January 31, 2012
As scholars and professionals, many of us spend a lot of time in the connected digital realms of the interwebs. While the Internet allows us access to information and entertainment of all kinds, individuals and companies – both benign and malicious – are getting much more savvy about finding, tracking, and collecting information in the other direction — about you!
While this infographic is positively ancient at nearly a year old, it gets to an important issue of how the web is used as a communication tool and it got me wondering about how folks in our community feel about the topic, whether they’re aware of the issues, and what precautions they take – or don’t care about!
According to this poll from Mashable which shows nearly 80% support, people overwhelmingly feel that anonymity is an important quality for their web experience. Pseudonyms are a common and time-honored strategy used by folks to maintain a kind of privacy/anonymity. Would we have the published works of George Elliot or the Bronte sisters had they not committed this subterfuge? And what of the “victims of fame” like Charles de Lint who, after gaining a devoted following as a fantasy author, used an alternative name to publish a series horror stories.
Many people whose professional work all-but-requires them to have an online identity (including myself) have created separate online personas where they can interact with non-work related communities. Some long-time bloggers who have shared extensively about their expertise and life have come to regret the decision, despite what they and others may have gained from their open sharing. This evidence notwithstanding, Internet giant Google has made it clear that the only way you’ll use their Google+ services is with your “real” identity.
How do you use the web? Do you fall more to the side of supporting transparency or anonymity? In between? Tell us in the comments!