Have you ever wondered the reasons why you can no longer remain anonymous?
Maintaining one’s privacy is becoming increasingly difficult in today’s hyper-connected society and along with it the idea to remain anonymous. Isn’t it time we give up on the concept?
Consider entering a room full of strangers. Maybe you’ve just moved to a new city. Nobody knows who you are, and no one knows who you are. You have complete freedom to do anything, go wherever, and talk to whoever you want. What are your thoughts? Perhaps you are unafraid of being judged and scrutinized by friends or associates. Maybe you’re energized by the prospect of experiencing life on your terms and at your own pace and remaining anonymous. But, whatever your feelings, you’d think you’d be safe entering this isolated situation without being watched or followed by a foreign company or someone – right?
Wrong. When you enter that room, you’re experiencing anonymity, a social phenomenon granting you privacy and independence. However, in the year 2017, it is all but extinct. It’s become one of our generation’s most pressing issues: “How should we ensure national security while enhancing our lives through technology, but also protecting a fundamental right to privacy that seems to have existed since the dawn of time?”
We stopped caring because of the internet.
Anonymity, Greek for “no name,” is a psychological phenomenon unique to humans: it is the idea that we all have identities to show to the world, but that we may turn those identities off and work in complete obscurity under specific conditions to remain anonymous.
“To traverse the social world of family, friends, peers, and coworkers, we need a public self,” says John Suler, a psychology professor at Rider University in New Jersey and author of The Psychology of Cyberspace.
“However, we also require a private self — an interior space where we may dwell on our thoughts and feelings without being influenced by others, where we can simply be with our psyche.” Both have an impact on our identity. Our well-being can easily be jeopardized if we don’t have one or the other.”
Being anonymous allows us to explore new things and express ourselves without fear of criticism. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania published a study in 2013 that included in-depth interviews with dozens of internet users across four continents.
For example, one interviewee built an anonymous online forum for English learners to practice their abilities. They could better handle various aspects of their lives because of their anonymity.
One participant stated that he frequented message boards to assist people with technical issues, but the internet’s detached character allowed him to avoid unwelcome obligations. Furthermore, in an environment like the internet, anonymity might assist protect personal safety.
The researchers stated of the 44 interviews, “Our results suggest that people from all areas of life have motivation, at one point or another, to seek anonymity.” However, most internet users would desire to stay anonymous; according to a 2013 Pew Research Center research, most don’t believe it is achievable. According to the report, 59 percent of internet users in the United States feel it is hard to conceal one’s identity online entirely. While some people take simple actions to protect their anonymity, such as erasing their browsing history, many users who claim to cherish anonymity aren’t doing so.
Our attitude toward privacy is becoming more casual. It could even be argued that not disclosing at least some information is harmful. Career advisors worldwide stress the value of having a fully fleshed-out public LinkedIn photo that includes your full name, headshot, employment history, and more.
This may be more of societal warming of formerly rigid attitudes. I recall my first experience with the internet. It was the 1990s, and I used my father’s computer at work.
Back then, internet service providers went to tremendous measures to prevent customers from disclosing even the most basic information in their public profiles, such as their first name, city, and even gender.
Today, Personal information is quickly and massively disseminated across the internet, frequently without our consent.
Instagrammed selfies of ourselves and loved ones with geotagged locations. Even though the victim of their harassment might click on their real names and authentic images to see who they are, social media users engage in political spats and nasty remarks.
“People often view the internet as an imaginary world with no natural limits, a place not to be taken seriously” – John Suler.
“People tend to conceive of cyberspace as a fictitious environment with no real borders, a space not to be taken seriously – not subject to the same norms and standards as the real world,” Suler explains. People’s comfort level with the internet has risen to the point where information sharing can be negligent or reckless in just a few short years.
Call it privacy weariness, but our growing reliance on smart devices and social media has led to a general lack of interest in remaining completely anonymous. But what if you’re one of those who avoid Facebook, don’t use social media, and suitable extraordinary measures to leave a minimal digital footprint? Sorry, but your anonymity is also in jeopardy.
Going off the grid isn’t a solution.
While not having a Facebook profile is a beautiful method to unplug, there are still ways for people to figure out who you are. According to Paul Ohm, a law professor at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, there’s “intentional anonymity” and “inferential anonymity,” with the former referring to the data that a Google-savvy sleuth can “infer” from you online – that is, dig up a lot of personal information about you using a single fact as a starting point.
On gaining ultimate anonymity in 2017, Ohm says, “It’s becoming increasingly evident that it’s a losing game.” “As long as someone knows something about you, they can probably find out more about you and do it more effectively than they have in the past.”
