keep your identity private, bloggers

It’s sexy to keep yourself safe.

I’m hoping you can all learn from my fuck-ups. And no, I don’t mean the recent relationship that ended really badly. Well, not the relationship part.

As I’m spending a bunch of time deleting content and figuring out how to keep other content away from the wrong eyes, it occurred to me that I, Ann St. Vincent, could provide a list of “what not to do” to keep your blogging content away from some of the people in your life.

Some of this also applies to you as a reader. You’d probably be surprised to know what I can learn about you when you engage on a blog.

Some of it may be obvious, but I thought I was safe and I wasn’t. Here goes:Have separate blog email, even as a reader

Have a separate email address for your blog, if you are a blogger. If you are a reader, I strongly suggest you also have a separate email address to use for interacting with blogs.

This is especially true for Gmail. I’ve had people use my contact me page with their WordPress information and Gmail account, and then when I respond to them (or they respond to me again), Gmail then shows whatever information is tied to that account. Gone is your blog name and there is your real name and often your picture.

The best thing to do is use an entirely different email provider for your blog email.

Be prepared for your social media accounts to be found

You may not be aware, but once you have emailed someone or they have emailed you, it gets stored in your phones. Multiple social media sites will now helpfully connect that email address (or phone number) to the accounts of those people.

So let’s say you and I have exchanged emails from personal accounts. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram (and I’m sure others) all have features where they will review the email addresses in your phone and match them to accounts. Sometimes this is helpful, but not in blogging and dating. On Facebook, you can turn off the ability for people to find you using your phone and your email. Not sure about the others.

From a dating perspective, I’d suggest you also use a different email address for any dating sites or interactions with people online… unless you want them be able to see your social media accounts.

Oh, and please don’t invite Ann St. Vincent to connect with you on LinkedIn. It’s happened to me more than once, and always makes me laugh. I’m really naughty, probably not what you want in your connections.

Don’t use the same app or program for blog and real identity

I made the mistake of using the Gmail app on my phone to switch between accounts, and of course one day emailed by ex husband from my ASV account. It was a pre-Christmas nightmare and the first time I made my blog private. When you are doing things quickly, it’s easy to do.

Two things I did helped me avoid this mistake again:

  1. I put a signature at the bottom of all of my Gmail accounts, which I can see when I’m drafting a new email. This way, I can see which account I’m using right away.
  2. On my iPhone, my Gmail app is for my blog email only, and all my personal email goes through the apple mail app.

Be super vigilant of “integrators”

Hey, isn’t it super helpful that Google uses your Gmail account to log you in to various places, like YouTube, which they own? No, not really when you inadvertently send a link to a boyfriend without realizing that YouTube had you logged in using your blog email address and not your personal email address.

Thank goodness Tony is often distracted. Could have been a shit show.

I got rid of Google+ for a similar reason. Google so badly wants you to connect with people you may know, it was an accident waiting to happen and there was no benefit to me of having a blog presence there.

I hear Facebook likes to do that as well. Be very careful if you have a blog and “real life” presence there.

Keep your workplace completely out of blog comings and goings

If you use your company’s electronics to access a blog, or their internet / wifi connection, you may be revealing more than you think. Your company’s name could be in the “host name” or the IP name. So what?

Whenever you comment on a blog (on WordPress, at least), your IP address is captured. While it may not be a big deal for someone to realize what city you are in (if you are engaging in a blog from home, for example), it’s a bigger deal if they can easily find out where you work.

I do believe most people are trustworthy and wouldn’t do something with that information. But be aware, you are giving it away.

Don’t mix blog life with real life on social media

This was my most recent dumb mistake. I had just one link between a real life social media account and a blogging friend’s blog identity social media account. I foolishly thought nobody would be interested enough to spend the time to find and exploit the connection.

I was very wrong.

But here’s the thing… I didn’t only put myself in jeopardy, I put her in jeopardy.

So just don’t do it. It’s SUPER tempting, especially as we make friends through blogs. But if you have real life social media accounts, do not follow anyone’s blog accounts, and vice versa. You never know what information someone does and doesn’t give away on their blog that you might mistakenly leak.

