Anonymous Reviews – How to Verify Identity Yet Maintain Anonymity

Anonymity and Reviews

It’s frequently cited by defenders of anonymous reviews that witholding the reviewer’s name allows them protection from irate owners and enables them to talk frankly.  True – but it leaves the system open to abuse and facilitates fake and malicious reviews, as well as fake reviews from owners themselves.

Is it possible to have the best of both worlds, to validate an identity and maintain anonymity?

In a word, Yes.  Amazon holds the clue. I quote from their own site concerning reviews of Amazon products:

Amazon Real Name Attribution

A Real Name attribution is a signature based on the name entered by the author as the cardholder name on his or her credit card, i.e. the author represents this name as his/her identity in the “real world.” An author willing to sign his or her real-world name on content posted on Amazon.com is essentially saying “With my real-world identity, I stand by what I have written here.”

A Real Name attribution establishes credibility much as reputations built over time in the Amazon.com community, and just as high-reputation authors and their works receive badges, authors who use a Real Name attribution receive badges.

Why does Amazon.com encourage me to use my Real Name attribution?

In general, we believe that a community in which people use their Real Name attributions will ultimately have higher quality content, since an author willing to sign his or her real-world name on a piece of content is essentially saying “With my real-world identity, I stand by what I have written here.”

Bravo Amazon – a review site that recognises concerns about anonymous reviewers.

But What About Anonymity?

Obviously the Amazon system does not protect anonymity, but it does verify the owner’s identity as a real person and (largely) protects against multiple identity registrations on the site.

To protect anonymity, all that would be required is to allow the person to use a pseudonym when posting reviews – assuming they wish to shield their identity in this way.

Again, you could still post a review without verifying your identity  – but I agree with Amazon,  I would put greater trust in reviews from people who had done so and I would pay more attention to them.

Any Thoughts?

I’d be interested to hear any feedback on this suggestion.

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6 responses to “Anonymous Reviews – How to Verify Identity Yet Maintain Anonymity

  1. Discretion Please

    I might misunderstand something here, but one obvious reason to be able to be anonymous is that some people (many people) would be hurt professionally if, for example, a posting about a sex book showed their true name. Or any book, really, that the viewer chose to use in his attack.

  2. One reason to support anonymous reviews is that in some countries, a critical review is enough for a business owner to cause serious problems for a visiting tourist.

    In Thailand and Cambodia for example, Some local hoteliers literally “own” the local police force.

    In Asia loss of face is a major factor in seemingly random violence, set ups and worse. Getting “even” is a powerful motivator.

  3. This is something that we have addressed on KwikChex Phil. It was never our intention originally to set up a review resource of our own, but I think it is one of the keys to stopping the sort of abuses that are occurring on TA. For the record, the system we are now fine tuning, authenticates the feedback in a similar way to Amazon – and also has several other features. These include:
    * Bill of sale / unique identifier record (we are assisting participating businesses to implement this.)
    * Consumers will be encouraged to sign up, not just to make their feedback more worthwhile – but also to benefit far more by being kept informed of offers, launches and competitions – and also to have the possibility to earn money from acting as mystery shoppers and consumer consultants. That means we have another level of identification.
    * Consumers can, if they wish, use a nickname, so remain anonymous
    * Businesses have the opportunity to publish all reviews or selected reviews – with an accurate (unlike TA) ratings system showing overall performance on all feedback. Businesses can of course choose to suspend or opt out completely.
    * If a participating business wishes to respond by making direct contact with a poster to a critical authenticated review, they will need to provide a legal assurance that they will not take legal action against the poster. A system is in place which will prevent serious defamation – i.e., the likes of the thousands of unsubstantiated allegations on TA that fall into categories such as Food Poisoning, Theft, Assault and Racism. We will also not allow the inane and offensive one word expletives that again are commonplace on TA.
    * KwikChex will help resolve disputes and assist in raising standards, including ways of recognising good employees.

    There are more features and technical complexities involved, but hopefully, you will get the gist of it.

    Keep up the good work, Phil – believe me, the walls that have protected businesses such as TA are crumbling!

  4. by the way here is the story of our struggle with trip advisor and their anonymous reviews:

    http://www.elliott.org/blog/we-are-not-crooks/

    You may follow our counter offensive on tripadvisor here:

    http://twitter.com/ghotelreview

    Regards,
    Nawar

  5. The way we plan to do it on http://www.globalhotelreview.com/ is by penalizing anonymous reviews in our hotel ranking system.

    Regards,
    Nawar

  6. Pingback: Tweets that mention Anonymous Reviews – How to Verify Identity Yet Maintain Anonymity « TripAdvisorWatch: Travel Review Sites in Focus -- Topsy.com

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