September 01, 2013

Advance Sheet: Anonymity Anyone?

Are the old rules on privacy still good enough?

Robert E. Shapiro

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Anonymity certainly isn’t what it used to be. There’s almost nowhere left to hide. Anyone who thinks it is still possible to get lost in a crowd need only look at the Boston Marathon bombings. The two brothers who carried out that atrocity must never have thought their identities would become known after having left their deadly backpacks to work their horror. Indeed, a traditional eyewitness stared into the eyes of one bomber and later scratched out a message to that effect while heavily sedated after an operation in which he lost both legs. But he could say only that he had seen someone, not whom he had seen. Still, within days the pictures of the two brothers were broadcast all over the world, and soon the networks were bubbling with information about the two fugitives who had paralyzed Boston and transfixed the rest of the country.

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