Blogging Anonymously Part 1

25 July, 2012 Musing Musers 28 comments

Image by Gerry Pelser

As a blogger, or if you are thinking about taking up blogging, it pays to protect your real identity.  Now that unmasking and revealing the real life identities of book bloggers has become something that actually happens, some people have been asking how to protect their identities in the event that someone attempts to reveal their personal information as a revenge tactic.

It’s not fun looking over your shoulder and worrying about what information is going to be released about you – which is why you can and should take steps to control what information can be found and linked back to your real life and location.  This is a three part series showing you simple ways to prevent yourself from having your phone called, your movements tracked, identifying information posted without your consent – or even worse.

Nobody should have to live this way as a consequence of free speech, however the sad fact is that these simple steps may save you a great deal of aggravation in the future if you follow them now. 

 

To successfully hide an online identity, it pays to be paranoid.  Consider yourself like a Crouching George Hidden Clooney.

It’s you against the internet. Get handsome, get paranoid, get awesome.

Staying anonymous ensures you never have to fear for yourself, your family, your property, or being relentlessly bullied.  It means you can escape targeted bullying by dropping that identity. This is not a free pass to perform illegal acts nor is it bulletproof.  There are some incredibly sophisticated ways to track people, so if you post online, you’re never 100% certain to be safe.

The best method to stay anonymous is to remove as much extraneous information about yourself as possible before you even start – and then monitor what you make available on the internet after that.  Once information is on the internet, it can sometimes be difficult or even impossible to remove.  You may be scared to find just how much information is out there to find right now.  Protecting yourself is a multipronged approach.  It includes limiting/isolating your real online presence, removing extraneous or identifying information and controlling your online alias or identity.

I would advise that, as a blogger, you create an identity to be known by and not to ever tie that identity to your real name.

Part One

Removing identifying personal information

What information is out there?

Here’s a test of your Internet Ninja Skills.

Visit each of the following sites.  Search using your real name and see what they bring up:

Wikiworldbook

Spokeo

Peekyou

123People

VoomPeople

Spock

Wink

USsearch

Intelius

Whitepages

Zabasearch

ex.plode.us

Infospace

LinkedIn

Zoominfo

Buddyfetch

Also search for yourself on Google Street View to ensure that yourself, your car or anything identifying is shown.

If searching for yourself revealed an uncomfortable amount of information, then many of those sites allow you to opt out and have it removed.  But you also need to remove the source of information or the information will reappear on the sites.

Search engine results:

Do a basic search of your full name to see what appears.  Remember to search multiple search engines like: Google, Yahoo and Bing.  You can have mentions of yourself removed from search engines if you think it’s necessary, but otherwise these results often go away with time as they become outdated.

Social Media Sites:

Most of the information that people finder sites have on you comes from social media sites.  Consider every social networking site you have ever been a member of, especially ones that you haven’t used for a long time.  Here is a comprehensive list of social networking sites.  Go through the link and make a list of all the sites listed there and any blogs or communities (ie. Yahoo communities) that you have been a member.  Remove yourself from mailing list communities as well.

Remember, if you’ve been on the web for a long time, you may have social media pages that have been abandoned. Particularly for once-popular sites like Myspace and Livejournal.  It is very possible that you may not even have access to the email account you used to open these sites.  For Myspace, you can fill out a Declaration of Ownership to try and reclaim the account under a new email address.

Websites you’ve joined:

Try to remember any passions or interests you’ve had that would lead you to join a community about for example: Movies (IMDB, Rottentomatoes), Books (Goodreads, Amazon, LibraryThing), Parenting, fanbases, online writing communities, horse riding, armour making, pottery, music, cars, tattoos, architectual etc.  These may have included forums, fan sites, fanfiction communities etc.

Some sites won’t allow you to delete your account.  Log in and remove all the data you can and obscure the information that can’t be deleted.

Contact forum moderators and have your account and posts deleted – many are willing to help you do this.  You would be surprised how much information can show up over time on a forum.

Delete any unused social media accounts and check the privacy settings on the ones you want to keep.

Try not to have yourself tagged in many photos as this could be used to track your real identity.

Conclusion:

These steps are vitally important to take before someone finds your identity.  It minimizes the impact of what information they can access and use against you.  But there are other steps to protect yourself as we’ll see in Blogging Anonymously Parts 2 & 3.  The most important thing is to ensure your real name and an accurate location isn’t found in the first place and this is the best place to start.

