The Anonymity Debate

Mar122014

EveryBlock LogoThe ongoing debate over whether users should be allowed to remain anonymous on social websites isn’t black and white. While public profiles allow for greater transparency and open dialogue, the risk of harassment, both online and in real life, is of major concern.

On the flipside, anonymous posting allows users to feel more comfortable sharing their opinions, but also encourages improper behavior for some, due to the lack of serious consequence (aside from being banned on the site).

We believe there is no right or wrong answer to this debate. However, many users have brought into question whether or not we should adopt more stringent authentication policies for users to sign-in and use EveryBlock.

Currently, users can sign up for EveryBlock in three ways: directly on the site, via Facebook, and via Twitter. Those who sign up via Facebook and Twitter are directly linked to those profiles. Those who sign up directly on the site create their profile at the same time. They can choose whether or not to use their real name and information.

Part of the debate is whether or not people have been educated enough to act smartly online. There are guidelines on EveryBlock (and other sites) that always encourage users to refrain from posting personal data on public forums, whether that be a photo, phone number, address, or place of work. This also includes information like your schedule (ex: I go to Starbucks on Michigan Ave. every morning at 7). Often times, those who run in to trouble online could avoid it by simply acting smartly and not oversharing.

We know that some situations are inevitable. There will always be people online who seek to do harm and invade the privacy of others. Obviously, we work hard to make sure those types of people are banned from using the site. But we also look to you as the EveryBlock Community to help us maintain levels of decency and security (ex: the unneighborly button, the feedback form).

We’d like your feedback on how we can make EveryBlock a balance between open, constructive dialogue, while still protecting the privacy of those who wish to maintain it. Please feel free to reply in the comments, our Feedback Form, or let us know on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

  • Sparhawk2k

    I lean towards real names. I understand the privacy concerns (which can have a real impact on inclusive outreach so they can’t be ignored) so maybe there need to be exceptions but in general I think real names leads to better community. Which is the real point of something like this. A city can ask for feedback and include anonymous responses but for neighbors to work together (online and offline) they need to know who they’re talking to and build trust. Which is much harder anonymously.

    –Phillip Duggan
    (Since I realized Disqus is using a screen name) :-)

  • ChgoBoys

    While I appreciate the concerns- I would not post anymore if I had to use my real name- and not because I am not proud or stand behind what I write- but for privacy. Sadly, the reality is that there is a concern of those who aren’t so well intended who once they have your name, can find where you live/work. I don’t mid that everyblock knows who I am in case there is any concern – but the whole world doesn’t need to know. Plus it lets me comment on feedback that may vary from my public work persona. That being said- I take the negative/picky/mean comments some anonymous people post with a grain of salt- and never personally.

  • Randy Baxley

    My thought is that being anonymous is more of a detriment to safety than being known and knowing others. That said, I am old and known as Randy and more lately Stroller. I will be in the Parklet at Lamon and Irving Park tonight. Y’all come.

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