Pseudonyms and anonymity: A fake name won't protect privacy for long

A lot of people use pseudonyms online. If they don't use a completely made up name they may omit their last name or only use their initials. People say they do this to protect their privacy or their children's privacy. That they want to be anonymous. Unfortunately, pseudonyms are pretty weak privacy protections.

In the future everyone will be anonymous for 15 minutes

Photo credit: robotson / Foter / CC BY-NC

Think of all the pseudonyms that have been revealed. Carlos Danger is really Anthony Weiner. The notorious Reddit troll Violentacrez turned out to be some guy named Michael Brutsch. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith is actually by J.K. Rowling. All of these people hid behind pseudonyms for various reasons, but all of their identities were discovered.

As I wrote in a recent post for the blog:

As a means of protecting privacy a pseudonym is a speed bump not a barricade. It can slow down the process of revealing your identity, but it is not likely to shield you forever. And once the connection between you and your pseudonym is made there is immediately a connection between you and everything you ever posted under the guise of that pseudonym.

Although pseudonyms won't protect your privacy long term they can still be useful. For example, a professional writer may not want her personal blog to be the first thing a prospective client sees when they Google her name. Just don't be so naive as to believe that things you post under a pseudonym will never be attributable to you.

To learn more about what pseudonyms can and can't do to protect privacy online read my entire article "Why a pseudonym won't keep you anonymous online."

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