In this week’s Digital Savant column, available in Tuesday’s American-Statesman print edition and on MyStatesman.com, I take a look at anonymity online.
While we may associated being anonymous with nefarious behavior online or harassment, there are some legitimately good reasons for wanting to hide your identity online or to use services like Tor to cover your tracks on the web.
Here’s an excerpt from the column:
Brenda Berkelaar, a faculty researcher at the Center for Identity at the University of Texas, said there are other, more important reasons for law-abiding people to remain anonymous online.
“Gender, race and other sorts of bias as well as informational threats impact people’s lives on and off,” Berkelaar said. In addition to warding off information thieves, people may wish to seek health information online for issues that are still stigmatized, such as mental health.
“Women with children can experience a ‘mommy penalty’ if their employers know they are pregnant or have kids” when seeking work, she said. Whistleblowers often need to stay anonymous when reporting wrongdoing to avoid losing their jobs, getting sued or putting their families in physical danger.
And, of course, groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous offer support online. “Being anonymous is a legitimate, important part of that process and many others,” Berkelaar said.
Even Facebook, the company notorious for getting users to reveal more personal information than intended, sees the value in anonymity. It just introduced “Rooms,” an app for iOS devices allowing users to create anonymous chat rooms.
But how does one wear the cloak of invisibility online, or at least do a better job of covering digital tracks?
You can read the full column right here.