November 8th, 2014


On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog -- or an undercover agent

This story on Ars Technica is kind of horribly funny. It relates how, after the original Silk Road (a huge online drug-dealing site) got shut down, other folks promptly started up Silk Road 2.0. That successor has now been comprehensively busted, in part because it had been infiltrated from the beginning. Not only was there a narc involved in the conversations, he was actually *being paid* by the site.

Which points up an interesting aspect of online pseudonymity that I think most folks don't think about: that it's only as good as the confidence you have in those pseudonyms. Just because the person at the other end of that nym is agreeing with what you say online doesn't mean that they are actually on your side. There are a million stories of folks winding up shocked about the real identity of the person they were talking to, usually because they had projected their own expectations much too strongly.

Mind, I'm a big fan of pseudonymity -- I think it is the natural adaptation of identity to the Internet, and should be used more broadly than it is. (Which is why it is Querki's main focus, just as it is for LiveJournal. It is also the top reason I didn't wind up working for Google.) But you shouldn't be naive about it. When it actually *matters*, always remember the cardinal rule: trust, but verify...