Many people seem to be of the opinion that the First Amendment (of the United States Constitution) grants people the right to anonymity. This is very much not the case.

The First Amendment does not say that one has a right to speak anonymously. In fact, a person is often put into a situation where their identity is compelled, especially if they are related to a case where a felony has been committed.

The right to privacy is used somewhat interchangeably with anonymity, but that is not proven in the reading of our Constitution. The right to privacy comes from the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees a security within their persons, houses, papers and effects.

There is also the right to remain silent, written into the Fifth Amendment, which protects against a situation where someone is compelled to supply information about themselves or their conduct. Metaphorically, this can be read as an extension of the Fourth Amendment into someone's thoughts: "a brain cannot be seized and searched, one is secure within their own mind."

Lastly, there is a right to face one's accuser; the Sixth Amendment speficially grants the accused all manners of due process. In such a situation, there is no right to anonymity: a witness must divulge their identity to make a credible accusation. The United States has the Federal Witness Protection Program, a program that tries to secure high-profile testimony without endangering the witness, by helping the witness "disappear" with a new identity after that explicit testimony is rendered.

A person is always to be held accountable for their own actions in a court of law; there is no right to being free from accountability.

Anonymity is a basic precept of twelve step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. At the close of many meetings of these groups, which are aimed at freeing people of addictions, the people present say together Who you see here, What you hear here, let it stay here. Of course, there is less than perfect adherence to this ideal, but for the most part, anonymity is respected.

Maintaining anonymity in addiction recovery programs serves several purposes. In the first place, it allows newcomers to feel more confident that their addiction problem isn't going to become public knowledge. Also, by insisting on anonymity, no one member of the fellowship can become an "AA spokesman" or a public member of Narcotics Anonymous. This helps keep egos in check and keeps individual members from gaining too much power.

An`o*nym"i*ty, n.

The quality or state of being anonymous; anonymousness; also, that which anonymous.


He rigorously insisted upon the rights of anonymity. Carlyle.


© Webster 1913.

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