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Protecting anonymity

+ 3 like - 0 dislike
750 views

Anonymous posting needs to be guaranteed to be absolutely anonymous! I don't think a moderator should be able to deanonymize anybody, threaten to deanonymize, or even figure out who is posting! This is extremely important for academics to be able to post questions, answers, and especially reviews.

This means moderators need to pledge to treat anonymity as sacred, never deanonymize anybody, never try to figure out who is who from statistics or IP's, and to make efforts to not even look at the IP's of legitimate anonymous users. Anonymity needs the firmest guarantee, a single well-placed deanonymization can wreck an academic career, it is not funny.

Also, for this reason, one might need to make sure that no academic folks are allowed to look at IPs of anybody, they might deanonymize someone. This might restrict the moderation pool unduly, but the only other option is to store the IP's encrypted from the mods, which requires programming. I think this is a serious issue.

asked Apr 7, 2014 in Discussion by Ron Maimon (7,535 points) [ no revision ]
retagged Apr 8, 2014 by dimension10
Most voted comments show all comments

Ron, what do you consider anonymous? user name "anonymous" or the handle we use when registering as "user name". As far as I am concerned I would call anonymous anybody not using his/her real name ( first and last).

Hi Ron, concerning the recent particular issue a PhysicsOverflow member was for some reason not able to log in successfully which made him post a few questions anonymously. He told me so and would like to have these questions associated with his account, so what happend was not that damaging in this case.

I think we all agree, that the needs of our community members which can include anonymity have to be respected and protected, we need to be careful about this and Dimension10 certainly meant no harm ...

Cheers

In your comment replying to newbie you give a good list for support of anonymity.

On the other hand, people posting on the net should meditate on Snowden and his revelations. Ultimately there is nothing hidden under the sun for those who want to find it. People using the internet should have this in mind, no matter how good the intentions and safeguards here ,  they can be hacked and broken by outsiders. So if they really want  absolute privacy they should not be posting on the net. This is just the privacy of a masked ball, well maybe a bit more than that, still.

@Dilaton was the OP who contacted you the OP of the same question?  

@annav yes, I had actually revealed an anonymous poster and deanonymised the post thinking that it may be an accident that he posted anonymously accidentally. I don't know if it was really an accident, I suppose it was.  

Most recent comments show all comments

@Dilaton Nope, I assumed that his anonymity was an accident, and deanonymised the post; But he has now told Dilaton explicitly that it was anonymous because he couldn't log in! Can you read? Why do you have to misinterpret things deliberately?  

@Dimension10: Ask for him to comment on the question, so that he deanonymizes himself first. The question wording has changed (I did that only because it was anonymous) and it has acquired rather hostile comments (I'm guilty of that too), and he might not want to own the question anymore. He has no reason to be embarassed, there's really nothing wrong with the question, even though the result is nonsensical, but that's his call. When he posts a comment on his answer saying "deanonymize me", that's when you act, not when he sends an admin an email which should be confidential. Ask him to post a public comment deanonymizing himself, don't be the first to act. Anonymity needs to always be broken first by the bearer.

2 Answers

+ 1 like - 0 dislike

Since it seems this is not contrversial, I think it should be edited down in length and added to the FAQ. Anonymity is guaranteed, and if you post something anonymously and wish to deanonymize, leave a comment explicitly publically claiming the question/answer/comment and flag the comment for moderator attention.

answered Apr 9, 2014 by Ron Maimon (7,535 points) [ no revision ]
+ 0 like - 3 dislike

In the past you didn't want anonymous posting because:

The private beta should be for people who you know personally, or at least can identify by real name, so that you don't get trolls. There's a fellow called "physicsnewbie" who I don't recognise, and wasn't at theoretical physics, and whose name doesn't seem to indicate much experience. But, still, physicsnewbie had a good logo idea.

I am not comfortable with anonymous users at this stage, we should know who everyone is in real life, because it is easy to sabotage new things using trolls.

Who are you, physics newbie? Are you a student? A physicist?

and now you do?

If someone's really concerned about anonymity, they can set up another email account, register it, then post from an Internet cafe or library. They're not going to post from their institution or home knowing their IP is there for the site administrator and mods to see.

Anonymity is of use only to people that want to post a one off something here, and don't see setting up an account as being worth while in the long term.

answered Apr 7, 2014 by physicsnewbie (-20 points) [ no revision ]

That comment was strictly meant for the private beta, and only for the private beta. In a private beta, there is no reason for anonymity, and some good ones against it. But the private beta is over now, and now we need anonymity, if only to test and strengthen our anonymity for the public launch.

On the main site, there is a reason for anonymity:

1. To allow stupid questions/comments without shame

2. To allow hostile comments without repercussions

3. To allow people to explore a superficially discredited idea collectively without destroying their reputations.

If you allow anonymous questions, then you had better respect the anonymity. The worst thing is for someone to use IPs, login statistics, language stylometrics, or anything like this to figure out who anyone is. It's ethically wrong, if someone asks for anonymity, they should get it.

When you allow main-site anonymity, you need to also allow meta anonymity, because a main-site anonymous person should be able to bring up a concern on meta without revealing their identity. So anonymity everywhere is needed.

That includes you. I don't want to know who you are! Even though your comments got on my nerves, so what. You are always welcome to write whatever you like, without fear of repercussions, or deanonymization.

This is obviously an intentional misinterpretation of the question.  

@dimension10 you're wrong, and possibly unintentionally misinterpreting the motive behind my answer.

Either I'm right or your browser only displays post titles.  

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