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Privacy vs. Anonymity – All You Need to Know

Alex Popa

By Alex Popa . 11 January 2024

Cybersecurity Journalist

Miklos Zoltan

Fact-Checked this

Anonymity and privacy are two of the most thrown-around concepts in today’s digital landscape, and they’re often used interchangeably.

But they don’t actually refer to the same thing. There’s a fundamental difference between them.

Essentially, Privacy is the degree of control over your data, while anonymity means faking your identity or hiding all identifiable elements of your real identity!

Imagine that your life is a book:

  1. Privacy means that no one can see the book, and only you have the ability to choose who can see and read from that book and what to share from it.
  1. Anonymity means that everyone can see the book but it’s written in a language only you understand.

Or, if it’s easier to understand, imagine privacy like an invisibility cloak. You can choose to wrap yourself in it and keep your personal information invisible from others. And you get to choose who can see it and share it.

Anonymity is like wearing a cloak and mask in public. Everyone knows you’re there and can see your actions but they don’t know who’s behind the mask.

Below, I’ll explain why these concepts matter, how to maintain them, legal implications, and more!

What Are the Definitions of Privacy & Anonymity?

Two masked men in cyberspace

To get this out of the way, it’s impossible to be 100% private or 100% anonymous online. The concept of the internet is incompatible with true privacy or anonymity.

Someone knows who you are, no matter how well you protect yourself.

Being private means being in control of who sees the real you and what pieces of you they can collect. It’s like being alone in your home and you get to decide who can visit you.

Being anonymous means hiding your real identity from the public. You’re no longer hidden but part of the crowd. You’re indiscernible from everyone else because you are not identifiable.

But the internet doesn’t allow you to be 100% private. Your ISP knows who you are and where you’re located. Your device also knows who you are because it collects cookies about you.

And you also can’t be 100% anonymous. No matter how incognito you are, there’s at least one party who knows the real you, or they can find out who you are. And if they choose to dig deeper, they will.

But does this mean you can’t protect yourself online? Or that you can’t be anonymous and private?

No, of course not. You can achieve near-perfect anonymity and privacy if you do the right things.

Key Elements of Privacy

  • Privacy is about controlling your Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
  • Harder to achieve and maintain than anonymity
  • Breaches of privacy pose greater risk to the individual than breaches of anonymity
  • Control over your personal information
  • Autonomy in your decision-making about your sensitive data
  • Right to limit the access to your personal space
  • Confidentiality when communicating or interacting online
  • Protection against any unauthorized intrusions that may harm you
  • Privacy should be the preferable default state of all sensitive personal data
  • Ideally, privacy is a a human right that everyone should have

While the right to privacy is acknowledged in most Western countries, you don’t have privacy by default when you go online.

Your browser, search engine, and websites you visit will collect cookies, track your activities, and send you personalized ads.

Similarly, your IP address is clearly visible for anyone who cares to look. You’re a public entity when you go online. You’re not private by default.

You can use private browsers that disable trackers and ads but cookies are integral to the proper functionality of many of these programs. Even if you limit cookie collection, you can’t stop it entirely.

Key Elements of Anonymity

  • Anonymity is about concealing your PII and creating an illusory identity
  • Conceals your personal identity
  • Ability to act without exposing your real identity
  • Becoming incognito in public by using aliases or pseudonyms
  • No one can see your PII (personally identifiable information) because you either don’t allow it or spoof it
  • Mask, obfuscate or hide your physical appearance
  • Limit any connections between your online persona and real-world identity
  • Free from being identified, recognized, scrutinized or judged
  • Ideally, anonymity is a right that everyone should have

Anonymity is a right just as much as privacy is, but just like privacy, you don’t benefit from it by default when you go online.

Unlike privacy, though, anonymity is more intentional and action-oriented, requiring you to adopt a certain digital lifestyle in your online dealings. VPNs, for instance, are almost a no-brainer for the anonymity-conscious individual who doesn’t want to leave digital footprints.

