Anonymity is the state of not being identifiable within a set, called the "anonymity set". When referring to human beings, we say that a person is anonymous when the identity of that person is not known. Being anonymous is a result of not having one's identity, characteristics or significant features disclosed. This may be simply because the person was not asked, as in an occasional encounter between strangers, or because the person is unable or unwilling to tell. Often times the information is simply unavailable and a correlation between the individual and their actions is not possible.

For example, this may apply to victims of crime and war, whose identity could not be recognized. Likewise, the perpetrators of actions can also be anonymous. A classic example is the purchaser of a winning lottery ticket, the lottery officials know there is a valid key but not the individual who has it. It could be anyone allowed to purchase a ticket; on the scale of several millions of dollars--anonymity can be seen as very powerful.

Anonymity may not be by design when not readily available. Disguising one's identity may be by choice, for legitimate reasons such as privacy and, in some occasions, personal safety. Criminals prefer to stay anonymous, such as when writing a letter with a threat or demand. A common misconception in circles of law, is that a person could be guilty of a crime if they sought to hide their identity.

Being anonymous is not a crime nor is it a defense against being prosecuted for a crime as many legal documents bear "John Doe" as the claimant. A female version is also "Jane Doe" when the gender is known.

The fewer the constant indicators of identity allow for a greater degree of anonymity. In a large city there is more anonymity than in a village. The number of indentifiers in the possible set of a city is greater than in a smaller village.

Anonymous works have no identifiable author. They may be products of a folk tradition, handed down orally; or it may be that the data concerning the name of an author has been lost or intentionally withheld. The attribution standard for literary works requires authorship and is bounded by known identities. An alternative method is the "nickname" or "pen-name" for an author to disguise their real identity while not being anonymous.

Anonymosity is the act of hidden aggression towards another person. The word was coined by Filipino rockstar JP Cuison, AKA the Andy Warthog of Rock And Roll!

Anonymity and the Internet

When communicating with others over the internet, it is frequently preferred to not use any sort of identifiable handle (such as a supposed "user name" or any other arbitrary ways of identifying who is speaking). This is most greatly felt when looking at the largest internet BBS, 2channel. There are millions of posts being made to this type of system without any way to tell who is speaking other than the fact that each post has a number attributed to it. The users of this type of community hold that posting without a name provides the ability for readers and fellow posters to be able to communicate freely, without having to waste time on the artificial and meaningless decorum that accompanies real-life communication-- in short, one who posts to a 2ch-style BBS is able to say what he wants to say without having to worry about his status when compared to others. One does not know if he's talking to an established, long-term user, or someone who has just started viewing the site this morning. The only thing that is ever known is the content of what the person is trying to say: that alone is used to determine its worth, as opposed to the drastically different practices of many other, now less-popular methods of communication, where one's value is determined by how long you've been there.

During the late 20th century, the Internet has made anonymous publication significantly easier, however development of methods of surveillance, and in particular the spread of Internet communication opens unprecedented powers of computer surveillance. Anonymous and pseudonymous remailers use cryptography to make it extremely difficult to link the real identity of the sender to the message. There are also network protocols designed primarily with the purpose of allowing unrestricted anonymous publication in data havens, such as Freenet or friend-to-friend networks.

Recent advances in computer-based text analysis, however, have the potential to identify the authors of anonymous works. The future ability of anonymity methods to counter such techniques is unknown.

Find more at Internet privacy


See also

de:Anonymität es:Anonimato it:Anonimo nl:Anonimiteit pt:Anonimato ja:匿名


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