RSA’s Art Coviello: Anonymity Is The Enemy Of Privacy

RSA boss and privacy advocates at loggerheads again, as Coviello accused of ignoring the furore around NSA surveillance

Anonymity benefits cyber crooks and should be eradicated from networks if people want privacy, according to Art Coviello, executive chairman of security company RSA, speaking at the RSA Conference 2013 in Amsterdam

Coviello called anonymity the  “enemy of privacy”, as it allowed crooks that steal people’s private information to operate without threat of prosecution.

Coviello against anonymity

Art-coviello-RSA preferred“We must strike a balance between Orwellian oversight of the people using our networks and an equally dogmatic [devotion] to anonymity,” Coviello said. “An anonymous network gives free reign to our adversaries, who want nothing more than that anonymity so they can get our private data with no risk of prosecution.

“We must be transparent and above board with our monitoring processes.”

Over recent RSA conferences, Coviello has proselytised on the benefits of intelligence driven security, and fretted over privacy concerns, although he admitted today such potentially intrusive systems could be “misused”. “We don’t want to support Big Brother,” he added.

Coviello said security and privacy don’t have to be opposite ideas, but anonymity damages this relationship.

He claimed customers were afraid to adopt security intelligence systems due to concerns over infringing on people’s privacy, even though those same technologies would protect their personal information. Privacy remains a “serious complication”, putting companies in a “paralysing Catch 22”.

There has been much attention given to anonymising services, from the Tor network to VPNs, and intelligence agencies and law enforcement across the globe are searching for ways to de-anonymise users. Yet many fear doing so will expose those using anonymity legitimately, such as activists hoping to avoid punishment from repressive regimes.

And many disagree with Coviello’s sentiment, especially in light of massive surveillance operations carried out by the NSA, GCHQ and other intelligence agencies, as revealed by the Edward Snowden leaks. “I suspect Mr Coviello has been living in a cave for the past six months. It’s now clear that anonymity in the online world is privacy’s last remaining ally,” Simon Davies, founder of Privacy International and author of the Privacy Surgeon blog, told TechWeekEurope.

“Until police and national intelligence agencies are made lawful and accountable it is the responsibility of citizens to adopt anonymity. Many cyber crooks are now masquerading as three-letter agencies and they are clearly becoming the true enemy of privacy.”

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