THE BLOG

Anonymity Is Your Last Chance to Stick it to The Man

You'll have seen the cartoon. Everyone's seen the New Yorker cartoon of two dogs in front of a PC, with the savvier one saying ''On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog."

Those days are long gone -- now everyone knows what breed of dog you are, what canine websites you visit, where you purchase your collars and your preference of colour for water bowls.

The Internet economy is driven by this knowledge, to allow the targeting of adverts, content and, horror of horrors, branded content to you. You can't move for relevance. Not bowls. The internet economy is driven by this knowledge, to allow the targeting of adverts, only is your digital independence gone, but so has the serendipity of finding something you don't know. That digital profiling and targeting leaves you in a loop of related ads, video and copy.

You'll never learn, or buy, anything new again.

For many, rightly, this is an issue of privacy -- the need to know who all that information is shared with. It affects our user experience and the nature of the information and choices put in front of us. It affects identity less -- the sheer scale of the data means it's unlikely that the fact that I, Fido, prefer cat food and look at the Crufts website far too much is ever going to be revealed to anyone whose opinions I care about. The attachment of such data to information that ought to be genuinely confidential (credit card details for example) becomes a matter of trust, of revealing such information only to those organisations for whom it is in their interests to keep it hidden. Genuine leaks are actually rather rare.

What this all does, is to make us long for those Wild West days of genuine anonymity online (remember that anonymity is different to the creation of fake identity.

Anonymity gives some genuine freedom to go online and discuss politics and personal matters; to look for a job or for love. To share with others without any level of prejudgement.

The solipsism of the web means that we tend to use social media to "present" ourselves, or a version of ourselves at least. To show how cool/successful/popular we are. At the same time, the increased use of social log-ins ties the corporate targetting right back into the centre of these so-called social spaces.

Anonymity and anonymous apps can free us from that. You can ditch the necessity of usernames altogether. No-one follows the thread of your thoughts forensically online. It's just you and a bunch of other anonymous strangers sharing your thoughts.

The likes of Secret tried it, but failed to keep their end of the bargain. The latest to the market is Thoughts Around Me, where to only identifier is location. Anonymity is, they say, guaranteed.

This, along with all the others should be welcomed. These are not hiding places for people to hold on to their secrets, these are spaces for people to let their thoughts roam free, as ideas, not as triggers for yet another ad.