Paul Boutin has an essay in Slate on efforts to weave digital IDs and secure computing into the Web. (It's one of those meta-articles that were common in 19th century journalism, and have made a comeback in the world of Web publishing and blogging: an article discussing an article (Steven Levy's recent Newsweek piece based on another article, John Walker's "The Digital Imprimatur: How big brother and big media can put the Internet genie back in the bottle.") Walker (and Boutin) argue that digital IDs will be sold to the public as a convenience– a way to cut down on spam, for example– and as a way to protect against identity theft; but that equally significant benefits will go to media companies and others who want to tame the anarchy of the Web (and shut down file trading). It'll also spur a backlash:
"Picture digital freedom fighters huddling in the electronic equivalent of caves, file-swapping and blogging under the radar of censors and copyright cops," Newsweek concluded. They might as well have added: Cooooooooooool.
An ad hoc alliance of techno-rebels covertly transferring unauthorized data in defiance of network authorities– sound familiar, Neo? It's such a popular scenario that the same Microsoft researchers leading the company's secure computing efforts wrote a paper two years ago describing this inevitable backlash, which they dubbed the darknet. The darknet! Jeez, are they trying to make piracy cool?
The essay, incidentally, is The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution."