This section of the blog is dedicated to understanding anonymity and how it may be possible to achieve anonymity when communicating. Much of the information will come from my MSc thesis but will be reformatted so that it works better in blog form. The benefit of hosting as blog posts as opposed to a PDF is that the information can be easily modified and updated.


  • Intro to Anonymity
  • Defining Anonymity
  • Concepts and schemes of anonymous communication
  • Practical anonymous communication



In the test below I shall provide a brief summary of each section and then provide a link to the main discussion.

Ultimately we will investigate the meaning of the term anonymous and whether anonymous communication across the Internet is achievable. The literature on this topic provides differing definitions of this term, as well as differing ways to measure the anonymity of a system. It is clear however that anonymity can be viewed as layers of assurance, where the highest layer provides the strongest notion of anonymity while the bottom layer provides the weakest notion.

Before discussing anonymity it is pertinent to illustrate why there is a growing interest in privacy preserving, or anonymising, forms of communication in recent years. This increase in interest is one of the largest motivating factors in the creation of this thesis. The following sections in this chapter covers one of the most notable reason for this increased interest: the leaking of sensitive US government documents to The Guardian (the UK news provider).

The main page for this section can be found here: [LINK]

Defining Anonymity

This section provides a review of the literature that discusses the definition of anonymity. There are two main sub-sections in this chapter which deal with two different academic schools of thought: the first deals with the literature in philosophy, while the second deals with mathematics. This section answers the first part of the first objective by defining  anonymity, it also alludes to the difficulty of assessing the assurance of anonymity. A notion of theoretical assurance is provided if a scheme were to match up to the requirements of the 5 layer model.

The philosophical school of thought has tended to focus on anonymity from an individual’s perspective, while the mathematical school of thought has tended to deal with anonymity at an aggregate (or system) level.

The structure of this section is as follows:

  • Philosophical meaning of anonymity
  • Mathematical descriptions of anonymity

The main page for this section can be found here: [LINK]
Concepts and schemes of anonymous communication

A discussion of the difficulty of achieving practical anonymity is provided in this section, this discussion relates back to the definitions of anonymity and why it can be difficult to achieve theoretical anonymity. This section also explores the necessary concepts which provide practical anonymous communication; that is to say that it discusses the necessary “ingredients” which are typically found in anonymising schemes or that may be useful in future schemes. Some concepts are discussed which are often sought after “ingredients” but may not actually be appropriate.

An overview of various schemes are presented with the intention of highlighting their strengths and weaknesses and how they might be used together to give stronger assurance of anonymity.

This section will start by describing the current problems in achieving anonymity and the difficulties that poses for maintaining privacy. Communication schemes that strive for anonymity are by definition aiming to provide better privacy. Looking at these weaknesses will provide motivation for creating and using schemes which are aimed at providing stronger notions of privacy. The latest range of schemes are presented here too. This chapter covers the latter part of the first objective by highlighting the difficulty of achieving assurance of practical anonymity. The review of the various schemes covers the second and third objectives by presenting the various anonymity schemes and stating how they function. The structure of this section is as follows:

  • Difficulty of anonymous communication
  • Review of theoretical concepts in anonymous communication
  • Overview of schemes that provide practical anonymity in communication and beyond

The main page for this section can be found here: [LINK]
Read the next section: Introduction to anonymity