How to Blog Anonymously - dummies

By Amy Lupold Bair, Susannah Gardner

Clearly, you shouldn’t use your own name or photo on your anonymous blog. Beyond that, there are still other basic precautions you should take while setting up protections for your identity. Most of them are based on good common sense.

How to establish a pseudonym

No matter who you are, what your blog is about, or what might happen, every single anonymous blogger needs a pseudonym. A pseudonym is a fake name, preferably one that doesn’t cleverly suggest your real name or provide any clues to who you really are.

For example, “CEOsecretary” isn’t a good pseudonym for that blog you write about how much your employer irritates you, but “Fed Up Worker” will do just fine.

If you have created an account on a social networking service, or really any sort of membership website, you may have been asked to create a username to use on that site. It might be tempting to use that nickname on your anonymous blog, but don’t do so. You’re much better off to choose a new pseudonym, one you’ve never used before.

How to set up a new e-mail address for your anonymous blog

The next step in anonymity is to set up a new e-mail address using your pseudonym. Regardless of the blogging service you decide to use, they all require you to have an e-mail address to get started, and you can’t use an e-mail address that is associated with any of your real identifying information.

Create an entirely new e-mail account (and don’t use any identifying information in the account settings). As well, don’t import your contacts.

You can find many free webmail services out there. Ideally, you want to choose a service that offers a secure connection, such as Gmail or RiseUp. A secure connection means that your visit to the e-mail website can’t be spied on by technical snoopers.

How to choose passwords

How many times have you used the same password when signing up for a new web service. Most people admit that they have one or two passwords they use in rotation, one that might be a little more secure than the other, or one that they use whenever there is a credit card involved.

Here’s a little story: Ravelry is a popular knitting social network. Now, Ravelry is a great site for knitters — hardly a high-value target. The site also doesn’t ask for much personal information and doesn’t store financial data or other important records.

But in June 2011, the site was targeted by hackers who managed to break into a server and capture many of the Ravelry community usernames and passwords. Although the passwords were encrypted, Ravelry was concerned that the hackers might be able to crack them. Ravelry recommended that all Ravelry members change their passwords on the site and stepped up security precautions.

But there are larger implications for any Ravelry community member who might have used the same username and password on another site.

If a hacker tried those usernames and passwords on another, more sensitive site, such as a bank site or a photo sharing site, some of those usernames and passwords would probably work. Long story short, choose unique usernames and passwords for any service that you really want to protect — like an anonymous blog.

Ideally, you should choose passwords that contain a variety of lower- and uppercase characters, as well as numbers. You can even use some punctuation characters. Don’t choose a password that spells out a word, even if you replace some of the letters with characters or numbers, and definitely don’t use a password that is the name or birth date of a family member or pet.

It’s a good idea to change your passwords frequently. It’s also a good idea not to write down your passwords or record them anywhere (especially on your computer). Of course, none of this does you any good if you can’t remember your passwords as a result, so experiment with some set of good password practices that still lets you log into your services.

How to start your anonymous blog

Your safest bet to maintain your anonymity is to choose hosted blogging software that doesn’t require you to have a domain, web hosting, or to buy a license.

Two options are

Be sure to sign up using your anonymous e-mail address and to leave out any identifying information in the account information, name of the blog, and so on.

Be cautious about what sites you include in a blogroll or link to; putting any of your friends in your blogroll, or linking to your own nonanonymous blog, is a quick trip to outing yourself.

How to be time and location aware

One way you might inadvertently give clues about who you are is to suggest what time zone you are in based on when you post to your blog.

Consider changing the times and dates of your posts so that they go live at times when you might be asleep or otherwise occupied, but don’t go so far as to never post at a time that would be appropriate for your time zone.

Changing the time and date also divorces when you’re online and posting from when the post is published, which makes it a little harder to correlate Internet access to a specific person. This can help if someone is trying to track down your identity by accessing log files of when your computer is on the Internet, or when your blog software was accessed.