Anonymity Tools for the Internet

作者:Brian Kim, Chris Laas, Shelly O’Gilvie, Alexander Yi


1 Overview
The Internet, once hailed as a super-egalitarian forum for the masses, is increasingly dominated by powerful corporations and governments. Unfortunately, the architecture of the Internet makes it easy for such entities to covertly monitor users’ behavior; so, as the imbalance of power increases, it will become more difficult for individuals to say what they feel, read what they want, and do as
they please without fear of repercussions.

Anonymity is an enabler than can help to counter this influence: when a person can make statements unlinked to his own identity, his power to speak freely expands. In this paper, we first discuss a set of potential threats to anonymity. We then present an array of tools an Internet user could use to protect himself against these threats, and divide them into two categories: the nonfunctional, and the nonexistent. We cautiously suggest that the currently available suite of privacy tools may be adequate for a casual speaker, but would be ineffective against a determined
and powerful adversary. In the next section of our paper, we lay out the legal framework for anonymity in the United States, and conclude that, while U.S. law protects anonymous speakers from governmental intrusions, there is no such assurance with respect to private entities.

In the final section of this paper, we present a corpus of situations in which anonymity might help preserve the rights of individuals. For each situation, we detail the risks and threats the Internet user faces, and suggest means by which the user could overcome those threats. In some cases, there currently are no good options available; for these, we outline the technologies that we believe would be necessary to provide an adequate level of protection. We hope that our corpus of threats and case studies will serve the dual purpose of helping individuals to secure their privacy in a way appropriate to their situation, and of guiding the creators of future anonymity tools, laying out the needs and constraints of their potential users.