Some people are comfortable with using their real identities while blogging, but others may have reason to be more cautious. If your blog is about controversial issues that may make you or your family vulnerable to harassment, or if you want to write about personal concerns without censoring yourself for the sake of your employer, family, and friends, then there is good reason to stay anonymous. However, accomplishing this may not be as simple as it seems.
How to protect your privacy while blogging
Here are a few tips to help your guard your privacy:
- Choose your pseudonym carefully. Don’t make it too similar to your real name, and be sure that it can’t be linked with other online accounts. If you’re using the same handle for your blog as your username in other websites, that will make you easy to trace.
- With some blogging platforms such as Wordpress and Blogger, you may create several blogs using the same account. Don’t make the mistake of creating your personal blog with the same account that you’re using for your professional website or other blogs under your real name. Instead, make a separate account with an alternate email address. You can also use this email address to set up profiles on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, so that you can interact with your readers without compromising your privacy. Remember not to use that email address for other activities not related to your blog.
- Check and double check what personal information you post. Your job, your location, even the kind of car you drive can be valuable clues. Snoops can study these bits of information that slip out and put together a profile that leads to you. So try to keep it as generic as possible. For example, instead of saying you’re studying political science in the University of Washington, simply state that you’re a student in an American university.
- Take the same care with photos, if you want to include them in your blog. Landmarks, logos, and especially people appearing in your pictures may all be used to identify you.
- Set passwords on your posts. If you’re not seeking traffic and want to limit your readers to people you know you can trust, find a blogging service where you can set your posts to private and secure them with a password. Only the select few who know the password to can access those posts. Make sure they understand your concerns about privacy.
- Don’t blog on unsecured computers and networks. Free wifi in public areas such as airports carry with it a host of dangers to privacy and security. If you have a long wait and want to use the time for blogging, stay offline and write your post on your word processor, then wait until you have access to a secure signal before publishing it.
- Also avoid blogging in your workplace at all costs. Remember that most office computers are monitored by the IT department, and there’s always the chance of being caught by your boss or colleagues wasting company time and resources on your private pursuits. This can be grounds for disciplinary action or even dismissal, and you can say goodbye to preserving your blog’s anonymity. You may even open yourself up to lawsuits if your superiors have reason to believe that your online activities violate commercial law. Whether or not they can prove it, it’s still a big legal hassle that you don’t need.
- Opt out of search engine indexing programs. If you’re not after a large number of hits, you can change your settings to ask Google or other search engines not to index your site. This will make you harder to find. However, those programs can choose to ignore that request, so you can also use something called a robots.txt file. This is a command that blocks search engine access to the private sections of your blog. You can do this yourself on your Notepad by following online instructions, or you can also use robots.txt file generators that will do the job for you.
- Blog using software programs that protect your privacy. Free services like Tor and Hotspot Shield use various methods to hide your IP address and allow you to access the Internet anonymously. There are no completely fail-safe systems, however, so don’t become complacent and careless even when you’re using one of these.
- Familiarize yourself with the laws in your state and country that are relevant to what you’re writing. What are your rights? What are your limits? Certain types of private information are protected by law and could get you in hot water if you make them public. On the other hand, there are also some topics, like political opinions, which are protected under freedom of speech. Study laws regarding privacy, libel and defamation, copyright, unionizing, whistleblowing, and others. Remember that if you cross a legal boundary, you run the risk of having your personal information subpoenaed by the court from your internet service provider. So educate yourself about your freedom of speech in order to wield it wisely.
These guidelines aren’t meant to make you paranoid or paralyzed with fear such that you decide not to blog at all. The secret is not staying away from the Internet but being smart and savvy in protecting yourself. With these tips, you can blog safely and anonymously without worrying about problems like getting fired, humiliated, or harassed. There are always risks in putting yourself out there, but with a little effort, you may find that the rewards are even greater than you expected.