Computer Crime Research Center


Anonymity in Cyberspace: Finding the Balance

Date: July 09, 2006
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Mohamed CHAWKI

... required or not. It shows that limitations on anonymity could be said to reflect the legislator’s recognition on various interests in making a person’s identity known. Accordingly, one of the digital applications that could bring potential for balancing anonymity and the quest of governments and businesses to have identification data available is the facility of Trusted Third Parties; such as the Certification Authorities or anonymity software. These could play an intermediate role in keeping a true identity secret and also in providing identity and tracing information once certain conditions are satisfied. There will be always be a continued debate, such as in France, whether they must retain in escrow identifying information in the event that governments require to decrypt messages for state security reasons. In line with the present developments in the U.S.A. where Internet Service Providers have to reveal the identity of people posting information through their facilities, case law, self regulatory initiatives and maybe even legislation may set the conditions under which identifying information must be revealed by intermediaries.


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1 Anonymity is derived from the greek word ανωνυμία, meaning without a name or name-less. In colloquial use, the term
typically refers to a person, and often means that the personal identity, or personally identifiable information of that person is
not known. More strictly, and in reference to an arbitrary element (e.g. a human, an object, a computer), within a well-defined
set (called the “anonymity set”), “anonymity” of that element refers to the property of that element of not being identifiable
within this set. If it is not identifiable, then the element is said to be “anonymous”.
2 See G. du PONT, The Criminalization of True Anonymity in Cyberspace, (7 MICH, TELECOMM TECH. L. REV. 191),
3 In fact, the term cyberspace literally means ‘navigable space’ and is derived from the Greek word kyber (to navigate). In
William Gibson’s 1984 novel, the original source of the term, cyberspace refers to, a navigable, digital space of networked
computers accessible from computer consoles, a visual, colourful, electronic, Cartesian datascape known as ‘The Matrix’
where companies and individuals interact with, and trade in, information. Since the publication of this novel, the term
cyberspace has been re-appropriated, adapted and used in a variety of ways, by many different constituencies, all of which
refer in some way to emerging computer-mediated communication and virtual reality technologies. Here, we refocus the
definition back to the envisaged by Gibson, so that cyberspace refers to the conceptual space within ICTs, rather than the
technology itself. See W. GIBSON, Neuromancer (New York, Grafton), [1984]; M. DODGE, Mapping Cyberspace (N.Y,
Routeldge), [2001] p. 1; D. PARKER, Fighting Computer Crime (N.Y., Wiley), [1998].
4 See G. du PONT, op. cit.
5 See (visited...
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2008-06-09 11:47:32 - Sorry for the multiple messages, I pressed... Albert Nonymus
2008-06-09 11:46:24 - Interesting read, for the... Albert Nonymus
2008-06-09 11:45:53 - Interesting read, for the... Albert Nonymus
2008-06-09 11:45:37 - Interesting read, for the... Albert Nonymus
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2006-08-10 22:16:48 - I agree with you that anonymity should not... Marianna
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