Anonymous or Private?

I’ve never cared much about anonymity.

I guess it was a few years ago when Intel or some other chip maker decided to start putting some sort of trackable code into their chips – that was gonna make it so your personal PC would be uniquely identifiable to whoever cared to care about such things. Something like that – I’m not looking up the details of the story right now.

There was uproar, as I recall. People didn’t like it. I stayed quiet, but I thought the uproar was silly. I’ve really never cared much about anonymity – on the Internet or elsewhere.

For example, I am sitting in a busy train station right now. I just bought lunch at a newstand. I would not mind if everyone in the station knew exactly who I am – my name. In other words, if I am in a place, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for the other people in the place to know who I am. I have no interest in wearing a stocking over my head, or dark glasses, or dying my hair to evade identification.

By analogy, if I “am somewhere” online, I don’t mind if the other people who are there know who I am. So, when I’m at a website (the Internet equivalent of a public place such as a train station or newstand), I don’t mind being identifiable.

In fact, I prefer to be identifiable. I’d rather you know eXACtly who I am, at all times. That way there’s no mistake. Things like.. identity theft go out the window. Lack of anonymity benefits me, you, and makes the World more safe for.. humanity. 🙂

But privacy – that’s quite another matter: You can know who I am, but that does not mean you should know everything about me. Likewise, if you expect me to trust and relate or do business with you in some way, anything you learn about me due to my lack of anonymity.. well, I expect you to keep it to yourself, as appropriate.

Don’t be a blabber-mouth, in other words.

But when the issue of trackable chips in PC’s came up, I feel like people conflated anonymity with privacy, and somehow assumed that exact identifiability would translate into lack of privacy. But that’s only true if the “people” you “hang-out” with are.. kind of jerky about basic courtesies like: discretion, trust, and just being normal socially and business-wise.

What do you think? Do you care whether folks know who you are? Do you care whether folks know what you do? Do you care whether folks share what they know what you are and what you do with other people who you don’t know or necessarily trust? (Note: That’s a dig at all the vendors out there who think my business relationship with them is transitive to their “carefully selected partners”.)