Difference Between Confidentiality and Anonymity

Confidentiality vs Anonymity

Difference between anonymity and confidentiality can be understood if you pay attention to each term very well. Anonymity and confidentiality are two concepts that, though related, differ a lot as one pertains to people while the other pertains about data or information. Confidentiality is always about leakage of information or data. Many people do not appreciate this subtle difference and thus remain confused between these two concepts. In this article, we shall highlight the features of both to let readers understand the differences between confidentiality and anonymity. Mainly, these terms are both associated with the field of research.

What does Anonymity mean?

Anonymity means not revealing or maintaining the secrecy of the identity, or person unknown or unacknowledged. The words anonymity and confidentiality are mostly associated with modern medical research that involves collecting of sensitive and private health information from participants of a research by the researcher. Sometimes, the experiment is designed in such a way that even the researcher does not get to know the identity of the participants, but when he does, it is extremely necessary from the ethics point of view for him to maintain the anonymity of the participants so that no offense is created to participants. When the researcher is aware of the information in the form of collective data, this condition is referred to as anonymity as he cannot tell the identity of a person based upon data.

If you are worried that you may have caught HIV, you can go for a HIV test where it is possible to withhold your identity and other information. This is called anonymity, implying that no one knows about your identity.

Anonymity is also used in crimes so that the criminal is not identified. In these instances, criminals cover their faces, wear gloves, etc.
Anonymity in literature is when you publish one of your creations without putting your name. Sometimes when writing critical articles about politics and such sensitive subjects anonymity is used.

Difference Between Confidentiality and Anonymity


What does Confidentiality mean?

Confidentiality means not disclosing the information, maintaining the secret, secrecy of the information.On the other hand, in a medical research context, when the researcher is aware of the identity of the individuals, it is his ethical responsibility to maintain the confidentiality of this sensitive information. Let’s take the same example of taking an HIV test. The fact that only you have access to your test results implies confidentiality. Though the person, who did the test on your sample is aware of the result, both anonymity and confidentiality shall be maintained, in this instance; i.e: not only your identity is not revealed, no one knows about the result of the test too. That implies that confidentiality is maintained.

When you are making a confession in a church, the father does not see you, which means anonymity. The fact that he does not share this information with anyone else means confidentiality of your information. The fact that both concepts are deeply interrelated makes the situation confusing. However, for a participant in a research both anonymity and confidentiality mean the same that his identity should not be revealed to anyone else other than the staff of the researcher.

Here are some ways that researchers use in order to maintain confidentiality. They use codes on data documents. That way only the researcher knows the identity of the subjects as he/she is the only one who knows what codes mean. Also, encryption of data is also done so that other people who have no authorization to the research can use the information. Also, you should understand that anonymity can be gained if the research teams are not using any identifiable data such as name, address, email address, etc.

Confidentiality in an field whether it is business, law, commerce, etc. means one person or a company agrees not to reveal information about their client without the client’s approval.

What is the difference between Confidentiality and Anonymity?

• Anonymity is not revealing or maintain the secrecy of the identity, or person unknown or unacknowledged, and confidentiality is not disclosing the information, maintaining the secret, secrecy of the information.

• Confidentiality means a researcher agrees not to reveal the identity of the participants to anyone else.

• Anonymity is one step stronger than confidentiality as it means researcher is not even aware of the identity of the participants.

• If you go in for an HIV test withholding your identity, anonymity is followed. This means that confidentiality automatically follows as this information is not shared with anyone else also.