Monday, December 24, 2012

China considers real-name registration for Internet use

It's already true that Weibo, China's version of Twitter, already requires real-name registration, but now the government is considering the same move -- for all of the Internet, according to a report issued on Monday in the state-run Xinhua news service.

China is again considering real-name registration for its Internet. It's something that has been bandied about before, but never came to fruition.

Imagine if you couldn't just hop onto your favorite wi-fi at Starbucks or your local coffee shop without identifying yourself, and with your actual name, as well. That's what China is considering.

Li Fei, deputy director of the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the NPC Standing Committee, said:
Such identity management could be conducted backstage, allowing users to use different names when publicizing information.
The fact that the new was publicized in state-run Xinhua is somewhat ominous. If implemented, a real-name system would allow authorities to keep track of the digital activities of Chinese citizens, a useful thing for a government known to track down an punish political dissidents.

Such dissidents rely on anonymity online, not just through the normal anonymity of the Internet, but through tools such as proxy servers which disguise their location and are often used to bypass the Great Firewall of China.

It's unclear when or if the new provisions will come into effect. The country has more than a half billion Internet users, and such a move would be complex, involving not just wired broadband, but mobile broadband as well.

It is also unclear how this would affect travelers, who -- for example -- might want to link to their hotel's wi-fi when visiting Beijing or another Chinese city. Such a move would also affect any outsourced facilities of Western companies, as well, as without the Internet there would be no such globalization.

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