My Real Name is None of Your F***ing Business!!

The Trend

For several years now, SF&F conventions in my area have been demanding my legal name to record in their database and put on my badge, along with my fan name (pseudonym) and city of origin. One such convention demanded to see my ID. I refused and left.

The officious drones that work registration often give various excuses and "reasons". One such person told me that they can't get the database to accept the entry if it was not there. I told them to use A. Nonymous. The form went in fine, and that's what my badge read.

The Violation?

Privacy. Mine. Every pinhead who wanders into the convention (member or otherwise) has NOT paid me for the priviledge of knowing my first and last name. How dare some con-com deem that I have surrendered my privacy for the pleasure of paying them?? If they want me to wear my name for all to see, saint and stalker alike, it's gonna cost them.

"So what", many people say. So it's my name, and my privacy. I don't have a nice, bland generic name like "Jane Smith", or "Mary White". You look in the phone book for my name, and there's only one listing, not 50. Do these people really think that I want to wear my name on a badge for every nutcase I meet, con-goer or heckler, to make note of and look up?

I can walk into a grocery store, a casino, a racetrack, or a liquor store and transact business in cash without having to display ID, except to make certain specific age defined transactions (cigarettes and liquor). I certainly don't have to wear my name, or allow the attendant to record my name. What makes these officious twits think they're so special?

The "Reasons" Cited

"Legal" Age

For what? Drinking, or adult material? If I want booze, I'll show my ID then, and have done so at many conventions. If I want to see the brass bra-less art show, I can show my ID then. It's different ages for each, anyway. But I'll be damned if I'll let them record my name and/or age in some easily crackable/stealable database, and double damned if I'll wear it on a badge - legally, it's NOT required.

Hotel Concerns/Requirements

Two Words: Fuck That. If the con hotel has that kind of wording in the contract, the con is screwed. You see, unless everyone entering the hotel premises is held to the same "labelling" requirement, including staff, all a would be miscreant has to do is hide his badge! So "real names" don't prevent vandalism, except maybe by people too stupid to do much real damage. Hotel vandalism is more likely to result from non-attendees (thus not required to be name badged) than convention-goers. So having full names on con badges doesn't help. If the hotel asks for this type of fascist labelling, make sure that they have to comply as well - first and last name, right down to the housekeepers.


This is a nasty one. Read the fine print. All of it. If the insurance company wants this kind of personal labelling, ask for actuarial data that shows it has some significant effect in reducing risk. Ask how much more it costs to get the insurance without it. Weigh it against the lost cost of privacy advocates not paying memberships. Lets face it, if the con insurance company wants my name and address recorded, they probably want copies, and will use or sell the the data for marketing. I'm not gonna pay for the "priviledge" of being marketed by some shitty insurance company.

Non-profit Status

Bullshit. The income and/or donations to a non-profit do not have to have names associated with them. Anonymous cash, and a badge number, will document more than enough. Otherwise, we'd have to write our name on a card every time we pitch a few bucks into the kettles at Christmastime.

In Case of "Emergency"

If there's an "emergency", it'll be handled just like any joe or jane on the street. If it's medical, the paramedics will lose the funky plastic badge, and look for a) a medic-alert tag, and b) a drivers license or ID. People don't wear name badges walking down the street, or driving a car, and emergencies get handled there all the time.

It's "The Law"

Not in the US. It's not even legally required for a person to carry ID (yet - but give the police state a few more years). The only reason you need to carry your drivers license is if you are driving a car! Some municipalities try to make it possible to arrest you if you don't have enough money on you, but that's of questionable legal validity. The only reason you need to show ID is a) to buy booze or cigarettes, b) to prove identity for non-cash financial transactions, c) when dealing with government agencies, and d) when required to by law enforcement personnel with probable cause.

From a poster on Slashdot (coyote-san):

There was an important case a few years ago where a man challenged the right of (LA?) police to stop him and demand identification while he was peacefully walking down the street. The Supreme Court ruled (unanimously?) that the police do not have the right to demand people to identify themselves unless there is some specific reason to suspect criminal activity. (Before you ask, the situation is slightly different if you're operating a vehicle. Drivers have to identify themselves, passengers have mixed rights.)

Another point to consider is that club membership is protected by the First Amendment. Racists were not able to get the membership lists to the NAACP in the 50s, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (?) was not able to get the membership list to the KKK (or a similiar group) a few years ago.

Our Lawyer Said We "Had To"

Get a new lawyer. The one that the con has is a closet fascist. Knowledge and requiring display of a person's name will not reduce a convention's liability (and may increase it if the person is consequently stalked), protect it from lawsuits or make the covention "safer".

It Proves We're "Legitimate"

Lame. Very. Major conferences in the IT world don't actually require your real name. Many shows and exhibits don't either. If I pay cash, it's legit. As long as I'm not impersonating someone else or commiting fraud, I can legitimately call myself anything I want.

The Solution

For con-goers, three words: Boycott and Protest!!! Make a stink! Don't quietly, sheeplike, consent to be labelled, with your full legal name! Don't give your money to an organization that cares more about appearing "legitimate" and "normal" than it cares for your privacy. Fight against the "big brother" trend. Protect your privacy and security, especially if you have an uncommon legal name.

For con-coms, one word: No! No real names required, no real names on badges, no real names in a database. The only time you need someone's real name is if they write a check, use a credit card, or sign a business contract. Don't let some hotel, insurance, or lawyer tell you otherwise. Collecting that data doesn't decrease your liability (and could increase it), doesn't save lives, isn't required by law, and will cost you memberships. Do not contribute to creeping statism by requiring legal names and/or IDs. Honor the principles of anonymity, free association, and free speach that are fundamental to the US way of life.