Is Online Anonymity Shameful?

28 Feb 2011|Leigh Marinner

Memeburn posted a blog several weeks ago about how online anonymity is an issue fraught with emotion. In it Joseph C. Lawrence posts that “Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Eric Schmidt have both made it clear how they feel: Why would you want to be anonymous online if you are not planning on doing anything wrong? If not ‘wrong’, then at least something you are not proud of.”

Nima Srinivasan from Added Value and Edwin Wong of Yahoo! published an article in the February 2011 issue of Quirk’s entitled “What does a woman want – online?”  which points out that one reason for anonymity is the need to be able to be vulnerable, as opposed to projecting an ideal self.

To be able to discuss personal problems and issues such as body image issues or health concerns, women seek out more anonymous channels than Facebook.  They want to find others who faced similar situations and overcame them.  Their research found that even women with good relationships with sisters and friends, didn’t always want to discuss personal insecurities with them.

Another good reason for anonymity is to be able to air opinions that might not be acceptable in the workplace. You might want to discuss political opinions and not have to reveal them to clients or co-workers.

Danah Boyd has interviewed gay teens in rural regions who need the anonymity of some online sites in order to be able to discuss their sexual issues and learn from others facing similar situations, in a situation in which they have few other options.

The memeburn blog made a useful distinction between data privacy and personal situation privacy.  ‘Personal privacy’ online can relate to companies using so called ‘private’ data for advertising profiling purposes (to give one example), which is an entirely different discussion.

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