The internet has democratised information and opened up avenues for business and socialising that have changed the world. But with any public space – just like in the real world – you’re exposed. In the real world though, you don’t usually approach strangers with your name, address and life story.
This isn’t always the case online.
For some people, hiding their identity is an essential. We’ve put together the five reasons that people turn to anonymity when it comes to the online community.
The search for love can be a quest. We’re all looking for that certain someone. However, with the internet, it’s possible to have your certain someone… and someone else. And someone else.
Cheating on a partner is always a discreet business. So it’s natural that the first reason on this list as to why someone might hide their identity online is if they are looking for an affair. And with estimates that around 30% of Tinder users are married, it seems that this is a more common practice than you might think.
2. Political Activism
Standing up for what you believe in can be hard at the best of times.
But when you’re in an environment where speaking out can have dangerous consequences, the risks become that much greater.
For some, concealing their identity online is the only way to protect themselves while also promoting their cause or vocally criticising governments and official organisations.
The Anonymous movement are probably the most famous example of this, despite no one really knowing who they are. While their identities are a question mark, their actions are well-publicised and often illegal.
These groups usually use methods like VPN encryption to hide their true online location and identity from those in authority. If you’re looking to carry out DDoS attacks, you need to be flying under the radar and VPN encryption gives Anonymous their… well, anonymity.
The sad truth is that in many places around the globe, members of the LGBT community do not feel safe enough to be open about who they are. And with good reason.
In as many as 74 countries, homosexuality is illegal. Homosexuality is punishable by death in 12. Even in 2019, new laws have emerged in Brunei permitting the stoning to death of LGBT people. While this has caused outrage across the world, the fear is very real for those living there.
With such deadly opposition, it’s easy to understand why concealing your identity online would be an attractive option.
4. Organised Criminal Activity
When you think of the underbelly of the internet, this is likely what you imagine. Dangerous dealings, unsavoury characters and secret meetings. While the picture in your head is likely cartoonish, the reality is much darker.
The anonymity that the internet affords people has led to a range of crimes committed by organised gangs. Want to hire an assassin? Sure. Need to launder some money? Sorted. Want the black market at your fingertips? You got it. The dark web has made it increasingly difficult to catch this new digital criminal and authorities are having to learn quickly. Transactions can occur without detection and with few clues left to the culprit’s true identity.
Constant updates and little glimpses into everyone’s private life have become the norm with social media. If you have a cake and coffee, there are people out there that want to see it.
However, this ease of access has had distressing consequences for many.
Stalking and harassment online are upsettingly common. The victims of these crimes are left terrified and afraid for their safety, even in their own homes. While there are steps you can take if you are being harassed – blocking, reporting and contacting the police – changing your online identity altogether is a way to minimise the risk of being found.