Privacy and anonymity have always been an integral part of human society. The introduction of the internet has not altered the core meanings of the two words, but it has reaffirmed the importance of both privacy and anonymity in the life of the average citizen.
Definition Of Terms
Privacy can be defined as a state in which an individual is able to hide information about themselves for no reason other than to keep it from others.
Anonymity, on the other hand, can be described as the ability to hide one’s true identity from others chiefly to remain unknown without hiding or censoring their activities.
Evidently, the two words have clearly distinct meanings.
Thanks to the internet, however, privacy and anonymity have been reduced into one big mess of blurred lines and afflicted definitions.
While several people operate under anonymity on the internet, few enjoy real privacy from the rest of the world.
What It Means to be Private on the Internet
Privacy on the internet is beginning to look like a very rare commodity.
Governments, corporations and malicious hackers have all actively participated in the elimination of online privacy for the average internet user.
While it is common knowledge that privacy is an essential component of internet security, few truly understand exactly how a lack of it can compromise their wellbeing online.
When you lack online privacy, it means that all your information can be accessed, either willingly or forcibly, by either one of the three aforementioned parties.
The government uses this information to compile profiles about their citizens.
Advertising firms create personalized profiles that allow them to target specific demographics for increased effect.
Malicious hackers may use your lack of privacy as a means to access sensitive information such as bank details and credit card data.
At this point, it is safe to assume that without an ability to use the internet privately, your personal and financial security face a great risk.
What It Means To Have True Anonymity
Anyone can be anonymous while on the internet—an ever-increasing array of encrypted browsing tools and private networks has seen to that. But being anonymous does not necessarily mean that you’re private as well.
Anonymity grants the average web user the freedom to be anyone but themselves.
Although this does secure personal interests and details, there have been several cases where online anonymity has not been enough to protect an individual’s true identity.
Like privacy, anonymity exists in levels. An activist or whistleblower will take more measures to ensure that they remain anonymous than a teenager on Twitter would.
For them, their identity is their most precious asset and protecting it with anonymity means keeping their online activities separate from their day-to-day lives.
Their Role in Modern Society
It is argued that both privacy and anonymity were an integral part of society long before the invention of the internet. Even without access to this massive network, people in the past still had a reason to keep their private lives away from the eyes of everyone else.
Keeping our personal lives hidden from others has always been a present aspect of human interaction.
As for anonymity, it was used in the past to voice opinions and concerns freely and without fear of retribution. By keeping their true identities hidden under the safeguard of anonymity, people were more confident about challenging authority and questioning societal norms since it saved them from suffering any consequences.
Privacy is an intrinsic human need, even in modern society. In as much as everyone needs to feel connected to everything via the internet, there are significant portions of our lives that we keep well hidden.
Details such as medical records, financial information and personal identities are things that we prefer not to publicize, and for good reason. Losing any of this data to a hacker can have serious consequences, including identity theft and financial fraud.
Anonymity might not be as inherent as privacy, but it is just as important in any society. To maintain a proper societal balance, freedom of expression is a right that must be exercised.
Activists and whistleblowers are considered the voice of the people because they have the courage to say what many wouldn’t for fear of retribution.
Anonymity provides them with a measure of protection from their powerful corporate and political enemies. Without anonymity, few would be willing to come forward with facts and truth, and this would result in impunity, oppression and public manipulation.
Preserving Online Privacy and Anonymity
Clearly, we need to do better about retaining our privacy and anonymity online since they are crucial to keeping society in check and preserving our security.
You can guarantee your own online privacy by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to access the internet.