Jillian C. York is director of International Freedom of Expression at the US organization Electronic Frontier Foundation. Some of her articles and a lot of the interviews she has given provide excellent insights into chances and problems of anonymity and pseudonymity on the internet and on closed social network platforms. “A case for pseudonyms” for example explains why being able to use a pseudonym sometimes saves one’s life and often is an important factor to guarantee freedom of speech. “Lieber anonym als verfolgt” partly is a German translation published in the weekly newspaper “Die Zeit”. In “San Francisco Organization Fights For Online Anonymity” by CBS San Francisco Jillian C. York briefly summarizes why she does not like the ban of user pseudonyms by Google+ and Facebook.
In his blog www.metaphorous.com, Wilhelm Greiner 2010 wrote down some interesting thoughts on privacy in the social media age. The blog disappeared later, but, as you see, the Internet Archive still has it in its wayback machine. The entry is here. From Wilhelm’s point of view, for a privacy-aware person, there are four possible attitudes towards social media:
- Lifecasting – me, myself, my life and everything shall be online. Self-marketing is more important than privacy.
- Total refusal – nothing shall ever be found online about me. Privacy is my top concern.
- In-depth and detailed control –every bit about me goes through a risk assessment process before I put it on the web.
- Social media stream designed as a résumé – whenever a future employer finds information about me, he or she should get the right impression.
- Role play or “alias” mode – I make sure that my online me is not at all congruent with my real life me.
I like these categories, especially when taking into consideration that there are combinations of the attitudes possible. Wilhelm already mentions that attitude 5 can be combined with attitude 3 and 4, but in my opinion it also fits to attitude 2. For example, web-citizens anonymously participating in imageboards like 4chan or krautchan, inhabitants of virtual worlds or players of multi player online games may never show any information about their real identity anywhere on web 2.0 platforms like LinkedIn, Xing or Facebook. This seems a little bit similar to the way the old Venetians lived their real lives. In their small, but vibrating and multicultural town on the seas, dealing with merchants and pirates from everywhere in a still uncharted world, they developed the idea of living an anonymous life besides the public life. Wearing the Bauta, they played a role, but it was a predefined and generic role. It worked very well. Everyone wearing the Bauta disguise was accepted and greeted as “Signora Maschera”. May be that this is the 6th attitude to be thought about. By the way, on krautchan, every user is called “Bernd”. I definitely have to think about that, too.