Anonymity as a modern myth

In the society we have created, the question is 'who are you?' cannot remain unanswered ..

Anonymity as a modern myth

Original material

Rosie Blair, a writer and self-proclaimed hysterical woman from the Texas hysterics, recently boarded a plane and began a series of posts at Twitter that changed her life and the lives of the two people in front. Rosie and her boyfriend asked the woman to switch places so that the couple would sit next to each other. “We joked that maybe her new local neighbor would be the love of her life.” And it actually happened.

As events developed, Rosie Blair began posting a series of messages and photos about how the woman started a conversation with a neighbor, how they began to flirt, and even excerpts from their conversation. This series of posts garnered hundreds of thousands of 'hearts', comments and retweets, giving Rosie herself, her boyfriend, and the man in front of her, media exposure.

But not the woman who changed places with them.

Anonymity as a modern myth

Screenshots of posts from a series of posts Twitter

In a recently deleted video following a viral chat, the couple briefly mentioned the still-in-the-shadow woman.

'We do not yet have permission [to post material with photo and name] from this woman. But folks, I'm sure you can … 'Rosie said before shutting up, hinting that users can independently identify this woman if they want to.

They did just that. They found her and 'trolled'. On Tuesday, Rosie Blair publicly apologized for stripping a woman of her “rights to her own story.” The fact of this bullying, also known as doxxing, has tinted the initially happy story in dark colors. After all, the story was discussed even before the identity of this woman became known. First of all, was Rosie right in putting what was going on for everyone to see? And was it the right decision to invite her on national television and glorify her throughout the country? The main question: did this mysterious woman, who just had a nice conversation with her neighbor, have no right to keep the secrets of her private life?

Maybe it wasn't.

Anonymity as a modern myth

A recent story with platforms like Facebook 'collecting' our private information, namely how Cambridge Analytica appears to have used a personality test in Facebook to gather information, which uncovered targeted political advertising – gave rise to our awareness and our awareness of the problem of privacy. The aforementioned company was not the first to massively collect information about users of social networks. Michael Kosinski was one of the developers who first thought about the myPersonality test (which was not a targeted ad acquisition tool and did not collect information about the user's friends), which was later used by the Cambrige Analytica team as a rough template in their activities. Kosinski's recent excursion into information analysis has been the controversial assumption that artificial intelligence can determine sexual orientation by simply examining the subject's face in the photo.

In an interview with The Guardian recently, Kosinski talked about his view of privacy and why he wants to push the boundaries of privacy in his research. He, like many of us, is a fatalist. “I might be upset about our loss of our privacy. But this cannot cancel the fact that we have already lost it and the situation can only be reversed by the destruction of our civilization. '

Perhaps he is right. But what kind of world do we live in when all that is needed to destroy it is to ask us to leave ourselves alone?

Anonymity as a modern myth

The central question of the modern Internet, in which trends are set by mass platforms, is: who are you?

The platform economy from Amazon to Uber builds on this variation of surveillance-based capitalism: who is behind the wheel of your car and who is in it as a passenger, who delivers food and who eats it, who is staying with you and who rents you housing, who is looking for what, who is friends with whom, who likes what. So the platform economy 'hates' not knowing who you are.

In 2010, Mark Zuckerberg said: “The days when you can have a different image for colleagues, work friends, and others may very soon be numbered. Having two personalities for one person is an example of bad faith. '

A quick glance at what is happening on the Internet eight years after this statement is enough to understand its validity. Anonymity is the haven of faceless and nameless Twitter trolls who dock out unsuspecting victims. Anonymity is behind the prank calls that result in the special forces visiting your home. Anonymity fuels racist and chauvinist themes in 4Chan, which spill over into the rest of the internet with strange and frightening consequences. Anonymous is the name of the community behind hacking and DoS attacks.

Since 2010, most of us have been actively working to avoid anonymity. We independently upload to various servers our names, faces, places and dates of birth, ours and our children, what we like and dislike, vacation photos, consumption habits and political preferences. We show them in different combinations on a variety of platforms depending on the services they offer. We do this in order to pass validation within the framework of the platform and thus get it in real life. We do this because we have been convinced that 'non-anonymity' equates to authenticity.

This led us to the current state of affairs, when we were faced with an irresistible desire to find the mysterious woman from the mentioned flight. This desire is created by the logic of surveillance capitalism. In the society we have created, the question is 'who are you?' cannot remain unanswered.

If privacy has really disappeared, then there is only one way to avoid surveillance, however fleeting it may be. We must claim the territory that the system has called off-limits: anonymity. We forget (or we are constantly forced to forget) something important: while anonymity allows terrible things to happen, it is not in itself bad. Far from it, it represents a neutral state of affairs that allows both good and bad to happen. We are so often reminded of the bad that the good 'drowns' in it. But the positive aspects of anonymity are now more fundamental than privacy. They allow us to be truly free.

Anonymity as a modern myth

Someone may know that you are reading this text. If you highlight a part of it or stop at any fragment, if you leave this browser window open for a long time or quickly close it, if you share this material on a social network or via e-mail, someone will know, just as someone knows that I am now writing this text. We both know this and expect it as part of a platform-based surveillance capitalism framework built for us.

But what if you were anonymous online? If you could read this text without leaving any traces on the Internet? This information could not be acquired by any person, program or algorithm. You probably wouldn't want to share the text. You probably wouldn't have to worry that the content of the text would in any way affect other texts you read. And you definitely wouldn't think about the server-side flag of the pause you made to reread individual paragraphs or reopen a link. In short, you would stop thinking of your actions as part of a computer program. You would think about your actions, actually yours.

In the dogma of a society under surveillance, our identity, thoughts and actions are available to everyone by default. Everyone belongs to everyone else, anonymity is a sin. Not sharing is impudence. But what about all that has been promised since joining the platform economy – freedom, choice, authenticity? All this can be obtained only in the absence of a fixed identity that is constantly imposed on us. Which constantly follows us and which strangers constantly look at. Anonymously, we can think, listen and learn for ourselves. We can change if we want. And to be whoever we want.

By Colin Horgan

Of course, this case is just a drop in the ocean, but the overall picture consists of such situations. In the modern world, we and our actions are available to a certain circle of people, no matter how we resist it. Our attitude to this is ambiguous – something is done for the good, something – undermines security and threatens well-being. In principle, this is another struggle between good and evil, common sense and criminal intentions. But there is no getting away from this, especially if there is a desire to keep up with the times. There is something to think about.

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