Blogging, Cartoons, comics, E-mail, General ramblings, Google, Life, Technology, Thoughts

Blogging Anonymously

2004-09-22

In the past twelve hours, I’ve read posts by at least two bloggers (Amrita and Broom) who have expressed their anger at people who take pleasure in “outing” the anonymous bloggers. I can perfectly understand their emotions and what they are going through. Many of us write blogs to express personal emotions. The least we can expect from our readers is to keep shut even if they realize who we might be. I don’t understand why some people have such an itch.

I remember changing my nickname quite often between Ruhi and my real name. I was not too sure if it makes sense to use my real name, the reason being that sometimes, I do write crazy stuff in my blog and I don’t want a potential employer tripping on it by any chance. It’s not that we are not to be blamed. If we want to remain completely anonymous, then we need to retain some pieces of information and never mention them on our blogs. This might include things like your birthdate, your current residence, your phone number, address etc.

There are some tools that can be used to remain as anonymous as possible:

1. Run a Google Search for your real name and see what the results are. You might be surprised to see that even though you might have taken a page down, Google still stores it in its cache for a considerable period of time. Anyone who’s smart can simply click on “Cache pages” and retrieve a Saved Screenshot of your page.

2. If most of the searches are professional and don’t reveal stupid things about you, then you’re fine.

3. Run a Google Search for your nickname and see if it connects you to your real self by any means. If it does and there are stuff that you don’t want anyone to see, then you may want to do something. You can delete some information from your previous posts. It might take time for Google’s cache to clean up (like I mentioned before). Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This is what I don’t like about Google. I’m scared of sharing so much information with this organization. My business is not their business. Of course, they want all this information so that they can better target their advertisements, from where they generate 98% of their revenue. Anyway, I’ll leave my tech rant out of this post.

Many of us have Sitemeter or something similar installed that collects the location, browser and Operating System specification and certain other data from your computer. Apart from this, the comment system itself stores YOUR IP Address! Giving someone your IP address can be quite risky, if you know what I mean. Most of them wouldn’t do anything with it, but there are some smart people out there who can use it for anything.

If you visit ip2location.com and punch in your IP address, it clearly shows your location. So, even though you might have been very cautious on your blog regarding this piece of information, guess what? One visit to your friend’s blog can let him/her know your location.

You can use proxy servers such as http://the-cloak.com to browse your friend’s blogs. Your speed will reduce a bit, pleas be warned.

You can also go to websites such as http://publicproxyservers.com/ that will give you proxy IP addresses that can be used instead of your real IP address to surf the internet. You need to change your Network Setting in Mozilla Firefox (Tools-> Options->Advanced->Network Settings) from “automatic” to “Manual” and put in the proxy server information from the list. You might take some time to find a server that actually works at a decent speed.

If this is too much of trouble, then you can download a software such a Tor or Jap. You need to closely follow the instructions, which vary according to the type of browser that you’re using.

If you need to visit only a certain blog, then I think the-cloak.com should be enough.

Many of you who work in offices might want to use a proxy server if you have strict internet usage policies. Also, as an added precaution, you can “Edit the Timestamp” so that the post gets published a couple of minutes in the future. This way, the internet police of your company might find it difficult to associate your particular blog with the IP address. You might especially want to do this in case you are abusing your company 😛 Also, you might want to take a look at this page and listen to this person’s advice. Please be safe. You never know who’s watching you.

Even I have come across instances where I know that people look into Sitemeter and other applications to see where you live. People are very curious by nature. There is this other friend of mine who pestered me a number of times to reveal the URL of my private blog. I ended up making that blog private, scared that he or someone else might come across it. There are some parts of us which we don’t want to reveal and I strongly feel that others should respect that. It’s up to you to draw the boundaries and stay safe.

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15 thoughts on “Blogging Anonymously

  1. thetellingtruth says:

    I know how that feels.

    I blogged for over two years with one particular blog (and i had several others on the go for different moods- in effect trying to be three different people), and in that time, i had so many replies from people who had realised who i was. I caused so much upset to people close to me whom i had a written about- particularly family members. It took a long time for them to understand that at 16, to rant and rave about everything and anything can bring so much relief- and it’s the fact that people could tap in on that and leave opinions of comfort, and words of advice, but i never dreamed that people i knew would leave such horrid and un-encouraging comments.