Here are a couple of things you might be doing related to anonymity – using the Tor browser, using Incognito mode in your browser, avoiding publishing PII on social media, using non-identifiable email addresses, using virtual credit cards, paying with crypto instead of fiat, and more.

In other words, anonymity is all about limiting the amount of PII about you on the web and making your presence as unassuming and indistinguishable as possible.

One of the key distinctions between privacy and anonymity is that the former is more of a state of being online, while the latter is related to specific actions or activities you engage in.

You are anonymous in relation to something you do online. For instance, you’re surfing the web anonymously or you’re accessing a geo-blocked service anonymously. Or you’re commenting on a social media post anonymously because you gave a fake name and email address.

There are multiple degrees of privacy and anonymity. For instance:

  • Your public social media profile is neither private nor anonymous. Everyone can see it and everyone knows who you are because your real identity is tied to it
  • If you make certain information private, like your phone number, email address, and birthday, you limit and control who can see that information, making yourself more private but not anonymous, as the private information is still tied to your identity
  • Changing your name, profile picture, bio, and other identifiable information on your social media profile makes you anonymous but not private. Other users can still see your profile but they just won’t know who you are because you’ve spoofed/altered your identity
  • Deleting your social media profile entirely makes you both private and anonymous because you no longer have personally identifiable information tied to an social media presence

You can think of privacy as control and anonymity as illusion, in a nutshell!

Why Does Privacy Matter?

Complete privacy

The late John McAfee once said that “We are losing privacy at an alarming rate – we have none left.” And Gary Kovacs said that “Privacy is not an option, and it shouldn’t be the price we accept for just getting on the Internet.

Your privacy matters because it’s who you are. It’s your identity, all that makes up your person, and if it goes into the wrong hands, they will exert complete control over you.

Here’s a quote from me – if you don’t control your privacy, someone else will. And you should discriminate unapologetically between who can and can’t control your sensitive data.

Identity theft is one of the foremost risks the 21st century person faces today. And:

Your identity is made up of countless elements – name, email address, phone number, banking information, credit card number, physical address, medical data, vacation plans, pictures, and more.

Every single one of these elements can be used against you by threat actors.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying – “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to be afraid of“.  Only someone who’s content with being controlled and who doesn’t understand the risk of abuse would say this.

Make no mistake about it – sensitive data can be weaponized against you. This has been going on since the dawn of humanity. Phishing, identity theft, BEC (Business Email Compromise), and various other cyberattacks use your personal data against you.

The simple fact that you’re not in control of your data means that bad actors can get their hands on it. Privacy doesn’t mean hiding your data to commit illegal deeds. You’re doing it to protect yourself preemptively from those who would harm you using that very data.

Why Does Anonymity Matter?

Anonymity mask

If privacy is a passive protection against external threats, anonymity allows for a more active participation in society without succumbing to cybersecurity risks.

Here are some of the most important reasons why you should care about anonymity:

  • It protects you against unwanted scrutiny by spoofing your identity or hiding it behind a mask. This allows you to engage in online activities without being unnecessarily judged or gathering attention on yourself. This doesn’t mean engaging in illegal activities, though
  • It protects your freedom of expression from abuse, retaliation, and attempts to discredit it. Anonymity fosters open dialogue and communication, promoting the sharing of diverse perspectives and ideas without fear of censorship
  • It protects against online harassment and cyber-bullying, keeping you safe against personal attacks
  • It encourages accountability by helping whistleblowers come forward with reports about misconduct. This promotes transparency, even though whistleblowing can easily spiral out of control and cause more harm than good

There’s a prejudice against anonymity that’s deserved, more or less. Anonymity is an integral factor in cybercrime, helping threat actors stay hidden from the authorities and aiding them in their attacks.

However, anonymity isn’t bad by itself. It’s merely a tool, to be used however you see fit. One person may use it to launch a DDoS attack against a mega corporation while another might use an anonymous identity when shopping online.