Here’s the other thing, and this is a harder one to swallow. It’s probably also not a great idea for your real life account to follow their real life accounts, either. Again, let’s say in theory – ahem – you have a boyfriend who ends up losing his shit. You’ve told him things about your friends, which includes blogging friends (although they don’t know you met them through a blog). If they ever figure out the connection, you’ve potentially given away information they didn’t want to share.

The reverse can happen as well, through absolutely no ill-will of your friend. But if you want to keep your blog and it’s information safe, you just can’t be too careful.

Just for bloggers…

Don’t use any images or posts on your blog that are also on any of your personal accounts. People can search for both and voila – there you are.

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I hope these help. If you have more tips, please comment; I’d love to hear them.

47 thoughts on “It’s sexy to keep yourself safe.

      • Nothing that can easily be done. There are ways to disable Google’s ability to keep track of you by changing settings in your computer’s browser; ditto for using your phone or a tablet. You can subscribe to a VPN service – a Virtual Private Network – that hides your devices IP addresses; anyone or anything trying to track down your IP address winds up at a sever somewhere else in the world but not where you actually are.

        Enabling private or incognito browsing on your browser keeps down the chance of being tracked by cookies – and routinely cleaning your devices of all cookies is a good practice as well. Password protect your blog so that even if it’s found, it can’t be casually accessed (unless someone has damned good hacking skills) and then change it every thirty days at minimum; yep, it’ll be a pain giving it to everyone you currently trust to read your blog. And if you can, archive then delete non-protected writings so they can never be found or read outside of your own computer, which no one other than yourself should be accessing anyway.

        Then there’s the obvious: Don’t put your business on the Internet at all. If you do, there are risks that you automatically assume, some which can be deflected, some that can’t; like, not everyone possesses my skill set with computers to make themselves totally invisible to the Internet as a whole, just like anyone with my skill set can find almost anyone with an Internet presence. I can do it… but that’s too much like work, takes a lot of effort, some specialized equipment and software and even then someone determined enough could find me.

        So I don’t worry about it and push come to shove, well, that’s what lawyers get paid for if someone wanted to mess with me because of my blog…

        • I hear you…should have mentioned the VPN for sure. Good add.

          And yes, I could certainly just be password protected or not write at all, but I don’t want to stop so that’s a risk I’m going to take.

  1. Anent that post title: Hey, if Ann St. Vincent does it, by definition it’s sexy. (And sharp. And fun. And daring. And big-hearted. And substantive. And…)

  2. Sigh. I don’t think anybody is truly private these days. If somebody really, really wants to find you, they will. I’m so sorry you are going through all this work and stress to cover your tracks. No Bueno.

    I have run into that nosey Google plus thing and have to be ultra careful on the blog login since I have a work-related blog that screams CALL ME, EMAIL ME and has a photo. Sigh. This anonymity thing is a lot of work sometimes.

    • It’s true, I do believe if someone is absolutely set on finding you, they probably can. I’m not going to stop blogging, but there are definitely things I can do / not do to be safer. And I’ve considered even more carefully what content I have up that could be more problematic for me. I’ve made most of the changes now but will probably continue to tweak as I find things.

  3. The easy solution to most of these online landmines is to not use anything provided by Google. They are not the harmless, benevolent friend they want us to believe they are.

  4. Good morning! Well written Ann. This post should be required reading for everyone who starts a personal blog. Across the board everyone should have the baseline assumption that what they write online WILL be discovered and read by someone they hadn’t expected whether it be someone from your past, or a prospective employer. There’s a reason it’s called the world wide web. Everything is connected like the strands of a spiderweb.

  5. Flattery, Ms. St. Vincent? Not a whit. Surely, when encountered, you can identify the sacrilege of extreme unctuousness. πŸ˜‰

  6. Thank you for the tips! I made a new email for commenting.

    People really want to connect on LinkedIn?! What are they thinking?

