The Case for Anonymity 

By Phoebe Yu

8 September, 2014

Anonymity should be the default and identification a choice in online networks, suggested Robert Bodle in Workshop 146, “Anonymity by Design: Protecting while Connecting”, at the 2014 Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul, Turkey.

Bodle is Co-chair of the IRPC and in making the case for online anonymity, asked the audience: If online anonymity is disappearing due to data monitoring and people’s own online behaviour and attitudes, why should anonymity exist in the first place?

The answer to this lies in the value of anonymity as an enabler of broader democratic rights, suggests Bodle.

Currently, the default is not anonymity, but user tracking.  Corporations, social media sites and Internet search engines are still able to track users’ online behaviour to provide, they argue, a more personalized experience – in the form of targeted ads or relevant search results.

Granted, there have been changes to some social media sites over privacy settings. But controlling the privacy settings may be too confusing or daunting for some.  Most people probably haven’t read Facebook’s 9,000-word privacy policy, for instance, or are not aware that there’s a link under Facebook ads where you can view and manage your ad preferences.

Preventing other companies from tracking you is a similarly tedious process that many may not be familiar with.  Opting out from targeted advertising requires registering with each company that tracks you.  (Fyi – for a faster way to opt out, you can go to www.aboutads.info/choices/ or http://www.youronlinechoices.com/uk/opt-out-help but you will need to do this for every new browser or computer you use).

As online anonymity is not yet the default setting, individuals still need to be vigilant in protecting their online privacy to retain the right of control over their own identity and privacy.

To find out how much people are aware of privacy issues and how they protect themselves online, we asked a few people on the street in London (UK) near the Angel Underground station about their online behaviour in the video below:

Posted in Blog.