Just like with privacy, you should be entitled to your anonymity, and you should be allowed to seek anonymity whenever possible. Especially in today’s digitized world, anonymity has become a luxury that most of us simply don’t have anymore.

There’s a special kind of relief when you’re going online and you know that no one knows who you are and they can’t track you down because you’re anonymous and private.

Paranoia? Maybe, a bit.

Security and privacy, though? Oh, yeah!

What Are the Legal Implications of Privacy vs. Anonymity?

Legal implications of privacy
Privacy and anonymity as two sides of the same coin. They define your online identity, and they can be used against you to dangerous ends. That’s why there are serious legal implications around both of them.

Privacy Breaches

  • Nature: Privacy breaches occur when a data subject’s (victim) personal information is accessed, disclosed or misused by third parties without authorization. This typically occurs during cyberattacks when threat actors manage to infiltrate the data subject’s systems or they bypass the data controller‘s security systems
  • Consequences: Potential identity theft, reputational damage for companies, financial fraud, legal repercussions, the loss of sensitive data like names, addresses, banking and health data, etc.
  • Methods: Social engineering , phishing, BEC, malware, data interception, SQL injection, zero-day exploits, Wi-Fi sniffing, DNS spoofing, etc.

Data privacy breaches are particularly nasty because they involve people’s sensitive data that could put their livelihoods at risk if misused by bad actors.

That’s why there are laws that protect a person’s right to privacy and their private data in most civilized countries. In Europe, it’s known as the GDPR, and it oversees all European citizens’ right to privacy and information security.

In the US, there are multiple data privacy laws, including HIPAA for health data, CRPA (California Privacy Rights Act), GLBA for financial data, and more.

Case Study – Cambridge Analytica Scandal

2018 wasn’t a good year for privacy. The Cambridge Analytica scandal rocket the boat when it was discovered that the political consulting firm had been collecting and using the personal data of millions of Facebook users without their consent.

According to the New York Times, the company had been creating voter profiles based on Facebook data, and there was also the Russian connection that caused controversies.

Mark Zuckerberg was brought before Congress and made to ensure them that Facebook wasn’t involved in the debacle. Then, the Federal Trade Commission announced that Facebook would have to pay a $5 billion fine because of these privacy violations. The social media company received a 20-year settlement order.

They also paid a £500,000 fine to the UK Information Commissioner’s Office because they’d inadvertently exposed the users’ data.

Cambridge Analytical filed for bankruptcy on May 2018, and that’s the last we’ve heard of it.

Anonymity Breaches

  • Nature: An anonymity breach occurs when an individual who wanted to remain unidentified has their identity exposed to the public
  • Consequences: Harassment, bullying, and other undesirable actions (social judgment) taken against you because your previously anonymous actions are tied to your identity
  • Methods Traffic analysis, metadata exploitation, DNS leaks, browser fingerprinting, correlation attacks, ISP tracking, Wi-Fi tracking, user behavior analysis, etc.

Anonymity breaches are usually less dangerous because they don’t necessarily involve exposing sensitive data that make you highly vulnerable (health data, financial data, etc.)

An anonymity breach would only expose your public identity. A platform, a site, or a number of people will become aware of who you are publicly. And typically, your public information won’t get you in trouble unless you’ve done bad things under the cover of anonymity.

We’re talking about two case scenarios here:

1. Engaging in illegal activities

Cyber criminals use anonymity to hide from the law while they engage in illegal activities. Clearly, this isn’t desirable, permissible or acceptable.

And even more so, eliminating a cyber criminal’s anonymity is one of the goals in catching them.

2. Hiding from oppressive governments

Anonymity is highly useful for individuals living under oppressive governments who would limit their freedom, harass them, and retaliate against them.

In this case, anonymity is the single best tool of the disenfranchised to achieve freedom and have a fighting chance. Many simply want to leave the country, while others are content with only communicating with the outside.

Case Study – Silk Road

The Silk Road bust is one of the most notorious anonymity breaches in recent history. The Silk Road was an online black market on the Tor network that dealt in anything imaginable using Bitcoin.

