Hello, my name is X

by Francois Joseph de Kermadec

We have this law in France that states that, for a certain category of documents, including newspapers and similar publications, the name and address of the printer must, at the very least, be included on the document. The reason behind this requirement? If a publication breaks the law or incites its readers to do so, our little men in blue (what a cute nickname for the police, don’t you think?) can investigate the matter and, through the printer, track the author or source of the document.

This, of course, is theory and I know of few people who would break the law and then decide to comply with this requirement. However, it is interesting to see that provisions were made to ensure that information distributed to the public is trackable back to its source. It is a fundamental part of protecting freedom of speech, by allowing those who publish content to claim it and those who read it to know what its potential bias may be.

Interestingly, while such provisions exist to a certain extent on the Internet through domain name registrars, many sites we rely on daily do not provide us with meaningful information on who is behind them. Over the past years, many companies have released services, often free, that allow us to organize bookmarks, optimize feeds, publish podcasts, blogs, mailing lists or more (please, don’t think I’m pointing any fingers at anyone here) and yet, limit their presentations at describing their service, but never themselves.

I have no doubt most of these people do not have any bad intentions and simply have little to say about their legal or financial structure. However, I would find it highly reassuring, at times, to know who is behind a brand or a domain. And in the cases where we are told it is entity X, I’d hope to know more about who these people are, where they get their funding and whether they are linked to a large company.

Obviously, people can lie when they introduce themselves just as we can put on our resume that we graduated summa cum laude from the Paris Academy of Fine Arts but it makes it a lot easier to cross-reference and double-check information.

Anonymity is a fundamental right in some cases and privacy always is. As a company, though, you shouldn’t be allowed to lie in the shadow. Your people can, your accounts to some extent, any just about any other internal detail but the world at large should be able to know who you are and where you come from.