Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Actually ... a bit more on Omegle

First, in the process of writing the previous post, I stumbled across a basic point about anonymity and handles: You only need handles for long-running dialogs. If you just want to access sites anonymously, a persistent handle would be an active hindrance. If you just want to contact someone once, but don't need or want them to get back to you, a persistent handle is of no help. Only if you want to contact someone and receive replies repeatedly do you need a handle.

Second, while Omegle itself seems Mostly Harmless, it's possible that it's used as a source of cover traffic for a real, behind-the-scenes anonymizer. The more people you might possibly be, the more anonymous you are. Ideally, you could blend with a large number of faces in a crowd. One problem in anonymizers, however, is that this works both ways.

If you might be mistaken for me, I might be mistaken for you. If you're up to no good and I'm just being anonymous for whatever unknowable reason, then you stand to gain from the confusion and I stand to lose. In that case, why should I use an anonymizer? But if everyone thinks like I do, there's no one for you to blend in with. See here and here and the "anonymity" tag in general for more detail.

On the other hand, if you have a ready supply of random people happily chatting with each other anonymously, you (probably) also have a ready supply of unknowing parties to offload risk onto. Just to be clear, I have no reason at all to believe Omegle is doing this. It's not even clear that Omegle would provide better cover traffic than other, sneakier schemes. It's just an interesting point for pure speculation.

Finally, when I mentioned the memory of a goldfish, I had a MythBusters result in mind.

1 comment:

David Hull said...

Note to self: I finally came down on the other side of the risk offloading argument. Sort of.