I realize that Slashdotters in the main have a libertarian-ish bent, but you guys really need to understand that when these Web 2.0 moguls stand up and say "privacy is dead" they do have a leg to stand on. An awful lot of people the world over, especially in the US, do not fetishize anonymity to anywhere near the extent that you do. Mostly people don't give a damn because they never do anything anonymously themselves, and then on the rare occasion when they have to conjure up an opinion on the subject they're pissed off because someone calling themselves anonymous (with or without a capital A) just did something rash or obnoxious. They do not know the names Brutus and Publius. They think the Pentagon Papers was a novel by Charles Dickens, and as far as they know Voltaire's Candide is the instruction manual for the first lightbulb.
This is not to say that people don't respect anti-establishment thinking. Christ and his later student Luther, Cicero and his distant colleague Paine, and even the antithetical squawkers Ron Paul and Rachel Carson, for instance, all earned respect in their own times precisely because they were willing to stand up and let their names be associated with their opinions. They were, of course, all called nasty things for not swimming with the current like the other fishies, and at least one of them got his hands chopped off and (maybe) stuffed in his mouth by one of the people he'd been criticizing. But they've had a far longer-lasting impact on the things they wanted to try to change than any pseudonymous wag ever has.
Anonymity, of course, isn't the real issue because it's perfectly simple for anyone to install Adblock, stay off Facebook, and generally lurk in the shadows unnoticed. Every time I hear "OMG they're killing anonymity" I hear "OMG they're killing my God-given right to say or do whatever I want and avoid responsibility!" Perhaps they don't realize that this argument puts them in the company of Phoebe Prince's tormentors as much as Voltaire and the Federalists.
But this is my central complaint about libertarianism: it disingenuously ignores the consequences of conduct. Privacy, more often than not, really is a shield for misconduct. Is it your right to be unseen at a bar when you're cheating on your wife, or kissing another man, or doing whatever it is you're so ashamed of your friends and family finding out about? Well, clearly not, because you were there for some kid to take your picture and get you automagically tagged on Facebook for your wife or father confessor to find out about. So how in the hell can you get angry that it's now less easily concealed?
Privacy, I might add, is not the same thing as the right against unwarranted police and government intrusion. That particular conflation is no older than William O. Douglas. So don't accuse me of promoting a police state, because I'm not. I still believe in the 4th amendment and I still think police need to get warrants to do so much as peek in your garbage bin. The behavior we're talking about here, however, is by private actors (Facebook and Google and Apple and whoever) in relation to other private actors.
"But," some will object, "what I'm doing anonymously is morally OK but my culture doesn't tolerate it, like smoking pot or having an obscure religious viewpoint!" Did it ever occur to anyone that part of the problem with this kind of conduct is that concealment reinforces the notion that there's something bad or wrong with what's being done? Hell, if all the people who had ever smoked pot were to admit to it, either half the adult population of America would be in prison or it wouldn't be a crime to smoke pot.
Anyway, what I'm trying to say is this: anonymity and privacy are rapidly extinguishing in our culture, and though it's likely to be messy I doubt the change is going to destroy free society any more than it did to take the US off the gold standard or give women the vote. These are cultural conventions, remember, ones that other, newer values are displacing.
So, there's my rant. Mod me into oblivion for disagreeing with the current groupthink on Slashdot, or just ignore me. I'm kind of an asshole anyway. But it's not just me you're ignoring, it's your family, neighbors, and fellow citizens too.