Anonymous' hackers threaten online privacy
Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 15:02
We live in a world where privacy is a thing of the past, where people can post hourly updates about their everyday lives and where technology and computers thrive. Within this world of WikiLeaks and the "hactivists" known as Anonymous, our society has become accustomed to instantaneous updates and readily available information. If we are denied this in any way, we rebel.
Anonymous was called a group of "Internet enthusiasts, pranksters and activists" in a recent CBS News article. They seem to target major corporations or businesses that have refused to release private information or ones that take legal action Anonymous sees as exhibiting overpowering censorship. Anonymous has been responsible for many acts of "hactivism" – hacking that results in the shutdown of websites in order to convey a message or prove a point – over the past few years.
In addition to the recent declaration to shut down the Internet, Anonymous has been responsible for the defacement of numerous law enforcement websites and the forced shutdown of Combined Systems, a Pennsylvania tear-gas maker, according to Fox News.
And that was just this month.
Anonymous has also been connected to the Occupy movement, and the CIA suspects its involvement in a recent shutdown of the CIA's main webpage, according to the Huffington Post. In the past, the group has also targeted the websites of Mastercard, Visa and Amazon in retribution for their split with WikiLeaks, where the companies stated that WikiLeaks had violated their terms of service, according to AFP.
But in researching Anonymous, I found no clear leader and no clear reason behind why they do what they do. Anonymous doesn't seem to be a cohesive group at all, but rather a name to hide behind as they illegally hack and attack websites of their choosing, as can be seen when the group disagreed over the take-down of Facebook back in January.
The group seems to be one step away from outright cyber-terrorism as it bullies other companies that enact laws protecting our rights as consumers to privacy. I understand some of their reasons for acting out, such as the near-illegal constraints SOPA and PIPA would present if passed, but the way in which they choose to embody activist principles needs to be changed.
A line must be drawn to separate the act of simply seeking out new information and demanding the release of information at one's sole discretion. Who are they, after all, to decide what can remain private and personal and what shall be revealed to the entire world? Why should they have the power to choose which websites may metaphorically live or die?
I agree that our government should release pertinent information to the public as we do live in a need-to-know society. We shouldn't have to be afraid of becoming ignorant of the workings of the world, and we should have access to information that could directly affect our own lives.
But some things are better left unsaid and unread. Some matters were meant to be dealt with by the government alone, and releasing information just for the sake of releasing it could cause more harm than good.
A little rebellion is healthy now and again, but Anonymous' "hactivist" attacks increasingly resemble cyber-terrorism, where the activism that may have fueled the group's mission long ago seems to have been forsaken for a childish "I can do whatever I want" attitude. Yes, freedom of speech is paramount, but our society needs to remember the importance of ethical judgment as well.