Privacy, Identity And Anonymity

Privacy, Identity and Anonymity‘ in International Handbook of Surveillance Studies, eds. Kristie Ball, Kevin Haggerty and David Lyon (London: Routledge) forthcoming 2011 [co-authored in equal proportion with Jennifer Barrigar].

This chapter was written in collaboration with one of my favourite readers and writers, Jennifer Barrigar.  Together, we consider the complex interrelationship between privacy, identity and anonymity in an increasingly networked society through an exploration of the evolution of network technologies and its consequent shifts in social and technological architectures.   The rise of ubiquitous computing from CCTV cameras and handheld devices to digital rights management systems (DRM) and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags has precipitated a shift in the network architecture from one in which anonymity was the default to one in which nearly every online transaction is subject to monitoring and the possibility of identity authentication. We argue that this invariably affects the relationship between privacy, identity and anonymity.

Going forward, we suggest that individual experience will become increasingly characterized and shaped by ubiquitous computing, social networks, information intermediaries, actuarial justice and social sorting.  By briefly examining privacy, identity and anonymity in three distinct parts as well as offering a case study on anonymity in a networked society, we try to demonstrate that the creation of appropriate regulatory protections will depend on the preservation of commitments to fundamental underlying rights such as freedom of speech, autonomy, equality, and security of the person.  We also briefly examine the extent to which an individual’s ability to manage one’s privacy, including the power to identify oneself or to speak anonymously, is inherently linked to the concept of surveillance.  We conclude that, just as our desire for privacy may in some cases necessitate surveillance, so too does the ever-expanding database of personal information require that some of our performances can be separated from that person of record.

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