By: Patrick Kiger
It's been 20 years since New Yorker ran this cartoon, which was the origin of the meme that "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." But it's still pretty much true, as we recently were reminded, thanks to the unfortunate recent case of a star college football player whose online girlfriend--stricken tragically with leukemia, or so he thought--turned out to be a fake, perpetrated upon him by an online hoaxster.
But there are more and more signs that Internet anonymity--once heralded as one of the essential building blocks of the online world's freedom-loving anarchistic spirit--is destined to go the way of dialup modems. Instead, we' may be peering into a future in which everybody will be continually, instantly identifiable online, no matter what device you use, or what elaborate layers of ambiguity you seek to fashion.
One sign of this paridigm shift is the news that Google is exploring the possibility of eliminating passwords, and replacing them with identifiable hardware. One way to do this would be pocket-sized USB devices containing cryptographic cards, which users would carry around with them and plug into their PCs (for handheld devices or smart phones, they'd use a wireless NFC connection). As this Wired article explains: