Anonymity and Identity

I’ve been a reader of Ben Laurie’s Blog for some time now. I guess anyone with an interest in anonymity or identity management is going to end up there eventually. Ben recently started a blog exchange on the topic of Anonymity is the Substrate which highlights a concept I had previously not considered, that anonymity sits at one end of the identity spectrum.

As an Anonymous Remailer operator, I am perhaps guilty of seeing anonymity as a binary state where you have anonymity or you have identity. Can anonymity be considered one end of the identity spectrum when it is a complete lack of identity? My opinion at this time is that total anonymity is the total lack of identity. This is however a state that nobody can maintain for any period of time without an almost professional obsession for identity management. Anonymity is a binary state and the moment a little bit of it leaks, you are on the identity spectrum with no means of return.

Pseudonymity is a different animal as unlike anonymity there is an implied desire for an identity. Whilst the totally anonymous state is unstable and leaks from the moment it is used, the pseudonymous identity is maintainable (with care) as the linkability between repeated usages of that identity is already assumed.

Regardless of the anonymity an identity system provides, can that anonymity be realistically maintained by the user of the system for any period of time, or does it just leak on to the identity spectrum almost as soon as it’s deployed?

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