Eventually, the founder of the Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, was arrested in 2013 after he was finally identified. Multiple law enforcement agencies had been conducting extensive investigations on the Silk Road for years.

While the Tor network provides near-perfect anonymity, the authorities were able to piece together the puzzle and eventually de-anonymize Ulbricht . They traced Bitcoin transactions, analyzed server logs, and investigated his online activities (under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts) to find him.

Ulbricht was charged with computer hacking, money laundering, and drug trafficking, among several other charges. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in May 2015.

The Silk Road bust reveals a singular truth about anonymity – it never lasts. If someone is determined enough to find you and they have enough resources at their disposal, they will find you.

This also serves as a lesson for cyber criminals around the world.

How Does the Law View Private vs. Anonymous Actions?

Both private and anonymous actions are legal within most Western countries. This means that you’re allowed to act in society while maintaining your privacy and anonymity, and there are no theoretical limits to this.

However, the law draws the line once you start engaging in illegal activities. That’s when your privacy and anonymity became expendable goods to be torn apart.

Generally, anonymity is more expendable than privacy, even when you’re within your right and are not engaging in dangerous activities.

You’ll receive less legal protection in the case of anonymity breaches compared to privacy breaches. Individuals usually have fewer expectations regarding anonymity because it’s something you choose to do yourself.

Privacy, on the other hand, is something you demand from those who control your data. There’s always someone who controls your data. You have exponentially higher demands and expectations from the data controller to protect your data.

The law will likewise protect you more against data breaches, and will penalize data controllers who fail to protect your data in harsher ways.

There are considerably fewer cases of anonymity breaches where an innocent victim loses their anonymity and is harmed in the process. In most cases, it is privacy breaches that are commonly associated with innocent victims preyed upon by cyber criminals.

When it comes to anonymity, the victim is often the criminal. Just like with the Silk Road, the criminal uses anonymity to hide their identity while committing crimes. And the authorities destroy that layer of anonymity to track them down and punish them.

There’s a very thin line between legal and illegal anonymity (or privacy). If you’re on the wrong side of the law, all of these rights will be selectively suspended until your eventual apprehension by the authorities.

Society needs to hold individuals accountable for their deeds, especially in the digital age. And so, there’s a balance between privacy as a protector and privacy as a tool to evade the law.

Technological Aspects of Privacy & Anonymity

Two masked individuals using laptops

Personal efforts can only take you so far in enhancing your privacy and anonymity. That’s when you start using digital tools that help protect and maintain your online safety.

Here are some of the tools I’m talking about:

  • VPNs (Virtual Private Networks)
  • Password managers (except LastPass and KeePass)
  • Proxies (especially HTTPS proxies)
  • Private email providers that let you create multiple aliases (like Proton Mail)
  • Virtual credit cards
  • Private internet browsers (like Librewolf) and search engines (like DuckDuckGo)
  • Physical security keys like Yubikey
  • Paying with cryptocurrency instead of fiat
  • End-to-end encrypted messaging platforms like Signal and WhatsApp
  • Custom private OS for mobile devices like GrapheneOS or CalyxOS

Some of these tools enhance your privacy, others help you become anonymous, and others do both. Then, some others will help maintain those data secure so it doesn’t reach the wrong hands.

One irony in all this is that the more tools you use to protect your privacy and anonymity, the more data controllers have your data and identity.

That’s not the case with some of the tools above, though. You’re going to be using a browser, search engine, and email provider either way, so why not select the most private ones?

As I said before, you can’t choose to withhold your private data and identity from everyone. All you can choose is who to share it with so that you obtain the biggest benefits without putting you at risk.

VPNs – Ideal for Privacy & Anonymity

There’s no going around it – if you want to protect both your privacy and anonymity, there’s no better tool than a Virtual Private Network. A premium VPN, to be more specific.

