1 An individual that needs to maintain anonymity is popularly called
“John Doe”, “Jane Doe” if female.
2 Obscurantism is the
practice of deliberately preventing the facts of some subject matter from
3 Official site: http://anonofficial.com/
4 The Internet of things (IoT)
is the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances and other items
embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network
connectivity which enables these objects to connect and exchange data.
5 In computing, a log file
is a file that records either events that occur in an operating system or
other software runs, or messages between different users of a
6 Article 8 – Protection of personal data
1. Everyone has the right to the protection
of personal data concerning him or her.
2. Such data must be processed fairly for specified purposes and on the basis
of the consent of the person concerned or some other legitimate basis laid down
by law. Everyone has the right of access to data which has been collected
concerning him or her, and the right to have it rectified.
Compliance with these rules shall be subject to control by an independent
7 National Health Service Act 2006: Section 251 – https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/41/section/251
Only time will clarify if we have
to sacrifice anonymity for the sake of progress or if will be part of it.
Others, as David Davenport,
assistant professor of Bilkent University in Ankara, considers that by allowing
anonymous Net communication, the fabric of our society is at risk 16. “Accountability requires those
responsible for any misconduct be identified and brought to justice. However,
if people remain anonymous, by definition, they cannot be identified, making it
impossible to hold them accountable”.
Someone identify anonymity has a
benefit; it has also permitted highly trained professionals such as judges to
freely express themselves regarding the strategies they employ to perform their
Anonymity is split in two different
school of thought.
disputes that come from collective
Because of this lack, the decisions
of governments and companies produced
There is not a quick and universal
A. Michael Froomkin says: “The
regulation of anonymous and pseudonymous communications promises to be one of
the most important and contentious Internet-related issues of the next
Today scientists, psychologists,
judges and politicians are constantly working to define a correct use in
covering own identity, trying to limit or extend the surveillance properly.
In the early 1980s, the visionary
David Chaum (called the Godfather of anonymity) predicted the world in which we
A world in which computer networks would have made surveillance.
Multiple personalities do not
affect only the online life, but the real one as well.
Like a drug that create addiction, people that are used to be violent in the
net show the same behaviors in real life. In a February 2008 study published in
the journal Psychological Reports, researchers found that out of four groups of
participants, only those in the anonymous group took part in antisocial
On the other hand, negative
possible consequences like cyberbullying, racism, sexism or other general rude
behaviors may occur.
This effect can have positive
possible consequences for instance if a person is shy, that feel he/she can’t
talk about certain things in his/her real life, can benefit from online
disinhibition. Another beneficial consequence is that one can count on the lack
of prejudice between communicators and the ability to focus on ideas and
information instead of the social status of the speaker, which often leads to
biased interpretations of their message. At the same time, do not forgetting
that the interlocutor personality could not mirror the reality.
Anonymity opens up split
The awareness of being unknown can turn nice people nasty. That arise from the Online
disinhibition effect. It is the lack of restraint one feels when communicating
online in comparison to communicating in-person 10, influenced by factors
like anonymity 11.
Impact of Anonymity
That said let’s take into account
that Emerging IoT (Internet of Things) technologies provide many bene?ts to the
improvement of healthcare service. At the same time one of the most drawbacks
is that along with wireless communication arose security or privacy issues.
to an article published by The Guardian 19, for medical research aims the
anonymity of patients is not always respected. The British Prime Minister
assured that data are transmitted via secure protocols and pseudonyms are in
act. But the main issue is that pseudonymized data is not the same as
anonymized information. Then, according to Section 251 of the NHS Act 20067,
under authorization of The Secretary of State for Health, patient’s identifiable data can be used without
consent in required circumstances.
done by the University of Colorado 18 revealed how technological systems should focus on reducing
anonymity within the hospital in order to enhance healthcare delivery. Indeed,
different roles, in care teams, lead confusion for both patients and nursing
staff. In addition, anonymity also exists between nursing staff and other care
providers, consequently contacting the wrong provider repeatedly leads to delays
expected, patient privacy is protected using anonymous access control
techniques; anonymity is also an impediment to performance in healthcare and to
research in medicine.
healthcare environment health-sensitive information are accessed by many
parties and stored in various distributed databases.
of Anonymity on Healthcare
All the above considerations that
some regulations have to be applied in order to obtain balance in defamation.
