et Droits Fondamentaux à l’Epreuve de l’Internent (Paris, Litec – édit du Juris Classeur),
[2002], B. LAMY, La Liberté d’Opinion et le Droit Pénal (Paris, L.G.D.J), [2000].
12 See The Demise of Anonymity, A Constitutional Challenge to the Convention on Cybercrime (LOYOLA OF LOS
ANGELES ENTERTAINEMENT LAW REVIEW [Vol. 23:81], p. 82.
13 See C. NICOLL, Digital Anonymity and Law: Tensions and Dimensions (The Hague, The Netherlands), [2003], p. 2.
14 See J. LIPSCHULTZ, Free Expression in the Age of the Internet: Social and Legal Boundaries (Oxford, West View Press),
[2000].
15 According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, information is “knowledge of specific events or
situations that has been gathered or received by communication, intelligence, or news”.
16 See C. NICOLI, op. cit. p. 3.
17 Ibid.
18 Ibid , C. VIER, L’Internet et le Droit (Paris, Victoires), [2001].
19 See C. NICOLI, op. cit. p. 3.
20 See M. BARKARDJIEVA, Internet Society: The Internet in Everyday Life (Sage Publishers), [2005].
21 Ibid.
22 A. BERTRAND : Droit à la Vie Privée et Droit à l’Image (Paris, Litec), [1999].
23 See G. PONT, The Criminalization of True Anonymity in Cyberspace (7 MICH TELECOM TECH. L. REV. 191), [2001],
p. 192.
24 Ibid.
25 Ibid.
26 Ibid.
27 See G. PONT, op. cit.
28 Ibid.
29 Ibid.
30 See for example Doe v. 2 TheMart .com, Inc., 140F. Supp. 2d 1088, 1097 (W.D. Wash 2001); see also ACLU v. Miller,
977 F. Supp. 1228, 1232 (N.D. Ga 1997).
31 For example, the state of Florida maintains an anonymous hotline for government workers to report wastes and abuses to
the comptroller’s office.
32 See E.BERNARD, The Collapse of the Harm Principle, 90 (J. CRIM. L. &Criminology) 109, 120-39 [1999].
33 See K. RIGBY, op. cit.
34 See K. RIGBY, op. cit.
35 Ibid.
36 See Forensic Advisors v. Matrixx Initiatives available at (visited 15/02/2006).
37 Ibid.
38 See S. KAKYTL, Privacy vs. Privacy, Yale Journal of Law and Technology, [Winter 2004],
39 See (visited 15/02/2006).
40 Ibid.
41 See Y. AKDENIZ, Anonymity, Democracy and Cyberspace (Social Research), Vol. 69, N°1 (Spring 2002), p. 5; M.
WASIK, Crime and the Computer (Oxford, Rendon Press Oxford), [1998], A. LUCAS, J. DEVEZE and J. FRAYSSINET,
Droit de l’Informatique et de l’Internet (Paris, PUF), [2001].
42 The principle that the only justification for criminalizing conduct is to prevent harm is traceable in the writings of John
Stuart Mill. In On Liberty, Mill declared that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in
interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be
rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. J. MILL ON
LIBERTY 9 (1859). The position Mill takes in this passage, of course, can only be used to justify the articulation of crimes
against persons and crimes against property, for only these crimes directly inflict harm upon others. In the years after the
appearance of On Liberty, Mills and later scholars expanded the principle so it now reaches a wide variety of harms. See, e.g.,
E.BERNARD, The Collapse of the Harm Principle, 90 (J. CRIM. L. &Criminology) 109, 120-39 [1999]. See also J. HALL,
General Principals in Criminal Law 213-22 (1960). The nature of the harm encompassed by a criminal prohibition is not
relevant to the issues under consideration in this article; the issue addressed in the section immediately above is whether or
not the varieties of conduct that are currently, and casually, described as cybercrime result in the infliction of sociallyintolerable
harms that are distinct from those addressed by the repertoire of crimes respectively found in contemporary
human societies. See also A.-C. DANA, Essai Sur la Notion d’Infraction Pénale (Paris, L.G.D.J.), [1982] ; C. MASCALA,
Droit Pénal Général (Paris, Montchrestien), [2003] ; E. GARCON : Code Pénal Annoté (Paris, Sirey), [1956] ; J.
