Students at Drexel University have created a software program that could identify an anonymous writer based on typed script. According to an article published in the New York Times, the tool – JStylo – can isolate an author from among a pool of 50 people when given 6,500 words of writing samples and 500 words of the text in question. The program considers factors such as sentence structure, spelling, syntax, and punctuation to identify a writer. The same graduate students responsible for JStylo also developed Anonymouth, a tool that helps writers disguise their writing by suggesting changes in sentence structure, punctuation, and word choice.
If put into practical use, the article notes, both software programs could have “larger repercussions for whistle-blowers, human rights advocates, hackers and … anyone who doesn’t want their writing traced back to them down the road.” While JStylo could be helpful in many instances, it also threatens the privacy of those hoping to stay anonymous for reasons of personal safety. Once developed, the tools, which are currently in “alpha” versions, could drastically change the way corporate investigations are conducted.