Conversing anonymously


Are you concerned about sharing your views about administrative justice system reform issues, or about Unjust by Design, in public?

Many who are working in the system will have that concern, and for substantial and legitimate reasons.

For one explanation as to why reticence is a special problem in our administrative justice system, see: “… Why We Don’t Talk About it”, in Unjust by Design at page 29.

But the site will not be useful unless people with those privacy concerns – tribunal chairs, vice-chairs, members, and tribunal senior staff, and counsel appearing before tribunals, etc. – feel free to participate.

On the other hand, because of the inherent difficulty in judging the genuineness of anonymous contributions, if the site were to routinely allow anonymous comments from anyone who chose to participate on that basis,  it would lose much of its credibility, not to mention cluttering the site with commentary of limited usefulness, or spam.

In these  circumstances, the site has adopted the strategy of  limiting comments to those who log in with a pre-authorized user name, password and “caption” (the part that headlines any comment), where the user name and caption may be a pseudonym.

Pre-Authorized User Names, Passwords and Captions

If  users wants their identify to be protected, the caption that appears on their comments  will be a pseudonym plus an agreed description of the user’s relationship to the administrative justice system – for example: “GentleJoe – adjudicative tribunal member from Manitoba”, and the user name and password will be whatever the user chooses.

Getting an Authorized Pseudonym and Password

The Most Straightforward Procedure

Contact me (Ron Ellis) using the site’s contact form or  my personal email address or telephone, provide me with your e-mail address and request me to call you (give me your telephone number).  I will call and we will  agree on a user name, a caption that will appear with your comments, and a password and I will register you as a new user.  Thereafter, the site would trust that any comment by a person who logs in using that user name and password, will have been written by the person to whom I have spoken.

(Of course anyone who is comfortable with associating their comments with their own names would not need a pseudonym, but they would continue to need, as part of their approved caption, a description of their relationship with the system.)

The downside of this procedure is, of course, that it requires the putative anonymous commentator to be comfortable with Ellis knowing his or her views, and with trusting Ellis’s promise of confidentiality.  Fortunately, while it does seem impossible to think of a procedure that would not involve the anonymous commentator trusting someone, it has occurred to me that it does not need to be me.

An Enhanced  Procedure – Use of a Third-Party “Sponsor” or, Some Might Say, a “Cut-Out”

A  procedure of enhanced security would be for those who want to comment anonymously, to arrange for someone in whose promise of confidentiality they do have implicit confidence – a personal sponsor if  you will – to apply for a registration in their (the sponsor’s) name, using the procedure set out on the contact page.  When the administrator responds to the sponsor`s application, they can then agree on the intended anonymous user`s user name, password and public caption.

The sponsor  would vouch for the authenticity of the proposed but unnamed commentator, and, upon receipt of a suitable message of that nature, and having approved the proposed user name, password  and caption, we  would add a new user with that name, password and caption to the site.  The site would email the sponsor with the user name, password and caption and he or she would forward that by email (or by phone) to the sponsored party. Thereafter, comments by persons logged in with that user name and password would be accepted in the ordinary course and appear under the pseudonyn caption.

Following that procedure, the only one who could know the identity of the person behind the pseudonym, would be the commentator’s personally chosen sponsor, or, in John le Carré’s parlance, the commentator’s “cut-out”, but the site and its readers would have reason to have confidence in the authenticity of the comments from persons logged in using that user name and password.

Moreover, if a putative commentator with a talent for conspiracy wanted to make things doubly secure, he or she could elect to secretly assume the role of his or her own cut-out -er, sponsor – but then, of course, you  will have already thought of that. 🙂