If you’re a social media snob, it’s possible that former flames or long-lost classmates won’t be able to find you. However, this does not make you invisible to large entities such as businesses or the government.”
It’s a lot tougher to be anonymous now than 20 years ago, at least from the biggest firms and the government,” says Peter Swire, a law and ethics professor at Georgia Tech. The latter served on US President Obama’s Intelligence and Communications Technology Review Group.
Advertisers track your internet habits across all your devices – phone, tablet, laptop – to learn where you go online, shop, and visit websites.
President Donald Trump of the United States approved legislation earlier this year repealing requirements that internet service providers obtain customers’ consent before collecting and sharing personal data such as web browsing history and app usage.
This points to a broader, more severe privacy risk in the age of cybersecurity breaches and digital businesses that keep your bank information and home addresses on file. It’s difficult to go unnoticed these days. Plus, there’s more. The “next great frontier in advertising,” according to Ohm, is your location.
Websites can tailor advertisements to your preferences depending on your web searches on the same device or pages you’ve visited. On the other hand, companies and advertisers are pursuing technology and business partnerships to pinpoint your location in real-time for ‘personalized’ advertising.
For example, an advertisement on your phone’s screen could display a coupon for a store half a mile away. It’s nearly hard to get entirely off the grid unless you’re willing to live without the internet. To put it another way, it’s difficult to remain anonymous even for those whose job it is.
Even so, there are many situations where anonymity is troublesome, if not dangerous. Is its abolition genuinely a boon to society?
Is it a good thing that anonymity has died? According to Swire, anonymity is a relatively modern construct, owing to the emergence of cities. As a result, we’ve spent significantly more time without it than with it.
“Anonymity didn’t exist in tiny towns back then,” Swire recalls, referring to a time when everyone knew everyone else’s business.
“To some extent, city life has bred anonymity. Today, even in a major city, every one of us leaves breadcrumbs that an investigator can follow.”
Anonymity has a wrong side as well. In a Carnegie Mellon survey, 53% of interviewees admitted to malevolent actions such as hacking or harassing other internet users. “socially undesirable activities” such as browsing sites depicting violence or pornography or illegally downloading data.
While most people prefer to keep sensitive information like bank accounts and medical records private. There are signs that some people are willing to sacrifice complete anonymity for the sake of the greater good.
Americans and Privacy.
56% said they were more concerned that the government’s anti-terrorism policies had not gone far enough to protect citizens. Even if it meant sacrificing some civil liberties, such as online privacy.
Meanwhile, YouGov, an internet market research organization, revealed in a survey last year that over half of Britons polled agreed.
Efforts to entirely anonymize our activities are more or less futile. An increasing number of the gadgets we use daily will require our personal information to work. They will become increasingly intertwined into our lives.”There’s a significant disconnect,” says Ohm.
“Do we believe what individuals say when an interviewer asks [about privacy], or do we believe what they buy?”The loss of anonymity appears to be unavoidable. Still, if you want to preserve your privacy as much as possible, the experts have a few suggestions.
You can apply best practices.
Most Americans don’t trust massive institutions like the government or social media companies to secure their personal information.
According to Pew Research Center earlier this year, most Americans don’t follow best practices to protect their identities online.
What are some of the most effective methods? Keep your passwords secure, create a unique one for each service, and make them difficult to guess. However, if your reputation is more important to you than hackers, a little common sense can go a long way.
Take the following steps to pass the front-page test.
Don’t send messages or emails with comments that would irritate you if they appeared on the newspaper’s front page.
Swire advises, “Follow the front-page test.” “Don’t send messages or emails with comments that would disturb you if they appeared on the newspaper’s front page.” That’s the counsel I offer to intelligence agencies and the advice I give regular people.”
They will be far more concerned about maintaining their anonymity when dealing with people they engage with daily.
“You might not care if a busy bureaucrat or an internet business has access to those gossipy emails,” Swire adds. “But you would care if your boss sees them instead.”
But suppose we’re going to attach real cultural significance to anonymity and safeguard it as a fundamental human right. It will take much more than individual effort and more than encryption apps you can download to your phone.
A massive shift in society will have to happen. It will need governments, advertisers, and tech companies worldwide to agree on a basic code of ethics. Because It’s not just about customers choosing digital services. It’s also about people opting out of their public-facing identities for some time.
“We all need a private zone where we can keep our deepest dreams and worst fantasies hidden. It allows us to grow as individuals, to try out different thoughts and different sides of ourselves,” Swire explains. “That isn’t going to alter due to the internet.”
If you are concerned about remaining anonymous contact us and Amicus International Consulting.