Driver’s Licenses for the Internet?

Sure, great idea. Will I need to take some type of proficiency test before I can get my license? Will I need to get my computer inspected yearly? Will I need some type of insurance? And what exactly is the purpose of this anyway? What are they supposedly trying to protect all of us from? Unlicensed users? Unlicensed computers? Yeah, I can see this taking off in a big way. If you can’t shut something down, you can at least regulate it out of existence.

From The New York Times:

Today’s idea: Let’s have “driver’s licenses” for the Internet to counter online fraud, hackers and espionage, a Microsoft executive suggests.

Internet | Maybe on your busy junket to the World Economic Forum in Davos last week you missed the panel where Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s chief research and technology officer, offered up the Internet licensing proposal above. Barbara Kiviat of the Curious Capitalist blog was there, and summarizes the idea thusly:

 

What Mundie is proposing is to impose authentication. He draws an analogy to automobile use. If you want to drive a car, you have to have a license (not to mention an inspection, insurance, etc.). If you do something bad with that car, like break a law, there is the chance that you will lose your license and be prevented from driving in the future. In other words, there is a legal and social process for imposing discipline. Mundie imagines three tiers of Internet I.D.: one for people, one for machines and one for programs (which often act as proxies for the other two).

Now, there are, of course, a number of obstacles to making such a scheme be reality. Even here in the mountains of Switzerland I can hear the worldwide scream go up: “But we’re entitled to anonymity on the Internet!” Really? Are you? Why do you think that?

Mundie [above] pointed out that in the physical world we are implicitly comfortable with the notion that there are certain places we’re not allowed to go without identifying ourselves. Are you allowed to walk down the street with no one knowing who you are? Absolutely. Are you allowed to walk into a bank vault and still not give your name? Hardly.

The Internet was never originally intended as a worldwide system of mass communication, Ms. Kiviat notes, let alone a largely anonymous one. But that is what it grew into, replete with feisty commenters like those reacting to her post. [The Curious Capitalist]

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