3 U. Ottawa L. & Tech. J. 1 (2006)

handle is hein.journals/uoltj3 and id is 1 raw text is: What's in a Concept? Some Reflections on the
Complications and Complexities of
Personal Information and Anonymity
Gary T. Marx*
THE TOPIC OF ANONYMITY is conceptually and practically challenging. Among reasons for this are the
multiple elements across different levels of analysis, varied contexts, and the variety of goals and
dimensions that cross-cut these; 2) conflicting rationales and values; and 3) contested and/or
opposing social, cultural and political trends and counter-trends.
In order to better understand anonymity, this conceptual analysis article raises and
suggests possible answers to the following questions: what are the major types of information that
can be associated with anonymity? (nine are identified, such as location and attitudes); what do we
mean by personal information (using a series of concentric circles, distinctions are drawn between
individual, private, intimate, unique and core identification); what are some of the major factors
affecting behaviour involving anonymity, and judgments of anonymity (e.g., the structure of the
communication and the type of activity involved); what are the major values that support or oppose
anonymity? (e.g., openness in communication vs. accountability); what trends and counter-trends
encourage or discourage anonymity (e.g., technologies that make the meaningless meaningful as
against increased freedom of choice with respect to identity); what broader principles are relevant
to public policy in the area (e.g., informed consent and reciprocity) and what kinds of questions
should be asked in setting policy (e.g., clear statement of goals, awareness of unintended
LANONYMAT EST UN SUJET stimulant sur les plans conceptuels et pratiques. II y a diverses raisons
pour cela, notamment : 1) la multiplicit6 des 6lments provenant d'analyses 6 divers paliers, de
contextes varies ainsi que des objectifs et des perspectives qui se d6gagent de tout cela; 2) de
justifications et de valeurs en conflit; enfin 3) de tendances ou de contre-tendances sociales,
culturelles et politiques contest~es ou oppos~es.
Afin de bien comprendre I'anonymat, par le biais d'une analyse conceptuelle, cet article
propose des r6ponses possibles aux questions suivantes : quels sent les principaux genres de
renseignements que I'on peut associer 6 I'anonymat? (neuf genres sont mentionn~s, y compris le lieu
et les attitudes); qu'entend-on par renseignements personnels? (utilisation d'une s6rie de traits
circulaires concentriques pour distinguer l'individu, la vie priv~e, l'intimit6, les identificateurs uniques
et fondamentaux); quels sont certains des principaux facteurs qui influent sur le comportement et les
jugements en matire d'anonymat? (p. ex. la structure de la communication et le genre d'activit6 en
cause); quelles sont les principales valeurs en faveur ou contre I'anonymat? (p. ex. la transparence de
la communication versus l'imputabilit6); quelles tendances ou contre-tendances encouragent ou
d6couragent 'anonymat? (p. ex. les technologies qui donnent un sens a ce qui 6tait vide de sens
versus la libert6 de choix et le respect de I'identit6); quels principes plus larges sont importants pour
les fins de la politique publique dans ce domaine? (p. ex. le consentement 6clair6 et la r6ciprocit6);
enfin, quelles genres de questions devrait-on se poser en 6laborant la politique? (p. ex. des 6nonc~s
clairs des objectifs recherches et une prise de conscience des consequences non d~sir~es).
Copyright  2006 by Gary T. Marx.
*   Professor Emeritus, MIT. This article expands on a presentation to The Concealed I: Anonymity, Identity
and the Prospect of Privacy conference, University of Ottawa, March 2005.

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