[Home]AnonymityIsPower

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Anonymity is often a power play as it gives the anonymous person an advantage over the named, who have VulnerabilityToCommunity (Donath, 1999). WhatIsaStalker describes how anonymity online might encourage stalking, an extreme instance of the PowerOverCycle. It provides a level of insulation to potential aggressors. It has been a well studied and established fact that anonymity does induce aggressiveness in populations, hence the need for an AuditTrail in order to EnforceResponsibility using social PeerPressure. The VulnerabilityToCommunity is not always good as we all know, as described in part on IdentityOppression, but that is separate from the point that anonymity is used as an attack vector. Hence the abuse of AnonymousProxy services in attacks. One kind of power that comes with anonymity is that the anonymous can make threats to someone and the other person does not know how serious this can be, he does not know if the perpetrator is capable of fulfilling his threats (this is exemplified by the latest [Kathy Sierra troubles]).

Despite this, AssumeGoodFaith that anonymous contributors are AnonymousDonors. We don't disallow AnonymousIdentity on MeatballWiki because reneging the ability to PostAnonymously would be turn this place into a GatedCommunity. The point here is not to generalize all anonymity as being bad, or to deny it has good, but to point out that anonymity does unhinge a person from shame-based responsibility (cf. ShameVsGuilt).

References

Donath, Judith S. (1999). Identity and deception in the virtual community. In M. A. Smith and P. Kollock (eds.), Communities in cyberspace. (pp. 29–59) London: Routledge

Discussion

I'd like to make AnonymityIsPower a more relative statement, because it only seems connected to certain kinds of power. There are many kinds of power, e. g. the power to convince people because of personal credibility and life experiences told. Or the power from acting out of a network of stable social relationsships. Anonymity can't provide such kinds of power. In addition, most reasons for us to accept anonymity come from accepting feelings of fear or being vulnerible by those anonymous. This is not what we expect by people "having power". I just think there is the other side of the coin, which can be taken into account. -- HelmutLeitner

I (HansWobbe) find myself in general agreement ...

... and I think there is a lot that could be added to this page that could expand its scope in helpful ways.

One aspect of Anonimity that I have been pondering is the powers that can be derived from its inverse, recognition. This is particularly of interest to my work with IdentityTheft as a type of Fraud and reliable TrustMetrics? that can still respect Privacy.

One of the reasons that I think Anonimity is a particular problem seems to stem from the relative inefficiencies inherent in an AsynchronousDefence? requirement which can give an order-of-magnitude(s) advantage to an attacker.

-- HansWobbe

However, AnonymityIsPower for those fearful or feeling vulnerable as well. They just use the power for defense, rather than aggressively, so I think we can include that AnonymityIsPower for those using it as protection as well. There are obviously other sources of power, and some may be more effective, but anonymity is still power. -- MatthewJacobs

I'm not sure I share this view simply because it is already almost impossible to achieve complete Anonimity, given the number of ways that almost all actions can be traced, and the inevitable trends that will result in this being ever easier. One of the reasons that I gave up on Anonimity is that I simply know it cannot be achieved in the face of any concerted attack. The other is that since I embraced Recognition, I've been pleasantly surprised by the number of resultant benefits. -- HansWobbe.

I absolutely agree with that. I think it is more often an AntiPattern when it comes to building communities, but I also believe we should recognize that, in many cases, people who choose anonymity do so for the power that comes with concealment. It doesn't make them invincible, but people feel more secure in anonymity, whether they use it to attack others or protect themselves. -- MatthewJacobs


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Discussion

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