    • LinkedIn has a feature where you can connect with those in your phone… And I think you can easily click the wrong button where it sends an invite to everyone. Pretty sure that’s all it is… But it comes from your LinkedIn account πŸ™‚

  7. This is very informative. I’m “not exactly” trying to be anonymous, but I do change certain things to protect the innocent. I am also acutely aware that what I write about my ex could get back to him, but a risk I’m willing to take. Like you, I need to write and ultimately am not going to let someone stop me. All that being said, I’m still taking into consideration all that you said. (Because I want to be sexy too.) =D

    • I’m glad you found it helpful, Tara! I’ve password protected a few of the more inflammatory stories, just to avoid accidental finding…and anyone who is a regular reader can have access, no problem. I’m making my way through some of the other content with an eye to some things that would make things worse, and removing anything that doesn’t specifically add to the story. Of course, there are stories themselves that I wouldn’t like him to read, but I think the chance is pretty small.

  8. I could have used this post 8 yrs ago when I started blogging!
    – logged into Blogspot dashboard at work, a Dept of Defense computer network, oops!
    – commented on a CrossFit gym blog using my Hubman account when I meant to use my vanilla account, oops!
    – Veronica and I provided *just* a little too much info, spread across several posts on our respective blogs, that enabled someone to figure out our identities, oops!

    One more tip, if you’re trying to remain anonymous, it doesn’t hurt to Google search for the combination of your real and alias, to see if there are any links connecting your identities that you’re not aware of.

  9. I’m curious how you established self-hosting. Did you go through WordPress or just use their formatting via a GoDaddy domain purchase? Or…?

    I need someone to write a “What You Should Know” post about moving to a self-hosted site. Especially since WP is doing another censorship sweep of sexual content. Grrr…!

  10. Words to the wise, or unwise. thanks, Ann. I’ve written a couple mainstream WP blogs for years. When I started my ‘adult,sex, personal, whateverblog’ I used a different email provider. I had a big hassle at first with my Gravatar. I would think I was using my Elliot one and it would be my ‘real life’ one from my other blogs. One time I liked a friend’s post and Elliott appeared, I quickly unliked it, but she had got a email notice that Elliott had liked her blog, so she discovered my new sex blog. I knew she would and quickly emailed her to explain, before she blabbed to our friends who comment on her blog. Now she is a regular reader and we have talked about the posts, she likes them.

    Now what I do is… use a separate browser for anything Elliott and porn related. This way the two ‘lives’ are kept seperate. Blog, Tweets, Gravatars, email, etc. I think this will work out okay.

    With WordPress, I had them flag my blog as adult content, and I chose a theme that I could manage my images so as not to be obvious till you clicked on them.

    • Glad to hear your friend was okay with your content… that could have been a lot worse I suppose! It’s tough to keep things separate. I find sometimes I do things so quickly before I know it I’ve made a mistake. Now I’m a lot more measured and triple check things.

  11. Very wise words Ann, I have a different email address to my usual one for my blog, but just realised while posting here that I don’t actually use it for commenting on other blogs. When people say how great it is that everything links together, I think, no that isn’t necessarily the case.

  12. Well, Ms. St. Vincent, considering the amount that I am learning from you, isn’t it only proper that ours be a symbiotically instructive exchange? β™‹

  13. BTW- when I post here it tells me the form is not secure, but I post anyway. Not as safe as I thought!

  14. I’m naturally cautious so I considered some of these issues before I set up my blog. It helped that I’d recently read a mutual acquaintance’s cautionary tale.

    I keep a clear division between RL and SIMNH by using different browsers (Firefox vs. Chrome), different email accounts with different services (Yahoo vs. Gmail), different social media services (Facebook and Pinterest vs. Twitter).

    I recently joined the 20th c and got a smartphone, but it’s more for work than anything, so I keep it pretty clean, especially because of how all the apps can interact with each other. I use Safari in private mode (rather than apps) for SIMNH. (Taking racy photos on your phone? You might not want Facebook to have access to your camera roll, especially since I think it can be set to automatically upload.)

  15. Yeah, I could have used those tips when I started… keeping browsers separate is a good tip. I’ve never done that but perhaps will start.

    My smartphone is very dirty lol…

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