How would you describe anonymity? If it takes a while to formulate it, you must have got into the dilemma of anonymity. Very few people experience total anonymity, and even fewer know how to protect themselves from identification.
To a certain extent, anonymity doesn't exist and isn't achievable in the majority of cases — we live in the age where everything is documented, and everyone is tracked. But when anonymity is feasible, what is it?
You are anonymous as long as you can't be identified - a simple yet relevant definition of anonymity. The next level of identification is confidentiality - only a small circle of authorised individuals have access to the whistleblower's personal information.
And the last stage would be full identification of the whistleblower - mostly, it happens when the data leaks to the media. Among all these stages, what are anonymous whistleblowers entitled to?
An honest answer: the EU Directive on Whistleblowing is all about whistleblower protection, but anonymity is not its target and primary concern. Anonymity or anonymous are mentioned a few times in the Directive, and here is what you should know about it.
1. Anonymous reports MIGHT be allowed in a particular country under specific jurisdiction.
2. Even though anonymous reports are generally not accepted within EU member states, the anonymous whistleblower will get the same protection level as confidential ones. The condition is to be identified during the investigation. After this, the whistleblower's life is threatened, and he or she requires protection.
Persons who reported or publicly disclosed information anonymously but were subsequently identified shall nonetheless qualify for protection in case they suffer retaliation, provided that they meet the conditions laid down in paragraph 1.
3. Anonymous reports (as long as they are allowed) must go through the same procedure as confidential ones when it comes to the follow-up requirement.
The procedures for reporting and following-up of reports referred to in Article 8 shall include the following: (e) Persons who reported or publicly disclosed information anonymously but were subsequently identified shall nonetheless qualify for protection in case they suffer retaliation, provided that they meet the conditions laid down in paragraph 1. (Article 9)
4. Only the member state decides if anonymous reports are accepted. And the same applies to follow-ups - if you read our latest overview of Hungarian legislation, anonymous reports might be considered. Still, a whistleblower will not get an update on his or her case.
Without prejudice to existing obligations to provide for anonymous reporting by virtue of Union law, Member States may decide whether private and public entities and competent authorities accept and follow-up on anonymous reports of breaches falling within the scope of this Directive.
Overall, the EU Whistleblowing Directive doesn't prevent member states from protecting anonymous whistleblowers. But neither it requires to do so. In 2021 we will see what whistleblowers can expect in different member states - as for now, anonymity is in question.