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Masks and suits for anonymization during a demonstration

Anonymity means that a person or a group cannot be identified . In terms of meaning , incognito ( incognito ) is partly synonymous with anonymous , otherwise in German one speaks of unknown , hidden and nameless .

Content of meaning

Wenzel Hollar : Masked lady , London to 1640. The mask around the eyes as Cachenez referred

Anonymity (from ancient Greek ἀνώνυμος anónymos , without a name ') denotes the lack of assignment of a person to an action carried out by them or even deliberate secrecy . It can serve to protect the freedom of the individual. The legislature has therefore provided them in various areas. For example, voting secrecy is made mandatory, and anonymous information, expression of opinion and assembly are constitutionally guaranteed as rights.

Incognito comes from Italian and this in turn comes from the Latin incognitus ('unknown', to cognoscere ' to know, to know'). It describes the intentionally unrecognized appearance of a person, be they prominent or not.

In Dokumentationswesen a wealth is used of terms to describe the obscurity of the person:

  • Noun nominandum (Latin for: 'the name is still to be mentioned', abbreviation: 'N.N.') in references, in organization, in course catalogs, program announcements and similar contexts
  • Anonymous , or anonymous, for unknown authorship. If attributions can be made to a still unknown person, emergency names are given , for example in the form of master of "place" or master of the "work" , or the workshop or student of the "master" is spoken of
  • in the literature are employed o. A. , without author '(i. e. no known by name Author )
  • sine nomine or s. n. for without a name, without an editor , without a publisher , sine loco , s. l. for no place, mostly in bibliographies and library catalogs

Related to this is the pseudonym , a self-chosen artificial name that is supposed to serve to preserve anonymity. For letters to the editor z. For example, in the German press the principle that anonymous correspondence should not be printed at all or only printed in justified exceptional cases.

Levels of anonymity

In everyday life, anonymity is often not possible within a limited social structure. The extent to which it is still possible to infer an identity plays a central role in the degree of anonymity .

Anonymity on the internet

The Internet is often described as a platform for anonymous communication. In practice - without special safety precautions - this is not necessarily the case. Most users subjectively feel anonymous and unobserved when surfing and posting . Often they have no idea how many traces they leave behind, some of which can be traced back to their person (identification). The so-called IP address of the user is logged by countless computers (for example when accessing Internet pages on the web). In addition, unencrypted information in the network is not protected because an incalculable number of people and protocol mechanisms on the computers can read, save, copy and pass on the content.

Levels of anonymity in statistics

In the field of statistics, a distinction is made between the following levels of anonymization of data records

  1. Formally anonymous: The names and / or initials etc. have been removed, the data otherwise unchanged (that is, theoretically easy to assign)
  2. In fact anonymous: can only be assigned with a disproportionate amount of time and effort
  3. completely anonymous: the assignment of the units is excluded.

See also


  • Martin Rost : On the social function of anonymity. In: Data protection and data security ( DuD ) 2003, No. 27, pp. 156–158.
  • Volker Barth: Incognito: History of a Ceremonial , Walter de Gruyter, 2013, ISBN 978-3-486-75534-3 (historical, superior gentlemen)

Web links

Wiktionary: anonymous  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: anonymity  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Federal Statistical Office Germany and Gerd Ronning and Roland Gnoss (eds.): Anonymization of individual economic statistics . Contributions to the workshop on 20./21. March 2003 in Tübingen . Metzler-Poeschel, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 978-3-8246-0699-3 , also: Josep Domingo-Ferrer (Ed.): Inference control in statistical databases - from theory to practice . Springer, Berlin / Heidelberg / u. a. 2002, ISBN 978-3-540-43614-0 .