back to article Anonymity is the enemy of privacy, says RSA grand fromage

A dogmatic allegiance to anonymity is threatening privacy, according to Art Coviello, executive chairman of RSA. Coviello cast anonymity as the "enemy of privacy" because it gives "free reign to our networks to adversaries" with "no risk of discovery or prosecution." The head of EMC's security division told delegates at the …


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  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    From the official NSA handbaook

    "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength"

    1. Frankee Llonnygog

      Re: From the official NSA handbaook

      The only true secret is the one that everybody knows ... grasshopper.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        "Drone Signature Strikes" in your neighborhood? SOON!

        Precrime here.

        We have detected suspicious behaviour in your immediate future.

        Step away from the keyboard and show your hands. We have the permission to use deadly force!

    2. Brian Miller

      Re: From the official NSA handbaook

      Paraphrase: "We have to destroy privacy in order to save it!"

      To quote the guys from CarTalk: "BoooOOOoooOOOOooooGUS!! That's bogus!"

  2. CaptainHook
    Big Brother

    "Customers are caught in a Catch-22. They're afraid to deploy technology for fear of violating workers' privacy" even though security intelligence tools are ultimately the best way to protect personal information, Coviello argued.


    Read as: "we've just spent a fortune developing a big data analysis tools but since the NSA leaks none of our customers want to be seen as collecting private information".

  3. ratfox

    Sounds illogical to me

    But hey, not an expert.

    I would like to note, though, that even though people might claim a historical right to privacy, it is much harder to claim a historical right to anonymity. Before the internet, anonymity was strictly the domain of ROMANES EUNT DOMUS graffitis, anonymous letters, and possibly certain private clubs for the connoisseurs.

    I'm old enough to remember the articles in the early noughties commenting how all this "newsgroup trolling" and general uncivility on the Web were due to this strange and novel anonymity enjoyed by Internet users.

  4. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Executive chairman bites himself in the arse

    > with "no risk of discovery."

    Errm. That sounds to me like a very good definition of privacy, but has nothing to do with anonymity. You don't need to know someone's identity to catch them if they're performing a criminal act - just ask any policeman.

    As for giving free reign to "our networks"? Well, no. You can still have security at the point of entry to the network - or even at sensitive nodes within it. However the privacy element still holds: that if someone wants to say or do something once they have been validated and allowed access, their right to do or say that privately can be upheld.

    The problem is that the NRSA don't have the skills or ability to properly determine who are the righteous folk who should be allowed in and who should not. That's their failing to keep security up to speed with network development.

    Of course, that doesn't mean people should be allowed anonymous access to sensitive, secret or vital infrastructure. But only a damn fool would permit those anywhere near a public network.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    anonymity as the "enemy of privacy" because it gives "free reign to our networks to adversaries" with "no risk of discovery or prosecution."

    “When we understand the context of people’s ‘normal’ behaviour or how information flows... we can more clearly and quickly spot even a faint signal of any impending attack or intrusion...This is what makes intelligence-driven security future-proof. It eliminates the need for prior knowledge of the attacker or their methods.”

    What's that movie where they can prevent crimes BEFORE it happens called again? If these security facist have their way nobody is allowed to wear clothes for fear of what might be strapped underneath. The problem with the NSA and GCHQ with the use of private individual information IS the fact that they're being built on the assumption that everyone is/will be guilty of a crime at some point in time in the future.

    If they were responsible and trustworthy, this isn't so bad, but that's the problem, they're humans too. So they're by their very nature, not trustworthy. Fears of these information being used for citizen blackmail is very valid and has precedence that predates the internet. We couldn't have fought so hard for a free and democractic society only to be enslaved by our own governments and the people in "power" once again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Just what i was thinking

      The movie you are thinking of is i think, "Minority Report" ....

      “When we understand the context of people’s ‘normal’ behaviour or how information flows on our networks, we can more clearly and quickly spot even a faint signal of any impending attack or intrusion, ” Coviello explained, “This is what makes intelligence-driven security future-proof. It eliminates the need for prior knowledge of the attacker or their methods.”

