Internet Privacy in 2012: It’s Not Easy Being Anon

March 6th, 2012 by Melissa Guion

internet privacy isn't easy

A True Anon

Now that we’re all settled into 2012, we still find ourselves catapulting forward through the Information Age. Some have even classified our current place in time as the Personalization Era [sic]. This is a time wherein the information collected about you online can and does tailor your experience on the Internet to your interests and/or demographic.  Your searches, data collected through your online presence (Facebook and other social networking sites), tweets, and other bits and pieces come together to serve as a pool of data that allows search engines and various sites to do a variety of things to assist or appeal to you. Advertising, personalized search results, product recommendations, etc. are chosen specifically for you! This era, in my experience, has found many divided into two larger groups: the Embracer and the Anon.

Embracers either know how the system functions and reap the benefits of this custom online experience, or they are completely unaware and simply enjoy their online life with great abandon. Embracers also house the Oversharers.These are the people whose Internet lives can overshadow “IRL” and they thrive on divulging minutia.

Conversely, Anons are those whose Twitter feeds are penned by pseudonyms that require follow requests to view, their Facebook profiles are well-protected, and you’re not going to find many, if any, lamentable pictures of them from their freshman year of college even if you’re “in” with them online. These are the people who comb through privacy settings, making sure they’re in full control of what is accessible and to whom. Generally, if they have the option, they also opt out of anything that shares their information or uses it for commercial purposes. Included here is also the ultra-paranoid who will usually be on the other end of emails where the subject begins with “FW:Fwd:FW:” and who legitimately believe much of the fear-mongering myths dispelled on Snopes.com.

internet privacy isn't easy

Fwd:fwd:FWD:fwd

So who’s better off in the current era: the Embracer or the Anon?

The Embracers are certainly going to have plenty to work with for their memoirs. They’re often extremely up-to-date on Internet trends and make online friends far and wide. They often appreciate that their online experience has been tailored to them and utilize this when shopping or discovering new websites, products, or services. On the other hand, over-sharing
or being unaware of the implications of sharing certain personal data on the web, besides possibly annoying an Anon or two on their friend list, can be risky and lead to dangerous pitfalls like identity theft. Stalking people in the “Personalization Era” certainly seems easier, though! Avid Foursquare users beware: try not to make too many enemies.

The Anons can and do enjoy their chosen level of privacy. Future employers or those undesirable lurkers will have a hard time pinning any dirt on the Anons based on their online presence. They can even be fully present at and enjoy a party
without live-tweeting it. Life is getting harder for the Anon, however, thanks to changes in Google’s privacy policy and the trend of moving away from anonymity in many forums.

The case for and against Internet anonymity has been a subject of discourse more and more recently and, no matter which group you find yourself in, chances are that if you’re reading this, you’ve got an opinion on it. Whether you’re an Embracer, an Anon, or somewhere in between, knowing what you’re sharing and with who is always a good idea.