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The GNU/consensus Manifesto mentions the term Anonymity to mean:

With interoperating free software social networking systems, no user will be compelled to provide any particular kind of information, whether it be her name, her age, or what country she lives in. It will be up to those she communicates with to judge what information she chooses to provide or withhold.

This page explains the controversy around that usage of the term anonymity, and refers to further information about anonymity and pseudonymity in academic research.


Christian Grothoff, leader of the GNUnet project, found that the appropriate title for the aforementioned section would be Right to Pseudonymity, referring to the current definition of anonymity used in academic research on anonymity. Richard M. Stallman, leader of the GNU project, argued that the definition used in the manifesto reflects a common understanding about anonymity, and should be kept in that form to keep the text easily readable.

See the archived discussion.

Anonymity and Pseudonymity

Anonymity is derived from the Greek word ἀνωνυμία, anonymia, meaning "without a name" or "namelessness". In colloquial use, anonymity typically refers to the state of an individual's personal identity, or personally identifiable information, being publicly unknown.

Compared with pseudonymity,

Sometimes it is desired that a person can establish a long-term relationship (such as a reputation) with some other entity, without necessarily disclosing personally identifying information to that entity. In this case, it may be useful for the person to establish a unique identifier, called a pseudonym, with the other entity. Examples of pseudonyms are pen names, nicknames, credit card numbers, student numbers, bank account numbers, and IP addresses. A pseudonym enables the other entity to link different messages from the same person and, thereby, the maintenance of a long-term relationship. Someone using a pseudonym would be strictly considered to be using "pseudonymity" not "anonymity", but sometimes the term "anonymity" is used to refer to both (in general, a situation where the legal identity of the person is disguised).


Related concepts: anonymity, privacy, pseudonymity.

Maneesha Mithal in the New York Times, March 17, 2010:

“Technology has rendered the conventional definition of personally identifiable information obsolete,” said Maneesha Mithal, associate director of the Federal Trade Commission’s privacy division. “You can find out who an individual is without it.”

See related article on Personally Identifiable Information on Wikipedia.


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