Anonymity can be defined as a situation in which a person cannot be traceable from the data that is presented about them. When conducting an interview, the people who answer the questions you ask, may reveal personal information about themselves. This may prompt you to maintain the anonymity of the people who provided the data you are collecting. Not all interviews require anonymity. Only those which provide sensitive information that may discredit the people providing the data. Information such as number of people living with an incurable disease such as HIV/AIDS or cases of taboo practices in a certain region are very sensitive that may cause a lot of harm if revealed.
Why is Anonymity important?
First of all, this is a sure way of gaining the trust of the people who will provide you with the sensitive information. This will encourage them to open up and give factual and reliable information. Also, it helps boost the credibility of the research you are undertaking. If any information leaks or gets misplaced, the concerned parties may discontinue their work with you. The reason why you are collecting sensitive data must really be of great importance to the public at large.
Key Areas to Consider When Anonymizing data
The names of your data providers
First and foremost, you should make sure not to reveal the true identities of the people who are giving you this data. This is obviously the most basic thing to do. Aliases are the most appropriate way to hide this kind of information. Any revelation of names may lead to harm or even stigmatization of the interviewees. Encourage your interviewees to come up with appropriate aliases or even pseudonyms which do not allude to their true identities.
As much as the location of the research is paramount, you are not required to delve into any specifics. The revelation of the actual village or town where this interview took place may lead to speculation which may affect the lives of people who did not engage in the process. Mentioning the particular region is advised but giving pseudonyms of the particular villages you visited is the perfect way to anonymize that data.
Ethnic and Religious Background
The reason why names are not revealed is not only to protect the interviewees’ identities but also to hide their ethnicity and religious beliefs. Some religions can be recognised with the simple mention of a name. Therefore, whenever you conduct a sensitive interview, make sure to hide their ethnic and religious backgrounds. Any revelation may lead to chaos because some ethnicities may feel unwanted or even unsafe for living with the mentioned ones.
Anonymizing interview data is not a simple process but it is a long-term process given a lot of attention to make the results are accurate and credible and that they are reliable for use. All in all, make sure the integrity of the data is never faltered. A lot of challenges will be faced when trying to maintain anonymity but they should never force you to compromise.