Anonymous sub-group Anti-Sec supposedly holds in its hands 12-million Apple user IDs it acquired from hacking into an FBI agent's laptop. These IDs consist of of usernames, passwords, addresses, phone numbers -- in short, a bevy of personal information of iPhone and iPad users that has everyone asking themselves, "What the hell?" and chipping at the dam holding back the inevitable Orwellian cliches.
But thank God Anonymous has swooped down like Batman in Gotham City, and told us of this alleged invasion of our privacy. Right?
Anonymous has released one million of said user IDs. The hacktivist group refuses to explain the situation further, or release the other 11-million IDs until -- wait for it -- Adrien Chen of Gawker poses on the front page of the site in a ballet tutu with a shoe on top of his head.
You can't make this stuff up.
This is what must be done, apparently, in order for the common man to find out if he's being tracked by the FBI: Someone must embarrass himself. Funny, to be sure, and not beyond the level of childishness one would expect of a group born of boys locker room humour. But if Anonymous, or any of its affiliates, are truly, deeply concerned for the rights of the common man and fighting for them while we sleep softly in the night, then why in God's name would they offer Chen the opportunity to refuse their offer, thus blinding the public further regarding this supposed attack on privacy?
One word: Vanity.
Chen is one of the few writers who doesn't fall into the seemingly necessary trap of praising the activities of Anonymous if one is below the age of 40. He's written skeptically -- and for good reason -- of their activities, and whether one agrees with him or not, the fact remains: Anonymous is clearly incapable of having anyone disagree with them. These are the supposed vanguards of our online freedom, and they threaten to retain information pertaining to the abuse of our freedom because their feelings are hurt.
Is this truly the sort of organization one wants to be protected by? Hardly.
There is quite a bit wrong with organizations such as Anonymous, and this Chen-FBI-Apple situation is but an example of the types of mind one can expect to find within the hacktivist group. One of the major problems lies in their name. In keeping their identities hidden, they absolve themselves of any responsibility. Say one of their "operations" is a resounding catastrophe; they can say it was someone operating under the Anonymous moniker independently -- as they have in the past, for example, with the Stratfor incident. But if the operation is a success, they can reap the so-called benefits. There is no accountability, and that is the chief benefit of holding back one's identity.
They are a short-sighted group that clearly does not think things through. Again, this can be attached to their seemingly limitless obsession with themselves; vanity makes for a wonderful pair of blinders. The Chen incident is one example. Another can be hilariously noted in one of their slogans: "We Are Legion for We Are Many." The quote -- meant to infer their omniscient power -- is taken from the Bible, spoken to Christ by a man possessed by a demon. What happens? Well, if the members of Anonymous -- who are supposedly many -- cared to read the next few short lines, they would have learned that Legion is purged by Christ into a pack of pigs who go crazy and then drown themselves in the lake. Hardly the sort of motto one wants to brag about: "We Are Legion for We Cannot Read," "We Are Legion for We Know Not How to Swim."
And clearly, Anonymous does not know to swim. They have been drowning in their own irrelevancy, gasping for air since the FBI's announcement that one of their cherished leaders from LulzSec had been working for them all along. Their claims to fame are "taking down" the websites of organizations such as the MPAA and Universal Music, but in reality, their actions are the equivalent of tearing a poster off a wall -- mere vandalism that's quickly rectified.
Gizmodo has already explained how, even if the hack were real, the information discovered isn't anything that might affect the average iPhone user. Naturally, if this is all true, it is still disconcerting for the FBI to have access to such information, however hyperbolized it's been.
But what is more disconcerting still is the fact that those who are supposedly fighting against Big Brother and company are the same group willing to withhold supposedly vital information all so that they can take some paltry, childish form of revenge against someone who disagrees with what they do. So much for for safeguarding -- let alone respecting -- freedom of speech.
Whether or not this FBI incident amounts to anything or not, the fact remains that Anonymous is not our savior, nor our hero. It's a shady, childish bunch who wish to be bereft of any of the responsibilities of the real world. These are not the type of people we want protecting our rights in the online one -- their motives may be admirable in certain cases, but their methods are egregious.
The FBI has already denied that any agent's computer was hacked, and Adrien Chen has, at the time of this writing, taken the photo of him wearing the tutu in good humour. Now, it remains to be seen whether Anonymous does have anything to give the public it strives to supposedly protect, or whether this was just another one of their pranks done "for the lulz," that is to say, for the stroking of their own vanity.
Follow Daniel Alexandre Portoraro on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dportoraro