Free VPNs are only ever good for bypassing some geo-blocks and dipping your toes into the VPN industry. But if you really care about your online security, privacy, and anonymity, you’ll eventually choose a premium VPN.

You don’t have to go for the most expensive one on the market, though. Surfshark is more than enough for many users – it’s outside the 14 Eyes Countries, it has a strict no-logs policy, solid encryption, and good anonymity features.

Here are some of VPN features known to boost your privacy and anonymity:

  • Kill Switch that automatically disconnects you from the internet if the VPN connection fails for some reason. This will prevent your device from being exposed publicly without the VPN encryption
  • DNS Leak Protection that routes your DNS requests through the VPN tunnel, which prevents possible leaks to the ISP when you’re browsing around
  • Multi-Hop Servers that route your internet traffic through multiple VPN servers in several locations. This adds an extra layer of anonymity, making it doubly hard for snoopers to find out who you are
  • Tor Over VPN that adds the encryption and the anonymity standards of the Tor network over the VPN connection, giving you the best of both worlds
  • Split Tunneling where you can select which apps should connect to the internet directly and which should pass through the VPN connection. This lets you balance out your performance vs. security
  • Obfuscated Servers let you hide your VPN traffic and conceal it as regular internet traffic. This is useful when your own government is spying on you and will punish you if you’re found using VPNs

All the good premium VPNs offer these features because they’re indispensable to a privacy practitioner. When you decide to pay for a VPN, you’ve automatically done your homework and know what to expect.

All in all, you can’t hope to obtain or maintain privacy or anonymity without employing tools like privacy-oriented browsers, search engines, VPNs, private email providers, and more.

Privacy, Anonymity, and Public Life

Privacy and anonymity

While privacy and anonymity might be important for you, don’t discount your public life either. You can’t do all three at the same time just as effectively. Some compromises are necessary.

Here’s what I mean:

  • Selective Information Sharing – You’ll have to choose when to share your information publicly (and which information you share), and when to keep it private. Participating in society will require you to compromise your anonymity and privacy one way or another
  • Use the Privacy Settings – Almost every app and platform you use will have privacy settings that you can change. Adjust them according to your preferences and make sure you balance out your privacy needs with your social presence
  • Use a Pseudonym or Alias – These are always helpful, especially if you don’t have to use your real-world identity for a service. An email provider like Proton will give you alias options
  • Understand the Risks – No matter what you do online, you need to understand how it will impact your privacy and anonymity. This way, you will make more educated decisions about the actions that preserve your privacy vs. the ones that destroy it
  • Consider Digital Detox – Once in a while, it’s not a bad idea to take some time off from the internet and reconsider your privacy vs. online time balance

While you can’t be 100% private or anonymous when online, that doesn’t mean you should give up them. There’s a delicate balance you must keep but that’s where you’ll find peace of mind and healthy social participation.

A rule of thumb is to limit your PII (Personally Identifiable Information) across all services and platforms you use. Don’t overshare your phone number or email address, for instance, as this can create needless vulnerabilities.

It’s unavoidable to share your PII with some services, but be more discriminate toward the third parties who have access to your data.

What Are the Challenges to Maintaining Privacy & Anonymity?

Difficult privacy

Obtaining privacy and anonymity is the easy part, but maintaining them is where things get more complicated. The most common vulnerability lies in the services you use, ironically.

A well-targeted data breach can expose your PII and put you in the hackers’ crosshairs for social engineering attacks. I’m sure you’ve heard about the Facebook data breach in August 2019 where over 530 million users had their data exposed.

Some of the information exposed included:

  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Full names
  • Locations
  • Other profile information

There was no health, financial, or credential information included in the data dump, fortunately. However, data breaches of this magnitude are becoming increasingly common these days.

In another post about the biggest cybersecurity attacks worldwide in 2023, we’ve found that the biggest data breach exposed 3.8 billion records in September 2023.

Particularly gruesome data breaches occur on services meant to protect you, like password managers. I’m thinking of LastPass here, who has a history of security incidents dating back to 2011.

