Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
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.
Anonymity and the Internet
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
- List of anonymously published works
- Anonymous P2P
- Strong anonymity
- John Doe
- Internet privacy
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