      This is all a little scary to me - if there is a 98% probability of your behaviour predisposing that you will cause "a crime" - then does this mean that 2% of those stopped / incarcerated / thrown into Abu Graib / cautioned / renditioned (delete as applicable) would have been innocent - "a faint signal of any impending attack" - might be a load of bollox!

    2. Chris 244
      Big Brother

      Minority Report

      Around here you'd be better off asking "what's that short story..."

  6. Roger Stenning

    Sorry, what?!

    See if I've got this right: He's basically saying that "You can have privacy, but only if we know who you are and can prove it?" Screw that. If I want privacy, I do NOT want someone watching me and knowing who I am as I do whatever it is that I do. I think the man's been drinking too much java.

  7. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Attacks and intrusions will never be prevented by eliminating privacy/anonymity. Most network attacks are launched from distributed networks of infected systems. So the identity of the attack source is easily spoofed. And when the brains siting at the command and control systems are eventually found, odds are they will be resident in a country that refuses to take action against them.

    This just sounds like the complaints of a Big Data vendor who has had a couple of major customers have second thoughts.

    The real Big Brothers here are the commercial interests that will be harmed if corporations and even the NSA no longer buy their data warehouse solutions.

    1. James Micallef Silver badge

      Privacy can be improved if your 'customers' stop grabbing on to every bit of data they can nab from their user base and hold onto it forever. I don't see how knowing who usernames are in real life can help the users protect their privacy.

      What's needed to protect users' privacy is TOR built in at the OS level

  8. Michael 28


    "Customers are caught in a Catch-22. They're afraid to deploy technology for fear of violating workers' privacy"

    It's a question of trust, Art.....Basically they're saying they don't trust you.!!

  9. DragonLord

    Privacy - being able to say something to someone else without anyone else listening in.

    Anonymity - Being able to say something without anyone knowing who said it.

    Surveillance - Monitoring what's been said by everyone

    It seems to me that the RSA spokesman is confusing anonymity with privacy.

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Vociferous

    So basically we should have MODERATE privacy... law enforcement, secret services, laywers, ISP:s, copyright organizations, employers, prospective employers -- in short everyone + dog EXCEPT private citizens -- can track and monitor us on the net, instead of the excessive privacy we have today when we may say things which might upset our governments, RIAA or Paris Hilton without anyone knowing it was us who said it.

    And the irony of it is that this "excessive" privacy is already mostly an illusion, at least in Europe, where in most countries ISP:s are required to keep records of what you do on the, for law enforcement to peruse at their convenience.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like the chap needs to buy a bloody dictionary.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There it is...

    Someone finally said it. Our "security" is only necessary with the elimination of personal privacy.

    Obama and the US Gov will continue to issue soothing statements like "we are currently reviewing" and "we are examining how to protect peoples privacy" until the furor dies down and they carry on as usual.

    It's the same things they said about the PATRIOT Act and Guantanamo. They're still around.

  14. Awil Onmearse

    Say what?

    How come fucking spooks, and plod are always somehow granted anonymity when caught fucking over the populace?

  15. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    RSA Royale with Cheese

    Btw, it is "Grand Fromage" in french.

    "Grande" sounds spanish. Nobody likes the Spanish Inquisition.

    1. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: RSA Royale with Cheese

      "Nobody likes the Spanish Inquisition."

      More to the point, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Newspeak taken directly from 1984.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm not sure who I feel more sorry for, those that spout this crap or those that believe it.

    1. Irony Deficient

      Re: FUD

      Anonymous Coward, I’d feel more sorry for those who believe it. They who spout it on behalf of their employers at least receive remuneration for their actions.

      Regarding Whitelegg’s observation, please don’t take the views of Coviello, Schmidt, McNealy, et al. as being representative of all 310+ million of us.

  18. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Was this not the company whose security tools got royally shafted?

    And their customers (many of them US Megacorps) showing open doors to visiting malware installers?

    Beelzebub will be toting a pair of ice skates before I take a lecture from this little t**d.

  19. i like crisps

    Looks as if....

    .....The Aliens have finally 'Microchipped' Art Coviello.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Against Anonymity?

    He's just annoyed that both he and I have the same initials.

  21. Hollerith 1

    Pedant alert

    'Free rein' not 'free reign'. It came from horse-riding, when you dropped your hands and left the rein free, and the horse could do what it pleased.

