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December 13, 2003

Scale of Anonymity, Pseudonymity and Identity

Ian Goldberg, a well known crypto researcher and CTO of Zero Knowledge Systems in Canada at the time, introduced the idea of "Nymity Slider" at RSA Conference several years ago. Basically, he saw different state of characteristics between true Identity and true Anonymity. It has four levels in the scale:

- Anonymity
- Non Reversible Pseudonymity (not tied to true identity)
- Reversible Pseudonymity (tied to true identity)
- Identity

I guess that those two kind of Pseudonymity is still new for many audience outside of crypto, security and privacy community.

Non Reversible Pseudonymity or Disposable Pseudonymity is like nick names sometimes called as Nym. They are not strongly linked to person's true identity. If the person happen to want to discontinue the Nym it can be done by disposing.
Actually the use of Non Reversible Pseudonymity is already popular for many ordinally Internet users. We see large number of people are using nick names or handle names for accessing online forums, and taking free email addresses for casual communication.

Reversible Pseudonymity is maybe as nick names backed by true identity. It has to link to true identity. However, making it without disclosing true identity needs some effort. Digital signature technology is thought as basis for realizing this by linking pseudonymity and true identity with mathematical computation. But it can be traceable pseudonyms back to true identity when needed.
(then question arise for Who and What occasion is allowed for trace back and How.)

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