Last week I was in London at a workshop on "Digital Identities". The workshop was really interesting, and it made me wonder whether people really need to adopt digital identities to protect themselves online.
The work at the research group I am affiliated with at MIT, revolves around having transparent and accountable data on the web. This "data", I believe, includes the "online identities" of people as well. So, I am trained to think that you should be held accountable for whatever you say on the web! However, if the things you say are highly controversial, even unlawful in certain jurisdictions, and can have an adverse effect on your career, it seems reasonable to go under a pseudonym and write whatever you have to say, abdicating all the responsibilities and even the subsequent credit to yourself as a person in the real world.
Another point that was brought up in the discussion was that whether going under a pseudonym is at all better than writing something anonymously. To me, it doesn't appear to have much of a difference though. However, unlike an anonymous author, an author operating under a pseudonym will have a social circle who would promote the writings to a greater community under their own guises. There were so many interesting stories that came up in the discussion out of their own experiences!
If you are interested in these case stories and the "patterns" that emerged, have a look here.
Anyways, I still think that if you want to write about something you should fully disclose who you are. Coming from an open culture, where full disclosure means more visibility and hence more recognition to you and your work, it seemed a bit bizarre that you'd want to hide away under some name if you really want to say something on the web.
I wonder if someone would ever come up with a technical or a legal solution to this problem? If you have any thoughts on this issue, please do comment!