The last one, and the straw that broke the camel’s back for many users, took place in 2022.

LastPass Attack Timeline:

  • An unauthorized party had infiltrated a third-party cloud-based storage service that contained archived backups of LastPass’ production data
  • The attacker managed to steal source code and technical information, including credentials and keys used to access and decrypt the storage volumes included in the storage service
  • The information from the storage service copied by the hacker included customer company names, billing addresses, end-user names, telephone numbers, email addresses, and IP addresses
  • The hacker also managed to copy a backup of the customer vault data that contained both encrypted (website usernames and passwords) and unencrypted data (website URLs)

The attacker now only had to use brute-force password attacks to try and mechanically decrypt the LastPass vaults. Still, the vaults are encrypted using AES-256 encryption, which makes them effectively impregnable to decryption, assuming that the user vaults are protected by strong passwords.

The two biggest issues were that this incident was far from the first, and that the attack origin was a LastPass DevOps engineer. The hacker had exploited a vulnerable third-party software installed on the engineer’s home device to gain access to their storage.

LastPass said that the attackwas accomplished by targeting the DevOps engineer’s home computer and exploiting a vulnerable third-party media software package, which enabled remote code execution capability and allowed the threat actor to implant keylogger malware. The threat actor was able to capture the employee’s master password as it was entered, after the employee authenticated with MFA, and gain access to the DevOps engineer’s LastPass corporate vault.”

This showcases just how fragile privacy and anonymity are, and how difficult they are to maintain if you’re not careful about the service providers you use.

To summarize, here are the main challenges to maintaining your privacy and anonymity:

  • External data breaches to service providers you use that you can’t control
  • Social engineering attacks that fool you
  • Government surveillance and legal requests to service providers you use
  • Data brokerage and profiling companies that will compile user information from aggregators and sell it
  • Tracking and profiling done by data aggregating platforms
  • Lack of self-awareness about exposing PII in unsafe places
  • Device and app permissions that provide access to your data
  • Over reliance on SSO (Single-Sign On) services that provide centralized access to your profiles and activities over multiple platforms
  • Public WiFi networks that are more vulnerable to attacks

Your mobile device is especially guilty of data collection and aggregation from apps. Google services are notoriously bad for privacy but there isn’t much you can do beyond a certain point other than installing a custom OS like GrapheneOS or CalyxOS.

What I would recommend is getting a private browser like Brave or Librewolf, using a more anonymous search engine like DuckDuckGo (it will affect loading times and search result quality), switching to a private email provider like Proton, and choosing end-to-end encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp or Telegram.

And it goes without saying that you should live by a certain code – your PII is your most important asset on the internet. Do not expose it liberally everywhere you go.

Growing Concerns About Privacy & Anonymity

Multiple anonymous people

There’s been a growing concern among users about their privacy, security, and anonymity. The numbers show that consumers were more worried about their security in 2023 vs. 2022.

I’ll be using a Deloitte study for all the data below, so if you want the full picture, feel free to read their study.

Here’s a summary of their 2023 discoveries:

