Anonymity in the age of Google

Anonymizing your life can be liberating, but it can also be dangerous, and a new study published today by the University of Washington shows that even when you’re completely locked out of your own online activities, people are still more likely to be willing to engage in dangerous behaviors online.

The researchers used a dataset of 2.3 million users to look at a wide range of crimes in real-time, from murder to attempted murder, and to measure how likely it was for someone to engage on the site anonymously.

While most of these crimes were considered low-priority or non-serious, there were some notable spikes in activity during the period covered by the study.

For example, there was an increased rate of attempted murder between the two years of the study, and an increase in attempted rape in the second half of the year.

A similar spike in attempted murder in the third year of the research also came as a surprise to the researchers.

“There are two main reasons for this,” study author David C. Littman, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at the UW, said in a press release.

“First, it suggests that people who are most vulnerable to these crimes are those who are the least comfortable to speak up about it online, and those who feel comfortable to talk to others about it in private.”

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

A few weeks after the study was conducted, Google shut down the platform, removing it from all of its users’ feeds.

While some of the information contained within the dataset was redacted, it revealed a surprising level of concern among people about the potential safety of their online activities.

“People have been very clear about wanting to stay anonymous,” study co-author Jennifer Nachmias, a doctoral candidate at the University at Buffalo, said.

“It’s a very common message, but people haven’t been willing to take it to the next level.”

The researchers wanted to find out if the increase in crime reported in the data could be explained by a difference in how people perceive the risks of being online.

To do that, they used a novel way to analyze how people actually behave online.

Using the same dataset that was analyzed in the first study, the researchers looked at the amount of time people spent on the platform.

When they took into account people’s general level of trust and confidence in their peers, they found that those with low levels of trust were more likely than those with high levels of confidence to engage with other people in online interactions.

“These findings indicate that people’s levels of online trust are associated with their likelihood of engaging in criminal activity,” the researchers wrote.

This pattern also held true for violent crime.

“We can’t explain this with any other theory, because our data only represents how people behave on the web,” study lead author Michael Kallman, the lead author, said on a call with reporters.

“But we know that there are lots of factors that can lead to people engaging in violent crime online, like lack of confidence in social networks, or being depressed or anxious, or having a history of mental illness.”

In other words, being online is bad.

The authors found that people were also more likely in their responses to violent crimes to report having been physically attacked, and were more inclined to blame the perpetrator for the crime.

But the biggest impact of these factors on people’s responses to online crime was not physical violence, but online harassment.

While a high level of social trust is associated with more people being willing to speak out about online crime, the authors also found that it was not a sufficient explanation for the increase of crime reported during the time frame covered by their study.

“When it comes to online harassment, the data show that social and offline trust are not mutually exclusive,” the authors wrote.

“If people are more open to sharing their experiences, they are more likely not to engage online, as well.

This suggests that a high degree of trust, and the expectation that others will take the time to listen, may play a role in why people engage in online harassment.”

A high degree, indeed.

But it’s not just about trust, either.

The study also found a link between having a high social trust level and having engaged in more violent crimes.

“High social trust and high levels or perceived threats of online violent crime are strongly correlated with a greater likelihood of reporting at least one online violent criminal incident,” the study concluded.

“For people with high trust, they were also much more likely [to] engage in multiple violent crimes than for people with low trust.”

That’s an important takeaway, and perhaps the one that could help explain why so many people, including some of Google’s own employees, have become fearful of online speech.