What’s in a name? A forward view of anonymity online

Privacy Internet access Digital communications Online privacy digital identity

Policymakers and other public figures are increasingly vocal on the importance of balancing the benefits and drawbacks of online anonymity. This paper clearly outlines how online anonymity should be understood. It presents a model through which future settlements on online anonymity can be tested, presented in a way that we hope is useful to both technologists and policymakers.

The paper proposes a three-fold test for how identity verification should function online in liberal democracies. Future solutions must:

  1. Protect internet users’ ability to choose anonymity online, and emphasise its importance in preserving freedom of expression.
  2. Allow accountable institutions tasked with preserving security to exercise their powers effectively.
  3. Ensure users are able to fully consent to their identities being known by other third-parties.

This report proposes the creation of a British Identity Corporation (BIDC), a new independent body to verify identities online. The body would allow people more control over how they’re identified as they travel across the internet, whilst also providing a method to help law enforcement tackle persistent online harms more effectively, in a way open to public scrutiny.

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