 

 

 

Kat Kennedy

Kat Kennedy

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
Kat Kennedy is a book reviewer and aspiring author in the Young Adult genre. She reviews critically but humorously and get super excited about great books. Find her on GoodReads.
Kat Kennedy
@Alyssa_Susanna oooh! Scary but you'll do great! I'm okay! - 18 hours ago
Kat Kennedy
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28 Responses to “Blogging Anonymously Part 1”

  1. Lexxie
    Twitter:

    This was actually quite reassuring for me! I could not find myself with my real name, and I can only find my twitter account with my online-name.

    Thanks for this – I will continue to read the next posts about this as well. It is important to be very careful.
    Lexxie recently posted…Feature and Follow #4My Profile

  2. Judith Oyama

    First thing, that story of the woman who was tracked? It gave me literal chills. I mean, what kind of scum does that! She kept going despite the attack but I don’t know if I could ever be so strong O.o

    I looked at all those search sites and let me say, I do not see the point of any of them. It works well for employers doing background checks, but the majority of the time I bet that they aren’t put to this use and mostly creepers utilize it. Luckily, I didn’t find anything about myself, that would have been severely creepy. Looking forward to more of this series, I think it’s a great idea and also very educational 🙂
    Judith Oyama recently posted…Stacking the Shelves (1) : Also known as The Great SplurgeMy Profile

    • Kat Kennedy

      @Judith Oyama: In my opinion, they are extremely dangerous. Some of them do not allow you to opt-out your information. I would be very concerned if I were a US citizen.

  3. Liza

    This is great! After the incident with the Goodreads user having received those scary calls, Kat’s comment on another blog were really helpful to me and I followed all of her steps. I ended up making a mini version entry, on my blog, but this is so much better!

    I hope you don’t mind if I linked back to this article. I just think the information is so helpful and wouldn’t want it to get lost within the other entries.

    Again, thanks for posting this. It’s good to see a big blog like yours help get the word out on how to protect yourself in today’s blogging environment.
    Liza recently posted…Awards…Not ReallyMy Profile

    • Kat Kennedy

      @Liza: Hey Liza, yes, you can link back to this article. We are always going to try and protect the blogging environment.

  4. Jenny

    Another good idea is to create an entire persona that doesn’t have anything to do with your personal life whatsoever. Then don’t let anyone or anything outside of that refer between the two. No online publication should be written by you with your real name & reference your online identity in the same place as I found myself to be the case with Wendy Darling unfortunately. But I’m probably jumping ahead. I’m guessing this stuff may come later in your 3 part series. This is good advice for anyone really. Kudos.
    Jenny recently posted…21 ARC Giveaway!My Profile

  5. Kate C.

    Enlightening, as usual. I’m relieved to see that most of my info is private. My husband is easily linkable, simply because my name is pretty uncommon. My kids aren’t visible and my pictures are only the ones I use for purposes of writing.

    This is a great resource for anyone online.
    Kate C. recently posted…I Hate to be Debbie Downer…My Profile

  6. anne

    Ugh I learned this the hard way. I always used my fullname everywhere! Even used my real first name and surname initial as username in most forums and websites I post/register to. The problem is, my full name is unique that when you google it, you can rest assure that all search results are me. So practically all my online friends knew my real name.

    One of them thought it would be fun to google me, found my picture and posted it to a forum where I was a moderator. While the pic was not exactly embarrassing, the act itself was horrifying. I was dumb enough to not realize that someone might do something like that to me. And I thought, what if, one day someone would do something more horrible than that? I was so scared and paranoid I changed my usernames, emails and set to private all website profiles I still had access to.
    anne recently posted…Check here to Subscribe to notifications for new postsMy Profile

  7. Cara

    Thank you for this series. I’m trying to remove as much as I can of my real identity. Luckily, I haven’t been that active in social forums, but this is still scary stuff. I have a question: my employer insists on putting everyone’s photo, including mine, on the company website. I hate having my photo attached to my real name. Do you have any suggestions on how to handle this?

  8. Amy @ Turn the Page

    Thoughtful post. To be honest this whole thing has had me slightly concerned. I don’t have my real name on my book blog – but my twitter account is linked to my real name because I, like all artists/illustrators out there, have my own website promoting my work.

    I cannot think of a way around this. I tried separate twitter accounts previously and could not keep up with it all – and important contacts and links are made through Twitter. These days – having an online presence leads to work. You have to get your name out there – but this whole GR Bully nonsense has upset and concerned me.
    Amy @ Turn the Page recently posted…Book Review: Wentworth Hall by Abby GrahameMy Profile

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  11. Sabeen

    Oh wow. I’m really freaked out now. I had no idea how dangerous it could be to have information on the Internet. Thanks so much for this.

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