Stream 1: The Nature and Value of Anonymity, Identity & Authentication
Undertaken primarily by scholars in the humanities and social sciences, this stream of the project examines the historical, philosophical, and psychological aspects of the nature and value of anonymity and identity. Led by Steven Davis, members of this research stream will compare the conceptual differences and the social value associated with the various points along the continuum between anonymous and fully identified transactions. Philosophers will investigate these from the perspective of epistemology and ethics, while social scientists will adopt a behavioral approach to questions surrounding identification, researching the actual experience of anonymity and identifiability and how we behave in different circumstances. These research activities will inform the law and public policy stream, providing insight, for example, into how consumers perceive their transactions on the web. Do people understand how far their personal information may travel when posting messages to a dating site? Do children understand what happens to their information on MSN? The psychological research will fuel collaborative work with investigators in the technology disciplines, as the perception of anonymity and its behavioral consequences are important factors in building certain forms of social participation, such as electronic voting, or electronic medical records.