    I’ve suffered from depression for many years, even as young as 16, i wasn’t right. I still feel awful now- and that’s why i decided to try again; This time being a LOT more careful about what i post, and what personal information i disclose.

  2. Neat post Ruhi. A simple IP address search is how I figured who one of those classmates who once commented on my blog was.

    It’s a tough thing being anonymous in today’s world. You could unconsciously say something and realize only later. I used to try being anonymous earlier but I don’t bother a lot anymore. Once simple search on my name and you’ll reach my blog and probably guess who I am. Maybe I should be more careful after all.

  3. i read a discussion about this issue some time ago and someone said it was not so much that we’re blogging anonymously than we’re blogging pseudonymously because if we were really anonymous we wouldn’t talk about our personal lives and stuff (at least this is my understanding of that person’s explanation).

    that said, i worry about being discovered (i saw my classmated on my mybloglog but so far she didn’t say anything) than about being outed… i’d like to think my friends are curious but not cruel or disrespectful. 🙂

    my nickname is quite old and i used to use it back in my irc days, but i have lost contact with those friends so i hope none of them remember me (is that wishful thinking? haha). currently i use a different nickname in places where my current friends and i hang out on the internet so i hope they wouldn’t make any connection. and apparently my nickname is a place in germany, so googling it would only result in lots of touristy websites. :mrgreen:

  4. @thetellingtruth:

    Thank you for stopping by! I’m sorry to hear about your depression. Writing and expressing yourself is an amazing way of healing yourself. It helps me clear my head pretty often too. It’s just pathetic that people out there feel the need to expose you. Please be careful and consider making your blog private if you don’t want anyone knowing about your thoughts. 🙂

    @Ish, Yes…most of us who have basic technology knowledge will know how to use the IP address. It is indeed very difficult being totally anonymous. You could try being a little careful about what you want to write on your blog because you do write a lot of personal stuff. You could password protect it or something …I know it’s a lot of hassle. But be careful. 🙂

    @Sulz, Thank you for stopping by. :)Seen you at Ish’s quite often. I agree with you- we do blog pseudoanonymously. Most of the people out there are pretty smart, believe me. 🙂 And if that person appeared on your MyBlogLog, then there is a high chance that your friend knows exactly what to do. That’s the reason I maintain several blogs and don’t write anything personal on this blog.

  5. I think a person who wants to be anonymous should be allowed to stay so! But htere are blogs which don’t allow anonymous comments at all, and I always wondered why because writing ‘anonymous’ or ‘nickname’ is the same thing.
    but i do agree with sulz is the sense that once you give out your private life on your blog, it’s public and anyone who has a mind to to can find out who you are. this voyeurism is pretty sick (people desperate to find out who you are) but it’s in a way a part of human nature!
    on the other hand, i am not comfortable with those people who take the trouble to hide their IP address when they comment either. What is it that they are saying (on someone else’s blog) that they are scared of? If they don’t want to reveal their identity they can always sign out of their blogs and write a nickname.
    Do those IP hiding things really work?

  6. I don’t really think I need to password protect it right now. When I apply for admission in those universities or for a job maybe, then I can do it for a couple of months.

  7. @Nita, I totally agree with you. We should let people remain anonymous if they want to, unless they start making cheap or derogatory remarks.

    //I always wondered why because writing ‘anonymous’ or ‘nickname’ is the same thing.

    That is something that even I noticed…esp. when I visited some Blogger blogs. Doesn’t matter whether you comment anonymously or using a nickname.

    People might want to hide their IP addresses when they are visiting a blog where they are no longer welcome (due to previous feuds etc.). Sometimes, users are banned from forums and they use a proxy address to log in. Restrictions in a company’s internet policy might also force them to use another IP address.

    //Do those IP hiding things really work?

    Yes, they really work. I was browsing the internet for some 10 mins using JAP yesterday and it really works.

  8. Pingback: Outing Bloggers « IndieQuill

  9. you asked me why i changed the blog address. well, you answered it yourself in this blog. and yeah, i agree, Google is a bitch. i am waiting for the day when my name will yield no results.

  10. @Ish, Yes you can definitely do that. when I download files from Rapidshare, I re-connect to my router to get a new IP address. It’s fast and convenient.

    @Johnblogger, All credit goes to the guy who made it.

    @Bap- Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Sadly, it takes quite some time for Google’s cache to get cleared up. I know lots of people who got into trouble because of Google’s search engine.

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