The end of anonymity?

Several sources have reported that the International Telecommunication Union (a UN agency) is drafting technical standards, proposed by the Chinese government, to define methods of tracing the original source of Internet communications and potentially curbing the ability of users to remain anonymous.

The U.S. National Security Agency also participates in the “IP Traceback” drafting group, named Q6/17. For the time being, members of Q6/17 have declined to release key documents, and meetings remain closed to the public.

While the justification for tracebacks is to counter distributed denial of service attacks, the proposal actually runs against Internet users’ right to remain anonymous – protected by law in the United States and recognized in international law by groups such as the Council of Europe.

It remains to be seen how much will actually come out of the Q6/17. First, the traceback proposal isn’t scheduled to be finished until 2009. Second, the ITU can not impose any given standard on any country. Third, anonymity is protected by law/constitution in many jurisdictions. That said, one can not fail to notice the activity of Chinese companies at the ITU over the recent years, which given their increasing economic weight, can only keep growing.