Obfuscation and Strict Online Anonymity

  • Tony DoyleEmail author
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 134)


The collection, aggregation, analysis, and dissemination of personal information permit unnerving inferences about our characters, preferences, and future behavior that were inconceivable just a couple of decades ago. This paper looks primarily at online searching and the commercial harvesting of personal information there. I argue that our best hope for protecting privacy online is anonymity through obfuscation. Obfuscation attempts to throw data collectors off one’s digital trail by making personal data less useful. However, anonymous web searching has costs. I examine two of the most serious and urge that they are worth paying in the light of the heavy toll the commercial gathering and analysis of our information takes on privacy and autonomy. I close with some thoughts on (1) how individual, rational decisions have led to a surveillance regime that few would have chosen beforehand and (2) the alleged autonomy of information technology.


Privacy Big Data Predictive analytics Anonymity Obfuscation Autonomy Welfare 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hunter College Library and Hunter College Philosophy DepartmentNew YorkUSA

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