  • 6/10 respondents are worried that their devices are vulnerable to data breaches
  • 6/10 respondents worry that people or organizations can track them through their devices
  • 67% of smartphone users are worried about data privacy and security on their phones
  • 62% of smart home users are concerned about the privacy and data security on their smart home devices
  • 52% of smart home users worry that someone might control their smart home devices remotely
  • 48% of smartwatch/fitness tracker users worry about the privacy and data security on their devices
  • 6/10 respondents are concerned that their smartphones or smart home devices are tracking their movements and behaviors
  • 5/10 users of smartwatch and fitness tracker users worry that their devices are tracking their locations
  • 0.33% of respondents have reported at least one type of scam or data breach in 2022, and 16% fell victim to at least two scams
  • 7% more consumers are turning off location-based services on their devices compared to 2022 (total of 39% of consumers)
  • 4% more consumers are implementing 2FA for apps and services compared to 2022 (total of 38% of consumers)
  • 3% more consumers are using tools to enhance their security compared to 2022 (total of 25% of consumers)
  • No change in the number of people who turn off Bluetooth on their devices compared to 2022 (total of 23% of consumers)
  • 3% more consumers are using a VPN compared to 2022 (total of 21% of consumers)
  • No change in the number of people who have stopped using an app because of privacy/security concerns compared to 2022 (total of 20% of consumers)
  • No change in the number of people who have paused or deleted their social media accounts compared to 2022 (total of 15% of consumers)
  • No change in the number of people who are using anti-tracking software compared to 2022 (total of 15% of consumers)
  •  5% more consumers have deleted accounts other than social media accounts compared to 2022 (total of 14% of consumers)
  • No change in the number of people who are freezing their credit score or signing up for credit monitoring services compared to 2022 (total of 14% of consumers)
  • No change in the number of people using encrypted messaging services compared to 2022 (total of 11% of consumers)
  • 5% more consumers have bought a connected device that doesn’t track them compared to 2022 (total of 9% of consumers)
  • No change in the number of people who have stopped using a device completely compared to 2022 (total of 4% of consumers
  • No change in the number of people who have bought a non-connected device instead of a connected alternative compared to 2022 (total of 3% of consumers)
  • 9% less consumers feel that their need for online service outweigh their data privacy concerns
  • 34% consumers feel that companies are clear about their collection and use of data from online services
  • 9/10 consumers feel that they should have control to view and delete the data that companies collect from them
  • 80% of consumers want to be paid by the companies that profit from their data
  • 85% of consumers believe that device makers should try harder to protect data privacy and the security on the devices they sell
  • 77% of consumers want the government to increase regulatory efforts about the way companies collect and use data

People are becoming increasingly aware about the risk of surfing the web without protection. Cybercrime has risen to obscene heights, and data breaches affect all of us. We’re no longer safe, and it’s time we did something about it!


I hope that you now have a better understanding of how privacy and anonymity define your online identity. Having the wrong expectations about how these two concepts apply to you can seriously impact your online identity and possibly even put you at risk.

Key points to remember:

  1. Complete privacy & anonymity are impossible to achieve online
  2. Privacy represents control over your data. You decide who can see it, access it, collect it, and use it (theoretically, at least)
  3. Anonymity represents illusion and subterfuge. You either reduce your PII to the absolute minimum or manufacture a fake online identity to hide your real one
  4. Privacy is harder to achieve and maintain than anonymity
  5. By default, you have almost zero anonymity and privacy when you go online
  6. Becoming anonymous requires a more active approach and a change in online lifestyle compared to privacy
  7. Privacy breaches are typically more dangerous than anonymity breaches
  8. Self-awareness and education are necessary to protect your data privacy and anonymity

This has been an illuminating study, even for me. The time for inaction is long gone, and I wholeheartedly recommend everyone to take their privacy and anonymity seriously!


ProofPointGlobal Cybersecurity Awareness Survey Reveals 33 Percent of U.S. Respondents Have Experienced Identity Theft, More than Twice the Global Average


Federal Trade Commission Consumer Sentinel Network

ID Theft CenterITRC 2017 Identity Theft and Fraud Predictions

Exploding Topics30+ Identity Theft Statistics for 2024

Association Secure TransactionsTerminal Fraud Attacks Increase in Europe

Trend MicroBusiness Email Compromise (BEC)

EuropaData Controller or Data Processor

NY TimesCambridge Analytica and Facebook: The Scandal and the Fallout So Far

CBS NewsInside the FBI takedown of the mastermind behind website offering drugs, guns and murders for hire

ForbesWhy You Should Stop Using LastPass After New Hack Method Update

The Hacker NewsKeePass Exploit Allows Attackers to Recover Master Passwords from Memory

Privacy AffairsBiggest Cybersecurity Attacks Worldwide in 2023

LastPass Incident 2 – Additional details of the attack

DeloitteData privacy and security worries are on the rise, while trust is down

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