Skip to Content

Lessons learned. Anonymity - Online and Offline – Part IV

Posted on 5 mins read

Several conclusion can be drawn and turned into lessons on how to protect anonymity more effectively. This we are going to explore in this part of the series.

Lesson 1: The more knowledge an observer has about as many persons as possible, the weaker anonymity becomes.

Anonymity being a knowledge problem, depends solely on what the observer knows about us and other people – the identifying information or unpooling attributes about members of our anonymity set.

In the information age both the online world – the Internet – as well as the offline world betray us in keeping our identity protected.


Lesson 2: Anonymity is nothing that can be expected anymore, neither online nor offline.

Unique identifiers and strongly unpooling attributes are the core both to the operation of the Internet as well as to the digitization of the physical world. These pieces of information are not only generated, but constantly collected and permanently stored. But not only those things that are invisibly to us created by the technology around us harm our anonymity, but also data collected about our behavior.



Lesson 3: Anonymity must be actively created.

The generation off de-anonymizing data and it’s collection is a process that does not need to be initiated by anyone to target a specific person. It happens in the background as the default mode of our world. To protect anonymity, active steps must be taken.



Lesson 4: The protection of privacy relies on generating less data.

Many motives exist for personal data to be generated and collected, from marketers to law-enforcement. Since data can be stored, transferred and traded easily, it can easily end up in unforeseen hands. Also, some parties possess special legal powers or direct access to data. Therefor:



Lesson 5: Data that cannot be prevented from being generated needs to be concealed by use of technology or changed behavior.

Both online and offline the technologies of daily use depend on certain personal identifiers to work. This data will always be generated if these technologies are used. However, this data can be concealed or made less telling by changing how technology is used and by protective technologies created specifically for the protection of anonymity.



Lesson 6: Anonymity is protected by the individual. Protection requires taking the initiative to actively reduce or conceal data.

None of these protective technologies should be expected to be used without the active effort of the person trying to protect himself. Also, changes to behavior to protect anonymity are the responsibility of the private individual.



Lesson 7: Online anonymity relies on concealing IP-Addresses, removing Cookies and Referers, and obfuscation of browser fingerprints.

In the online world of the Internet, the four strongest unpooling properties that are most widely spread are IP-Addresses, Cookies, Referers and Browser Fingerprints.



Lesson 8: Offline anonymity relies on reducing the use of credit & loyalty cards, not carrying a cellphone and trying to escape recording by cameras.

Offline, in the physical world, most de-anonymization is done through mobile phones, credit and loyalty cards, and face recognition.



Lesson 9: Instead of making all data available to a single party, identifying information must be split over multiple parties.

Even with the use of protective technologies, some data will be generated. To protect anonymity in these cases, it is necessary to make sure that identifying data is not correlated and shared between multiple parties.



Lesson 10: Protecting anonymity requires awareness of how we behave and how technology works – and to adapt methods to protect anonymity.

Technology around us is changing constantly. Our behavior is a strongly unpooling attribute that de-anonymizes us. This can only be countered by a constant awareness of how we act, how technology works, and how identifying information can be minimized in a changing world.

Armed with these ten simple lessons, anonymity can be partially restored. In the future, will present and explain various methods and technologies for protecting anonymity – and privacy in general – both online and offline.

Five things to start with

To start with protecting your anonymity, try out these things on a daily basis:

  1. Leave your mobile phone at home, or carry it switched off.
  2. Do not pay with your bank-issued credit card. Instead, get yourself a Visa or Mastercard Gift Card – or better yet, use cash.
  3. Stop making and uploading photos to the internet, and don’t volunteer to model for any or become a part of a stranger’s snapshot.
  4. Use the incognito mode or privacy mode of your browser.
  5. When asked at a coffee shop which name to put on your order, give out an invented name.

While these five easy steps do not protect you fully, they are very easy to take. And they help with getting a feel for a lifestyle that puts a greater emphasize on privacy.

Things to come…

Part I: Theory of Anonymity

In the first part of this series the theoretical aspects of what anonymity is are explored.

Part II: Online Anonymity

This part explores how much anonymity can be expected online and how anonymity is reduced by everyday technologies used in Internet communication.

Part III: Offline Anonymity

Here we apply the theory of anonymity to offline interaction.

Part IV: Lessons for Anonymity

Some lessons have been learned that can help to improve anonymity in general, both online and offline.