Nested Anonymity: the dilemma of attempts to be anonymous

Anonymity — Privacy — Right to be forgotten are more or less the same thing. They are everywhere. They are sensitive topics especially for people in the EU and the United States. They appear every day in the news headline. And yet, we currently have no clue how to do it right.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by vipul uthaiah on Unsplash

0. always read the newly updated terms and policies through for every single product and service
1. recreate a new social account or use 4chan

2. view only mode — don’t post/comment anything if do it make sure to don’t repeat the patterns

3. use Tor browser

4. change living place, IP address, phone number

5. enroll in WITSEC

6. living off the grid of internet and cashless payment

7. always wear a mask in public places — against the face recognition

8. rely on yourself 100% — Become a solitary guy on a hidden island/moon

There might be other protocols to be anonymous. I hope you get the overall idea. Applying those tips frequently is the key to renew/regain your true anonymity. And this is just weird, and frustrating process. Who designs this? Before going further into the redesign and re-engineering those, we need a solid understanding of anonymity first.

What is anonymity?

At our birth, we all once are anonymous guys, right? And we keep resetting our anonymity repeatedly since then through out the course of life.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath. Let’s get back to the very beginning of you. To the first moment, you are being introduced to this world. Nobody knows you. and You know nobody. Could we say that you are completely anonymous? Even your parents give you a name and know your face. And they may (be very curious) inspect some of your traits from your inherited DNA. They don’t have any other traits of you yet. Thus, you are unknown to them. you are completely anonymous by any means!

I define anonymous as “how much an individual or a party knows about your traits/features/characteristics/properties of your body/mind/behaviours/belongings”

But the quality of anonymity will degrade as you continue to interact with society. Anonymity is meanless without society. Still, anonymity will keep degenerate as you live in society.

When you created a new contact channel e.g. twitter/facebook account, phone number, etc. and also included wearing the mask, mocking the voice, etc. That channel is representing the new you without the acknowledge of the link between you and your new channel from recipients, you are being anonymous again via that channel. Since you start off your life anonymous already, you now do, what I call, nested anonymity. An attempt to regain anonymity via alternate a new communication channel.

Why do we need anonymity?

As our society progress into the freedom of everything, we tend to view entities as an individual. It is easier to blame an individual rather than blame a party/system/… Like all types of storyteller(e.g. movie directors, writers, journalists, …) would agree, convey a pain of a single individual is much more understandable/impact than a pain of millions.

Greta Thunberg (Young Climate Activist) at the Climate Action Summit 2019

I don’t like to use these stories as examples. I won’t elaborate further on them. The point is that human, in general, lacks the ability to appreciate and comprehend the story with too many characters. So, there must be someone taking the role of representative. sacrificing their time and identify for the sake of the greater good.

It is also sensible(?) that in a free-will society, an individual is fully capable of diverging their decisions in a professional role as well as a personal role.

Now, our only choices are what is offered in the supermarket, filter by individual purchasing power. The choice of denial choices is virtually impossible to do.

The truth is that is false for the majority of cases. [Global warning – Chernobyl nuclear example] Comparing today with the 18th century, we are more dependent on others for living than ever. Back in the time, we can grow our food, use a blank land as we wish. Now, our only choices are what is offered in the supermarket, filter by individual purchasing power. The choice of denial choices is virtually impossible to do.[1] Thus, if you die early due to the food and poor packaging. What to blame is your inability to make ENOUGH money(e.g. 80+ percentile in my high inequality country) to support a simple healthy life. There are not many things you create from scratch by yourself. We are so so depending on what the economy offers. And yet every time so often we blame or punish on a topic, we tend to do that in an individual manner. This is simply unfair.

For the present moment, to make things a bit fair some people choose to go (nested) anonymous. There are many good reasons for doing that. Take the SecureDrop for example.

Intentions to go Anonymous

  1. Abstraction - Knowing too much is painful for you and your community.
  2. Protection a.k.a. intractable, unaccountable —a tissue-paper-like identity

Messages are worth within itself. Taking the author(s) into consideration just adds unnecessary biases. [For example, when you are reviewing an academic paper. Or you are a police about to write a ticket to a guy which is turn out to be the president later on]

Here is a situation.

It is ok that a guy, who smokes for his entire life and is currently smoking while talking to you, recommends you to not smoke.

Ok — This means you are an open-minded guy who not follows the logical fallacy.

not Ok — This means you are a normal person who doesn’t like to waste time listening to a loser.

Sometimes you don’t need to know the past or even present of someone. Pre-judging did help to filter and save a lot of time, but it is not working all the time. Sometime you will miss a great and rare knowledge.

Abstraction is a double edge sword. We all cumulatively build up trusts and some kinds of authority in the past. When we go anonymous, you are discarding all and solely depending on your content and some luck for others to listen and share your content.

You want to isolate your intelligent and your physical body. Thus, you become anonymous to ensure that the origin of intelligent, cannot be traced and harm.

Nowadays, your intelligent solely could perform so many actions in the real world. You can hire and pay someone to do something for you without a trace. If you are a skillful hacker, this 2020 internet-connected world is yours. Ill will actions that cannot be punished could post a huge problem for the whole society.

The ugly of nested anonymity

There is no end. You may stop/pause and resurface to the normal world anytime. Still, Each time of resurfacing will increase the chance of revealing your true identity.

Creating a new communication channel results in a clean slate identity. Discard the entire stack of society trusts. It will be a cold start every single time.

Like making a lie, switching between many accounts, Remembering actions you have done on each account. Good-will guy will find this very frustrating. Not everyone could keep all minor details right. One careless action will result in revealing your true identity.

What I believe to be the solution is “flatten anonymity” which will be discussed in a later article.

Image for post
Image for post
A glimpse on flattening anonymity
Image for post
Image for post
Another glimpse on flattening anonymity

Being anonymous, and being unaccountable doesn’t need to always go together.

[1] My sensei, Ajahn Jayasaro, once said that

the true freedom is not the freedom to choose from choices. It is the freedom to deny the offerings. [And even better it is the freedom to create alternatives.](I added this)

Written by

A quant, ML Engineer— Pythonista — hacker.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store