Rules that define when being unknown is a licit use or an abuse have to be
Moving to USA we could find support
for the search for anonymity in civil litigations. The Supreme Court of the
United States, though tacitly approving anonymous plaintiff practice (based on
the First Amendment) 7, has yet to decide a case where the right to proceed
anonymously is at issue 8.
The common law’s longstanding
commitment to the principle of open justice seems to be firmly set against the
notion of a defamation plaintiff being able to be anonymous. Moreover, the
nature of the interest protected by the tort of defamation and the purposes of
a defamation proceeding, principal amongst which is the vindication of the
plaintiff’s reputation, reinforce the common law’s disposition towards
publicity. However, there are certain developments which may support anonymity
for those defamation plaintiffs who desire it. There has been recent concern
about the incidence of suppression and non-publication orders, which can be a
substantial derogation from the principle of open justice 6. More
importantly, there is a reconceptualization of reputation underway in English
law as a result of the recognition of The European Union Charter of Fundamental
Rights in Article. 86
of the right of everyone to protection of personal data concerning him. The
treatment of reputation as one aspect of the right to a private life under
Article. 8 is likely to have profound consequences for English defamation law,
not all of which are fully appreciated yet. This reconceptualization of
reputation arguably permits claims for anonymity in defamation claims to be
entertained more readily and to be treated more favorably.
Anonymity in defamation is quite a
bit arduous for a number of causes.
Let’s focus on use-abuse of being
unknown for plaintiffs and not for concealed defendants.
Although ordinarily considered to be part of private law, defamation is, in
many ways, indelibly public. A plaintiff resort to public forum, social
networks or blogs to damage the reputation of his or her. Anyway, there are
cases in which plaintiffs have persisted with their defamation claims and try
to keep their anonymity preserved. In some of those cases, with the use of pseudonyms
or even procedures to stay stealth, the plaintiffs have even succeeded in
having their identities suppressed 5.
of Anonymity on Defamation
In those cases, to achieve freedom
of communication and information, channels that guarantee concealed identity
Figure 4. From “Top 10 Censors Of The Internet And How To Avoid Internet
Censorship”, by Guest Blogger, 2016 (https://www.le-vpn.com/top-10-censors-internet-avoid-internet-censorship/#comments).
In the public domain.
At least thirty governments apply
kind of censorship, as showed in the picture below4.
Turkey is not an exception.
Journalists are obliged, risking
the prison, to use the same “strategies” used by terrorists or cyber criminals.
Nonetheless they have to act as
criminal for the sake of freedom of expression.
As defined by Amnesty International
as the “death of journalism” is it is the biggest jailer of journalists in the
world: Turkey. As Amnesty reminds us: “journalism is not a crime 2.”
of Anonymity on Journalism
Redesign the mechanism of
communication would create flaws in the system; it would not merely allow
governments to decrypt more easily messages but would give this opportunity to
hackers as well. Companies do not want to risk the divulgation of millions of
private messages with the risk to lose millions of dollars.
Even if there are governments
intentions to reduce the means of communications for terrorists, these are just
“We need to work with allied
democratic governments to reach international agreements that regulate cyberspace
to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning,” she said.
After the terrorist attack on March
22 2017, British Prime Minister Theresa May called for new regulations to
prevent extremists from spreading their message online.
At the same time governments are
trying to contrast the secure mechanism used by big companies like Telegram.
To stop this spreading, social
media sites do a lot to fight online extremism: “We’re starting to explore ways
to use AI to tell the difference between news stories about terrorism and
actual terrorist propaganda so we can quickly remove anyone trying to use our
services to recruit for a terrorist organization,” wrote Facebook
CEO Mark Zuckerberg in his February 2017 manifesto, “Building Global Community
TRAC staff collect in their
databases, scouting the network, plenty of information about terrorist groups
all over the world.
The Terrorism Research &
Analysis Consortium (TRAC) is another proof of the widespread use of the Web by
The analysis emphasize how much
social media and online communications are important.
Figure 3. From “Terrorism in America After 9/11: Cases, Identities, Motives,
and Current Threat Analysis” by P. Bergen, A. Ford, A. Sims, and D. Sterman,
In the public domain.
The rise of social media as well as
the use of the Internet let terrorists to disseminate their propaganda and
connect people to extremist groups. Many extremists today either maintain
public social media profiles or have communicated online using encrypted
messaging apps. The percentage of cases involving such online activity has
increased over time. The following picture highlights
the percentage of online radicalization in the last years.
