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We are all criminals

In the anger and sorrow following Aaron Swartz’s suicide, Rob Graham makes an excellent point in I conceal my identity the same way Aaron was indicted for

According to his indictment, Aaron Swartz was charged with wirefraud for concealing/changing his “true identity”. It sent chills down my back, because I do everything on that list (and more).

Why do I do all this? That’s none of your business! I mean, all this has perfectly rational explanations in terms of cybersecurity, privacy, and anti-spam. You can probably guess most of the reasons. But explaining myself defeats the purpose. I shouldn’t have to explain myself to you, to prosecutors, or to a jury. I have a human right to privacy, and guarding that right should not be cause for prosecution.

In the course of indulging our job-related paranoia, most of us use one or many of these techniques. In the wrong context, these tactics can be used to show an intent to commit fraud or other such behavior. Even if that isn’t your intent. Remember, the Internet and a lot of these technologies have emerged over the past 10 years. Legislation, case law, and legal precedent lag far behind, so it will be at least several years before legal standards of maintaining Internet privacy can be established. Until then there will be a lot of collateral damage. Like Aaron Swartz.

—Mike Rothman

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