Anonymity is a crucial issue in debates concerning technology, politics, and data justice. A new anthology offers fundamental insights into what anonymity is and why it matters. The book of anonymity focuses on the possibilities connected to and created by anonymity, how it is produced, its outcomes, and its potentials. The book looks at anonymity as a ‘mode of being and knowing’ , moving beyond a purely technical definition.
In this short book, just 64 pages, Clare Birchall addresses the shifting relationships between data and citizens to unpack what big data, transparency and openness, mean for democracy and the government of subjects. It stands as an interesting read alongside Zuboff’s (2019) voluminous The age of surveillance capitalism, not only for the contrast in page count, but also for the distinct theoretical take and the greater focus on the role of the State.
In a process that started decades ago, a multiplicity of forces is creating a slow, but steadily rising storm against anonymity. Discourses of transparency and accountability often describe anonymity as a threat. Technologies such as the IP-address-based Internet, sensory devices, and machine learning techniques further undermine anonymous encounters. In an age of near ubiquitous surveillance, anonymity is under attack. But what is at stake in such discourses and developments?
The profound changes in technologies of personal data collection have shifted our terms for understanding anonymity. As data gathering technologies are permeating various corners of our lives, a number of stakeholders are attempting to map, track, analyse and define what is happening to our identity, our privacy, or our ways of being social. These stakeholders include lawmakers and politicians, think tank members and lobbyists, entrepreneurs and marketeers, journalists and activists, legal scholars and lawyers, social scientists and computer scientists.