Introducing: The Secret of Nym

The Secret of Nym – February 2015

Facebook is at it again. This time, they are after Native Americans. Among others, Lakota woman Dana Lone Hill was suspended because her name wasn’t “name-shaped.” It’s not solely targeted at them, though. A user named “Bob O’Bob” was suspended, as well as a user named “Jay Smooth.” In both of those cases, the name they were using was well established within their friends and family circles. Given that Facebook has been on a suspension spree since they started suspending drag queens back in September, these stories are not likely to stop anytime soon. The EFF and the ACLU are currently in talks with Facebook in an attempt to improve he situation.

Nym Factoid of the Month:
The Machiguenga people from the Amazon Basin jungle regions of southeastern Peru lack personal names. Members of the same tribe refer to each other using kin terminology, while they refer to different tribes using their Spanish names.

Nym-related Links:
Abine: this company is interesting because their tech goes a step beyond the typical remailer idea; they also act as a shield for your credit cards to help reduce your risk of identity fraud.
Zooko’s Triangle: a useful diagram showing the difficulty of names within systems. It’s analogous to the saying “Fast, cheap, and good. Pick two.”

Summer conferences!

And it’s time for what seems to be a quarterly update!

In early June, Kaliya and I spoke at Computers, Freedom, and Privacy, a conference that took place within earshot of DC. I introduced some new research I’ve been playing around with, and we covered a lot of what has gone on in NSTIC over the past few years. One interesting note from the conference was that there is not a legal definition for “anonymity” or “pseudonymity.” There seem to be different reasons for this, but I view it as an avenue for exploration.

Then in July, we co-spoke (again!) at the HOPE X conference. Because the keynote, featuring Ed Snowden, wound up understandably running an hour over time, our talk started at midnight, which turned it from a professorial lecture into a small group discussion that I think went quite well. Although you glean some things from the talk abstract, you should probably listen to the audio recording for the full picture, forgiving some of my late night snarkiness. Be warned– our talk was the last of the night, and with permission from AV we wound up running until nearly 2am.

I have a few more things in the pipeline, so maybe at this rate there will be a useful update in January :)

More updates!

It’s been a while, and we’ve been busy! I recently spoke at the Critical Themes conference at the New School in New York City. The talk wasn’t recorded, but you can read the paper I wrote for the conference. The paper is a sort of introduction to what I’m calling “identity theory”, and there will be a lot more where that came from.

Beyond that, I also hosted a “Birds of a Feather” session at the April IDESG plenary, where we had a really interesting conversation about the intricacies of pseudonymity/etc within enterprise systems. You can watch the conversation here:

Nym video!

After 30c3, I was inspired by some friends to create a video series introducing nyms and many of the aspects I’ve explored in talks and writing. If you like this video and want to see more, let me know! I’ll do my best to expand into all the topics this covers.

NymRights on WCBN Ann Arbor!

Long time no update, but we’ve been busy!

Today I was on “Interactive Technologies” on Ann Arbor’s 88.3 FM WCBN to discuss online identity and NymRights. Lots of great discussion, even though we only had half an hour. Hopefully we’ll get to discuss things on the show again soon!
Link to the show:

Also, wanted to give a shoutout to Dazza Greenwood, for his fantastic work on the “Nym Positive” names policy we’re starting to promote. Remember, it’s on github which means anyone canmake a pull request:

We’re also laying the groundwork for a nym related study: