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Lessons Learned Too Well: Anonymity in a Time of Surveillance

A. Michael Froomkin

University of Miami - School of Law

April 19, 2015

Anonymity is in trouble.

Private incentives and initiatives during the past decade have resulted in the deployment of a variety of technologies and services each of which is unfriendly to anonymous communication. The paper discusses these private activities, then looks at three types of government regulation that also work to undermine anonymity: the general phenomenon of chokepoint regulation, and the more specific phenomena of online identification requirements and data retention (which can be understood as a special form of identification).

The concluding section asks whether the fate of online anonymity in the next decade will be determined by human rights law and finds this unlikely. Instead, the trend is to make decisions either via the deployment of new technologies or by national and trans-national political choices. The paper therefore offers normative and pragmatic arguments why anonymity is worth preserving and concludes with questions that proponents of further limits on anonymous online speech should be expected to answer.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 51

Keywords: Anonymity, Surveillance, Privacy , Free Speech, Internet

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Date posted: September 24, 2011 ; Last revised: March 2, 2016

Suggested Citation

Froomkin, A. Michael, Lessons Learned Too Well: Anonymity in a Time of Surveillance (April 19, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1930017 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1930017

Contact Information

A. Michael Froomkin (Contact Author)
University of Miami - School of Law ( email )
P.O. Box 248087
Coral Gables, FL 33146
United States
305-284-4285 (Phone)
305-284-6506 (Fax)

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