IGF 2014 Report: WS146 Anonymity by Design: Protecting While Connecting

Please provide a brief substantive summary of the workshop and present the main issues that were raised during the discussions

The panel presented a series of case studies and problematics around the value and necessity of anonymous communication online. Panelists from a broad cross-section of multi-stakeholders contributed various perspectives that called for evidence-based policy reform to establish and protect the right of anonymous online communication. These perspectives include:

– anonymity as a fundamental human right, enabling other rights (Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Expression and Right to Privacy).
– the qualified nature of existing rights and recommendations by the Council of Europe (2012) with regard to social networks and the protection of data security, which includes end-to-end encryption, as well as the Cybercrime Convention and the limitations to these rights.
– the dangers on non-anonymous practices based on geolocation and big data profiling
– the role of surveillance by corporations for behavioural advertising purposes, which includes e-commerce and cloud based services
– the need for anonymity to protect political protestors in Turkey, specifically related to Freedom of Assembly
– the need for anonymity to enable young people to talk about sensitive issues such as bullying in an honest, open environment
– the importance of anonymity for combatting sexual violence
– the technical side of the realities and socio-economics of anonymity

Panelist Nadine Moawad discussed the importance of anonymity for combatting sexual violence. We have seen a number of case studies, in Egypt, in Yemen, Jordan, Palestine, Indonesia, in almost every country, where women use an anonymous tumbler or Twitter to talk about sexual violence; to come out and say, “I was raped. This happened to me. And this is how I feel about it.” There are many such examples of women, especially young women who come out and talk about violence that’s happened to them in institutions, schools, universities, at their jobs, on the streets. And being able to be anonymous takes away from the details used to blame the victim. Being able to be anonymous helped women put their experiences forward, to talk about the violence that happens and to bring it into the public sphere.

There are numerous human rights benefits of anonymity, including enabling other existing rights including freedom of assembly, right to privacy, and freedom of expression.

The importance of open and free social networks for political protest, young people, victims of sexual violence, whistleblowers, and journalists.

Anonymity should be the default and a right for all, not only the rich and powerful.

Anonymity as a right is the responsibility of all stakeholders, users, corporations, governments.

The technical and legal understanding of anonymity needs to be addressed with more nuance regarding state, law enforcement, and e-commerce practices.

Evidence-based policy reform is needed to protect the right to anonymity online in the use, regulation and governance of the Internet.

Posted in IGF 2014 - IRPC Report, Reports.