LARGUIER : Droit Pénal des Affaires (8e éd. Colin.), [1992] ; A. AMIN, Criminal Law (Cairo, Lagna’at al Targama),
[1923] ; H. Al-MARSAFAWI, Criminal Law (Alexandria, Al Ma’aref), [1991]; M. HOSSNI, Special Criminal Law (Cairo,
Dar Al Naha Al Arabia), [1986]; M. MOUSTAFA : Droit Pénal Spécial (Cairo, Dar Al-Nahda Al-Arabia), [1984].
43 There have been surveys of the incidence and effects of cybercrime on business. See, e.g., U.S. Department of Justice –
Bureau of Justice Statistics, Cybercrime Against Businesses [2004] at :
(last visited Sept. 27, 2004); Computer Security Institute, Ninth Annual
CSI/FBI Computer Crime and Security Survey [2004] at :
(last visited Sept. 27, 2004) [Hereinafter CSI/FBI Survey]; Australian CERT,
2004 Australian Computer Crime and Security Survey, at (last visited Sept. 18, 2004).
These surveys generally do not differentiate between crime and cybercrime as legal phenomena. The question used in the
Bureau of Criminal Justice Statistics’ 2001 survey of cybercrime against businesses, for example, asked about the
following categories of security threats: embezzlement; fraud theft of proprietary information; denial of service; vandalism
or sabotage (electronic); computer virus, other intrusion or breach of computer systems, misuse of computers by employees,
unlicensed use of copying of digital products developed for resale, and other.
See U.S. Department of Justice – Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2001 Computer Security Survey 1, at
(last visited Sept. 27, 2004). The same agency’s survey of
cybercrime cases handled by state prosecutors audited the following issues: credit card fraud, bank card fraud, computer
forgery, computer sabotage, unauthorized access to computer, unauthorized copying or distribution of computer programs,
cyberstalking, theft of intellectual property, transmitting child pornography, and identity theft. The CSI/FBI Computer
Crime survey focused on these issues: virus insider abuse of net access, laptop/mobile theft, unauthorized access to
information, system penetration, denial of service, theft of proprietary information, sabotage, financial fraud, telecom fraud.
CSI/FBI Survey, as § II explains, these categories do not represent increments of a new type of criminal activity: cybercrime.
Instead, they represent the use of computer technology to commit traditional offenses: crime. Section II considers whether the
use of computer technology to commit crimes differs from traditional criminal activity in ways that justify treating it
differently for purposes of legal analysis and/or tracking its incidence and effects; M. ERBSCHLOE, Trojans, Worms
and Spyware (Oxford, Heinmann), [2005], p. 21.
44 See R. GELMAN, Protecting Yourself Online, The Definitive Resource on Safety, Freedom and Privacy in
Cyberspace ( Harpcollins Publishers), [ 1998].
45 The Electronic Frontier [2000], also see R. SPINELLO, Regulating Cyberspace: The Policies and Technologies of Control
(U.S.A, Spinello), [2002] p. 207; G. THERY, Les Autoroutes de l’Information (Report: La Documentation Française),
[Octobre 1994].
46 See E. OGILEIV, The Internet and Cyberstalking, available at (visited...


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2008-06-09 11:47:32 - Sorry for the multiple messages, I pressed... Albert Nonymus
2008-06-09 11:46:24 - Interesting read, for the... Albert Nonymus
2008-06-09 11:45:53 - Interesting read, for the... Albert Nonymus
2008-06-09 11:45:37 - Interesting read, for the... Albert Nonymus
2007-02-26 07:36:24 - The information I found here was rather... uomo
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2006-08-10 22:16:48 - I agree with you that anonymity should not... Marianna
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