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While most of what users search, purchase, and view on the internet is now done with the knowledge that whatever action users do will be tracked, whether by an advertising agency, the government, or even just the browsers history, it is still quite possible to remain anonymous while navigating the web. The reasons a user would want to be anonymous on the internet vary greatly, and are not reserved solely for nefarious deeds. [1] This allows for people to discuss sensitive topics in online communities that that person may not be able to discuss in a face to face conversation. When discussing personal problems, such as abuse, addiction, alcoholism, etc., this mask of anonymity can foster a much deeper and meaningful discussion. Those involved in the discussion can continue on with their lives off the internet, while still able to “air their grievances.”


To be anonymous is to be without a name, to be something that passes through without anyone taking notice, to be without an identity. Though the meaning of the word has not changed, the implications of what is to be anonymous and why a person would choose anonymity has changed with the rise of the internet. Most of what we search, purchase, and view on the internet is now done with the knowledge that whatever action you do will be tracked, whether by advertising agency, the government, or even just the browsers history, it is still quite possible to remain anonymous while navigating the web.

Anonymity vs PseudonymityEdit


Most of what is posted on the internet is done in a way that is relatively anonymous. A user will post something under an assumed username, and though this name is displayed, no personal information is displayed and no readily trackable information is displayed[2]. The posts are tied to the user IP address, which are trackable. Though it is unlikely an person would take the time to track the IP address, the ability to do so means that the post is technically not anonymous. While posting in this manner, the user is only achieving Pseudonymity. To be truly anonymous on the internet, A user would have to use a service, such as a TOR (The Onion Router) address, that conceals the users location and information[3]. Though users are not necessarily anonymous while they browse and post on the internet, they perceive themselves to be, and it is because of this perception that a user might choose to do something online, as opposed to a place where someone would recognize them and know who they are.
The reasons a person would want to be anonymous on the internet vary greatly, and are not reserved solely for nefarious deeds. Though cyber crime does exist, and people use anonymity to traffic drugs or solicit other illegal goods, there are quite harmless reasons a person would wish to conceal their identity. There is a certain ability to speak openly while perceiving yourself as being anonymous[1], and this ability manifests itself well over the internet. A positive example of this ability is that it has been shown that being perceived as anonymous in an internet forum allows for people to discuss sensitive topics in online communities that that person may not be able to discuss in a face to face conversation. When discussing personal problems, such as abuse, addiction, alcoholism,etc., this mask of anonymity can foster a much deeper and meaningful discussion[1].Those involved in the discussion can continue on with their lives off the internet, while still able to “air their grievances.”
Anonymity can also lead to more trivial, less serious behaviors that do not exist as readily in the physical social world as they do online. For example, the growing trend of “trolling” online is greatly benefitted by the perceived anonymity that a person experiences when commenting online. People are far more comfortable posting non-constructive, purposefully misleading and even, or rather, mostly negative feedback to trivial things in order to illicit a reaction[1]. This is due to the same effect, yet it manifests itself in a way that is only exists to bother other users on the internet, and behavior such as this is generally frowned upon when it is done away from the anonymity of the internet.[1]

The Onion RouterEdit


TOR is an acronym for The Onion Router, and is software that enables a user anonymity while using the internet. Using layers and layers of encryption, thus the term “Onion”, the users data is hidden and they are able to browse anonymously[3]. Though the anonymous nature of the service does attract illegal activities to be conducted, it is used in countries who has heavily censored internet to communicate without governments interference. It is noted to be instrumental in the coordination of the “Arab Spring” protests that took place in 2011.[4]


CitationsEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Frisch, B., Peirano, D. J., & Rogaway, P. (2011). Mask of Technology: How the Perceived Anonymity of Technology Affects Ethical Decisions.
  2. Palme, J. (2007). Anonymity on the Internet. Anonymity on the Internet. Retrieved April 5, 2014, from {{ #NewWindowLink: http://people.dsv.su.se/~jpalme/society/anonymity.html }}
  3. 3.0 3.1 Li, Bingdong, et al. (14 June 2011). "An Analysis of Anonymity Usage". In Jordi Domingo-Pascual; Yuval Shavitt; Steve Uhlig. Traffic Monitoring and Analysis: Third International Workshop, TMA 2011, Vienna, Austria, April 27, 2011, Proceedings. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. pp. 113–116
  4. Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), Russian Academy of Sciences (2011). The Role of Information Communication Technologies in the “Arab Spring” IMPLICATIONS BEYOND THE REGION by Ekatarina Stepanova. Retrieved from {{ #NewWindowLink: http://www.ponarseurasia.com/sites/default/files/policy-memos-pdf/pepm_159.pdf }}

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