email, IM &
This page looks at anonymity in cyberspace and offline.
It covers -
of identity and identity theft are explored in a more
detailed guide here. The
complementary Privacy guide elsewhere
on this site offers a broader examination of offline anonymity
and the use of surveillance technologies such as APNR
before the net
Alan Hunt's excellent Governance of the consuming
passions: a history of sumptuary law (New York: St
Martins 1996) notes that the luxury of anonymity, which
the veil afforded, allowed a lower class person the opportunity
for upper class imitation.
(London: Faber 2008) by John Mullan considers literary
anonymity, a mechanism used by notables such as Swift,
Jane Austen, the Brontes, George Eliot and Walter Scott
Assessments of the impact of anonymity and legal frameworks
Michael Froomkin's 1996 introduction
to anonymity in Flood Control on the Information Ocean:
Living With Anonymity, Digital Cash & Distributed
Databases is a useful starting point. David Post's
on Pooling Intellectual Capital: Thoughts on Anonymity,
Pseudonymity, and Limited Liability in Cyberspace
is also interesting.
David Johnson's paper
The Unscrupulous Diner's Dilemma & Anonymity in
Cyberspace argues that
achieve a civilized form of cyberspace, we have to limit
the use of anonymous communications. Many early citizens
of cyberspace will bitterly oppose any such development,
arguing that anonymous and pseudonymous electronic communications
are vital to preserve electronic freedoms and allow
free expression of human personality. ... we all collectively
face the diners' dilemma - we must collaborate in groups
to build a rich social fabric, and we know that the
ability to act anonymously, sporadically, in large groups
brings out the worst in human character.
There is a dissenting view in Jonathan Wallace's 1999
Cato Institute paper
Nameless in Cyberspace: Anonymity on the Internet.
Risk-Free Access Into The Global Information Infrastructure
Via Anonymous Re-Mailers, a paper
by information economist Paul Strassmann was strongly
criticised by the EFF and other libertarian organisations
on publication in 1996.
Like Dorothy Denning he argued that
terrorism has ceased to be an amateur effort and has
migrated into the hands of well organized, highly trained
expert professionals. Attacks can be expected to become
a decisive element of any combined threat to the economic
and social integrity of the international community.
Nations whose life-line becomes increasingly dependent
on information networks should realize that there is
no sanctuary from information-based assaults. Commercial
organizations, especially in telecommunications, finance,
transportation and power generation offer choice targets
to massive disruption. Information terrorism, as a particularly
virulent form of information warfare, is a unique phenomenon
in the history of warfare and crime
the other hand Lorrie Cranor, co-author with Reagle of
the Beyond Concern: Understanding Net Users' Attitudes
About Online Privacy study
and co-developer of the Publius
"anonymous censorship-resistant online publishing"
scheme, argues that anonymity is a building block for
legitimate attempts to defeat internet censorship.
The supplementary profile
on this site about Surveillance & Identification highlights
studies of anonymity. One example is regarding Gary Marx's
Identity & Anonymity: Some Conceptual Distinctions
and Issues for Research.
cards, passports and chips
Trustmarks and digital certificates identify web sites
and documents. What about the identification of people?
In December 2003 the UK Home Office announced moves
towards introduction of a new compulsory national identification
card, with prototype cards featuring biometric
data (including fingerprint, iris and facial recognition
information) and other personal details. Australia subsequently
moved towards a national government services access
card, destined to become the de facto national proof
of identity document and thus dubbed Australia Card Lite.
In discussing identity theft
we have noted questions about privacy
(eg data profiling) and the efficacy of particular technologies
such as biometrics.
Those questions continue to be become more pertinent as
governments - and nongovernment organisations - seek to
leverage technologies and data archives - by identifying
and tracking a range of actors and attributes.
They are highlighted in the US National Academies' 2002
IDs – Not That Easy: Questions About Nationwide
Identity Systems and 2003 report
Who Goes There?: Authentication Through the Lens of
Privacy, which conclude that the goals of any national
identity system must be clearly stated and that a compelling
case must made before any proposal can move forward.