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Literature Review Essay: Anonymity in the Digital World

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Literature Review Essay: Anonymity in the Digital World

        As technology increasingly develops more advanced in our society, new issues continue to emerge and evolve regarding our online community. Nowadays, people don’t even seem to blink before clicking on a website or even try to read the terms and conditions before installing something on their computer. It is because technology has integrated so much into our lives that it’s become difficult for us to comprehend how our actions on the internet can colossally influence us in reality. These problems are becoming progressively vital as more individuals encounter the digital world and see the necessity for privacy in this new society as free speech is suppressed by governments and other organizations. During these last few decades, this struggle over whether online anonymity should be eradicated has sparked an intense debate regarding what’s considered to be a right on the web. On one hand, a majority of people feel that anonymity only encourages more crime and that its dangerous to give people a mask to hide behind where they have the ability to conduct illegal activity. But, on the other hand, there are many who feel that anonymity is fundamental in regards to protecting freedom of expression as many often do not have the ability to speak freely within their country. It is from these momentous arguments that this essay will discuss five sources, in sequential order according to the presentation of each argument, that look at each side of the contentions that explain why some people don’t feel anonymity is important and why some do as well as the reasons why privacy is ensured by programs like the Tor project but does not ensure one’s security.

[pic 1]

“How it Works.” Bhalla, Akshay. MENS XP, 2007.  

        Beginning with a visual source, it’s clear to understand that from this diagram websites like Facebook, Google, Amazon and any other page that uses HTTPS or .com as a domain, contributes only to 4% of web content on the internet while “96% of the global traffic”, according to Bhalla in “The Dark Web is a Disturbing Place…”, in the digital universe is predominantly present in the deep web. These websites within in the deep web and what’s considered the dark web are known for having sound protection with passwords as well as their sites nearly being untraceable to their owners. There is, however, a difference between the two terms ‘the deep web’ and what is known as ‘the dark web’ that the diagram seems to accurately portray. While some might assume that these words are co-related, they actually tend to be quite different in definition as the dark web is, in fact, a part of the deep web and not, in contrast against many people’s assumptions, the same thing. The dark web is essentially where all the drug trafficking, money laundering, child pornography, and illegal activity takes place while the deep web, as demonstrated in the visual source, consists mostly of all sorts of data that are present for mundane, everyday-life reasons. This large percentage of activity in the dark web is just one of the many reasons why people are against anonymity on the web as they believe that this veil over one’s identity encourages crime and other illegal activities.

        According to Loshin, however, “the problem with that argument is that anyone who is enough of a criminal to commit a crime with Tor can also accomplish the same goal of anonymity through other criminal means” (19). In other words, it is simply another tool for criminals to use because rather than encouraging crime, invites it like any other criminal would use a gun or a knife to achieve their means. Its shown through his book, Practical Anonymity, that Peter Loshin, is obviously an exceptionally knowledgeable man having experience as a TCP/IP engineer at a Cambridge, Massachusetts research lab, and a technical editor for Byte. His byline, in addition, has appeared in industry publications including Data Communications, Telecommunications, Communications News, PC Magazine, and PC World. It is from his book that Loshin further discusses the idea of anonymity inviting crime, rather than encouraging it, along with the idea that while programs like the Tor Project might offer anonymity to those who desire it, it does not provide security to those who need it. This is backed up by his reasoning that essentially, as human nature being imperfect, programs like Tor cannot prevent us from compromising our own anonymity through our activities online. Meaning, essentially you are your enemy and while you might wear an invisibility cloak, one trip or slip up can give you away to certain, unwanted eyes. So, while the argument against anonymity suggests that anonymity fosters crime, it also assumes “‘wrong’ and ‘illegal’ are the same, when they clearly are not” (19).

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