by Paul Rudo on 21/06/11 at 8:39 am
In most developed nations, people (should ideally) have freedom of expression and the right to air their views without fear or favor. Since online communication is now the primary means of communication for many groups – with people using emails, social networking websites, web browsing, newsgroups, etc. to communicate – the freedom and protection of online speech and communications is increasingly becoming a major human rights issue.
Of course, online communications provides an easy, automated, inexpensive, nonviolent way for governments, companies and spies to track the activities of careless online users. That’s why it’s important to cover your footprints using the right tools. (proxy servers, Janus, Tor, VPNs, etc…)
Of course, people on the anti-privacy side of the argument will tell you “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide”. However, that’s not how the world works.
Below, I’ve included 20 completely legitimate and legal scenarios in which online anonymity is critical.
- Online anonymity is an important tool in the prevention of online threats, malicious attacks, and identity thefts. When we browse the Internet, the search engines and ISPs automatically record our browsing. These logs are often either purposely sold to online marketers or hacked by online identity thieves, resulting in our personal data being exposed to unscrupulous elements. At times, we research sensitive information intentionally or unintentionally. In all the above circumstances, we require online anonymity.
- Journalists are increasingly required to communicate with prisoners or people under surveillance in countries – like China – that have repressive regimes. Unless the journalists and the persons whom they contact have the protection of anonymity, the contacted persons could face serious consequences from such repressive regimes. They need online anonymity to avoid retaliation and express the ground situation openly.
- With the recent high-profile security breaches from LulsSec, Anonymous and Wikileaks, it’s clear that we can’t trust governments and large organizations to protect our personally identifiable information.
- Law enforcement officers use online anonymity when investigating questionable or illegal websites, to conduct online undercover operations, and receive anonymous tips from informers about criminals or terrorists. In these situations, the law enforcement authorities and theiir contacts should have online anonymity for successful completion of investigation. If the suspects become aware of their being tracked, that could hamper the investigations.
- Military communications require maximum security. Today’s Internet hackers are so smart that they are sometimes even able to crack or decipher encrypted communications. And even with secure encryption, a lot of information can be obtained from just the packet headers. Hence, the commanders, officers, and field agents of military use anonymity. The threat posed by insurgents and terrorists has increased enormously in recent times. Military personnel require anonymous communications to protect themselves and their strategies from terrorist attacks. A recent example was the killing of Osama Bin Laden by a special force of the U.S. Military. All communications had been kept behind a veil.
- National intelligence agencies collect huge volumes of data on persons suspected of corruption, bribery, tax evasion, illegal activities, and exchange of information and documents of national interest. If the suspected people come to know of the surveillance by the intelligence agencies, they would easily take evasive action and escape prosecution. Hence, intelligence agencies usually resort to anonymous surveillance of such persons.
- Human rights activists and groups generally use online anonymity to escape unnecessary prosecution or harrassment, even though their activities are legitimate. In countries like China, any activism is severely suppressed brutally and hence most human rights activists in China resort to online anonymity to protect themselves.
- Labor unions have the right to organize workers into unions. Still, managements or governmental agencies are likely to disrupt their efforts. Under such circumstances, the labor unions and workers use online anonymity to organize and unite.
- Whistleblowers are another group that requires legitimate online anonymity. Whether they work for corporate business entities or governmental agencies, they could face personal harm and other repurcussions if their identity is known.
- Vulnerable businesses make anonymous communication channels available to help their employees inform the management about activities by their coworkers that could harm the business.
- Companies often monitor of the activities of their employees to identify those who view unwanted materials, job search sites on the Internet. Online anonymity is important for the protections of employee’s privacy and information access rights.
- Many bloggers use online anonymity to escape legal suits for what they express in their blogs.
- ISP network outages, DNS problems, and routing problems could lead to serious difficulties. Online anonymity tools could help in such circumstances.
- Several informers that provide vital data on sweatshops and illegal organizations also encounter danger to their lives. Such people use online anonymity to protect themselves.
- Lawyers with prestigious clientele could offend their clients if they express their political ideologies openly. Hence, they write on blogs anonymously, hiding their real identity.
- Social workers are forced to protect the poor citizens from unscrupulous elements that try to exploit them. In such situations, they require anonymity to achieve their goals and also have self-protection.
- Financial institutions participate in security clearing houses on a daily basis. They use online anonymity to safegaurd their data, since it is possible that the security of one financial institution could be breached, leading to overall compromise on data security.
- Several organizations protect their prices from competitors. If you wish to view the prices of your competitors, you might have to approach their website anonymously as general public.
- Investment bankers protect their investment decisions by operating anonymously and escaping from snoopers.
- Many online marketers use anonymity to conduct marketing operations so that their competitors are not alerted about their strategies.
- Since search engines modify their results based on a number of personally-identifed criteria such as location, web browsers, cookies, operating systems, etc… online anonimty can help ensure that you get access to accurate, unfiltered web search results.