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Anonymity and Anonymous

2016-03-16

“Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: the many faces of Anonymous” written by Gabriella Coleman, is an account of her mostly online encounters with many personalities, most of them unidentified, collected over the period  from 2010 to the present.  It discusses what the writer describers as the “culture” of hackers.  This “culture” includes a number of people who were arrested for Internet crimes such as the “theft” of information up to and including credit card numbers and passwords.  The period of time referred to in the book runs from about 2010 to early 2015.  A number of the people are identified by name only because they were arrested and imprisoned.  During that time, the writer, acting as an anthropologist, communicated with many other, unidentified people who described themselves as hackers.  She eventually did obtain a graduate degree in anthropology and now teaches.

The entire culture could be described as the Anonymous group or web, a large and very loosely associated group or groups of individuals who communicated over the Internet.  Many of these groups claimed to be able to obtain information on a group that could be vulnerable, sometimes security firms.  In more than one case, secret information was obtained from sensitive sites.  A number of people were indicted and imprisoned for obtaining unauthorized information in the US. One young man, indicted for a wholesale downloading of an open-access journal, committed suicide after the prosecution demanded decades of imprisonment.

Many of these people were sincere in the belief that the vast majority of this information should be public and the government is in the wrong to punish people harshly for this kind of disobedience.  Others felt that exposing oneself to danger in this fashion would be unwise in the long run.  Fortunately for Anonymous as a movement, the most important members of the movement have managed to keep their identity, in fact their very existence, hidden from the government.  Anonymous could only survive by being fully hidden from view.

The conclusion that the book makes is that any survivors have melted away and are saving their strength for a later occasion.

 

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