  22. frank ly

    An form of words worthy of a politician

    “The European Union was built on its citizens' rights, including the right to privacy, a right the EU wishes to see exercised online, whereas the US view tends to be 'privacy is dead' .."

    The USA was also built on its citizens rights and over a long time it has mutated into what it is now. What will the European Union mutate into after a few more decades, or less time than that?

    1. Mephistro

      Re: An form of words worthy of a politician

      "What will the European Union mutate into after a few more decades, or less time than that?"

      If the USA's government and intelligence community get their deserved punishment for their attitudes on privacy, government transparency, human rights and respecting their own laws, there's a good chance that the EU will think twice before putting itself in that kind of situation.

      While this would delay the coming of the Panopticon dystopia, it's not a true solution, just a temporary palliative. The solution would be having a vigilant, well informed and well educated public.

      Yeah, I'll keep on dreaming. :0(

  23. Rick Giles

    Where's John McAfee when you need him?

    Waiting on my "darknet" box.

  24. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


    Wow, this talks me into not buying products from RSA. I mean, with this view, it seems almost guaranteed they would put backdoors into it. The fact of the matter is, there ARE security researchers that disrupt meeting places for illicit activities, botnets, and so on. They can't physically arrest them unless they screw up due to anonymity, this is true. But the realistic fact is the agencies that the RSA head honcho expects people to not worry about and give up their privacy to, are running amok with no checks and balances whatsoever.

  25. Mike Flugennock

    Anonymity is the enemy of...


    You bastards.

  26. JustWondering

    Sure ...

    Always a pleasure to hear from the folks at The Ministry of Truth.

  27. raving angry loony

    Headline says: "There's only one letter between RSA and NSA, after all"

    I count 3...

    N - O - P - Q - R

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's an out-by-one error. They're quite common.

  28. Schultz

    Privacy without anonymity???

    Privacy without anonymity relies on the benign intentions of the data-collecting agency. History shows that even the best intentions have a limited lifetime. So forget about privacy without anonymity.

  29. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Welcome to the machine....

    Here, this package contains your pre-screened privacy.

  30. Colin Tree


    It is the reason Iraq and Afghanistan were invaded.

    It is why we are all under scrutiny.

    The authorities will strike anyone before they have a chance to strike.

    They have re-written the rules of war.

    We are all the enemy, know your enemy.

    They have been drinking the Kool-Aid.

    I won't drink the Kool-Aid,

    I chose life.

    But on the reality side, when I talk to a friend I like to use their name and know who I am talking to.

    Nothing worse than this unknown stuff, it's personal, it's nice touchy feely stuff.

    We "know" lots of people on-line - hey wait, no we don't.

    There's a blank where there should be a face, wouldn't it be more human to have a face to talk to.

  31. Alt0n

    Sounds like a sales pitch to me. If we buy enVision and Authentication Manager we can free our logs of anonymous connections!

  32. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "security and privacy [..] for internet commerce to flourish"


    The only security and privacy that is needed is that of my credit card number for Internet commerce to flourish.

    You don't need to monitor my every IP packet for that.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    We should all have an UUID tattooed on our forehead and it must be encapsulated with each packet you send and receive on the internet.

  34. Identity

    One question...

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  35. CommanderGalaxian

    Flap Flap

    And parachutes are the enemy of Skydivers learning how to fly.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This post may contain

    Highly sensitive information that I don't want the NSA to see.

    Or then again, it may not...

  37. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    I smell a man with a product to sell

    To an "unnamed government agency."

  38. Mr. Balise

    The big problem with the Register is the flaming headines.

    Sometimes in British. Sometimes in French. Think of the poor

    Canadians monsieur ...

  39. Potemkine Silver badge

    "Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority"


  40. Chris G

    A quantum of privacy

    Anonymity implies not knowing who you are and where/when you are.

    Privacy implies not watching or listening to you, it sounds a bit like if you know a particles' position you can't know it's state etc. I cant say I understand quantum physics and I understand what he is saying even less.

    Stating that a tiny change in behaviour can help to tell when or if an attack may occur is not possible if privacy is permitted, as only knowing where people are and not what they are doing would not give enough information to provide enough certainty to act on.

    Just sounds like more bollocks to me.

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