One of the main purpose for a
terrorist is remain stealth.
of Anonymity on Terrorism
Let’s focus on the effects of anonymity in the following context: terrorism,
journalism, defamation and healthcare. Analyzing the reasons why people look
for being unknown and how this affect them.
End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a system of communication where only the communicating
users can read the messages. In a few
words, messages are secured with a lock, and only the recipient and sender have
the special key needed to unlock and read the message. This type of system is
embedded in apps for instant messaging like WhatsApp. You can even check that
everything works properly looking at the “Verify secure code”; the recipient
and the sender are supposed to have the same code, composed of a series of
If you want a Webmail service that’s going to handle encrypted messages,
ProtonMail is considered the top of the stack. It keeps all your email info
secure from search and has a connection directly through the Tor network.
Tor Browser. It is born by the work of United States Naval Research Laboratory
Tor directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide, volunteer overlay
network to conceal a user’s location and usage from anyone conducting network
surveillance or traffic analysis.
Using Tor makes it more difficult to trace Internet activity to the user: this
includes “visits to Web sites, online posts, instant messages, and other
communication forms 3”
The best bet is Tails. It aims at preserving your privacy and anonymity, and
helps you to use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship;
1. Mobile Phones
We have to avoid the use of mobile phones to keep us not identified. The more
we use them the more companies like Google or Apple gather information about
us, saving them into their log files5.
The solution lies in the use of prepaid phones, a.k.a. Burners.
To clarify with an
example part of Internet is our fridge as well, that connects to the network
for weather forecast 15.
We live in a world of
mass surveillance in which published information has increased in the last 50
years by 200 trillion times.
For the seekers of secrecy exist solution to adopt that increase the chance to
on the Net and in daily life. Stressing that, with the advent of Internet of
Things (IoT)4, Network
and everyday existence are always more linked.
Ways to stay anonymous
are not the only one who save information about us.
Wired published in a post entitled: “Google tracks everything you do” 14, the
same for Amazon and other big companies. Amazon in particular opened the first
cashless supermarket called “Amazon Go”. Payment is done through facial
recognition software embedded in the cameras of the shop. This obviously
require previous collection of personal information. Straightforward sign of
how we are supervised by companies, by now not exclusively in the Web but in
daily life as well.
Figure 2. From “Americans Concerned About NSA Surveillance”, by N. McCarthy,
In the public domain
On June 11, 2013, The Guardian
published a snapshot of the NSA’s global map of electronic data collection for
the month of March 2013. Known as the Boundless Informant, the program is used
by the NSA to track the amount of data being analyzed over a specific period of
And even if the almost totality of us, at least heard about this phenomenon,
people like 50% of Americans accept to be monitored, apparently driven by
promises of a security nature (e.g. anti-terrorism).
Figure 1. From “Boundless
Informant: the NSA’s secret tool to track global surveillance data” by G.
Greenwald and E. MacAskill, 2013 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_surveillance_disclosures_(2013%E2%80%93present)#/media/File:Boundless-heatmap-large-001.jpg).
In the public domain.
present the number of people willing to shield their identity is rising. The
main reason is that people is aware of living in a society where, as George
Orwell would say: “Big Brother is watching you”. Currently we are no more anonymous.
Governments are constantly monitoring us.
Ongoing news reports in the international media have revealed operational
details about the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and its
international partners’ global surveillance 13 of foreign nationals and U.S.
citizens. The reports mostly emanate from a cache of top secret documents
leaked by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The important idea
behind being unknown is make a person non-identifiable, unreachable, or untraceable
Every day we live expressions of anonymity.
It is used as protection against legal prosecution or in legal cases1.
It is used in the press: all British newspapers run their editorials
It is used on the Web: comments on blogs, online chat, games online (always
with the adoption of pseudonyms to identify anonymous people).
It is used everywhere, even in art, related to the concept of obscurantism2.
Often being unknown is seen as a right: anonymity is not only protected, but
enforced by law in vote in free election.
And often that may be illegal: in 24 states of US, persons detained have to
self-identify when requested by a law enforcement office; in Germany people
have to indicate their names at the door of their homes.
The extended influence of the topic would supposed clear set of rules to manage
it, but nonetheless it still depends strongly by the individual instance.
Is however indisputable, the fact that there are psychological effects behind
the adjective “anonymous” and these effects are so much intense to lead even to
the foundation of groups, like Anonymous3.
The extent of the subject affects our daily life in many different scenarios
leading us to use anonymity with good purposes, but also bad ones.