Considering the rather lively response CCG has received in her comments about staying anonymous, this concern is not far from many blogger’s thoughts. With at least one blogger taking down her blog due to her anonymity being compromised, this is not just paranoia.
Note, in his comment on my previous post, echos the difficulty CCG brings up on her site; how to write what you want to write, with out giving out to much identifying information. Be it that most of the bloggers listed here use their blogs as a type of memoir, that is not an easy thing to do. If you have an experience that is important enough to you that you want to write it out, changing the details is a way of changing that experience, and perhaps, diminishing what made it so powerful. However, if the one written about is some one you fear would hurt you or even kill you if they saw what you wrote, there is a strong motivator to hide who that is!
So, there is no easy answer to this problem. However, there are ideas and strategies that can be put in place. I am sure some of the writing and stylistic tactics are already being discussed on other forums. As I find them, I will include the links in posts here, but for the moment, I think the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s How to Blog Safely (About Work or Anything Else) is a good start. Most of the ideas they discuss are technical, and deal with hiding the IP address of your computer and posts. I am not a computer security specialist, but I have worked with several, and from what I have learned from them and read on my own makes me strongly recommend any blogger who wishes to remain anonymous to at least use TOR. Ethan Zuckerman’s A technical guide to anonymous blogging – a very early draft provides greater detail on some of the steps recommended in the EFF document. I would also highly recommend using Hushmail or some other encryption for any emails which deal with business matters.
I am not sure, given active steps by bloggers, and the limited resources of those who would wish to pierce one’s anonymity, that it is inevitable that a blogger would be outted. There are many bloggers who have kept who they are and what they write about from being exposed. But the saying, “Three men can keep a secret, if two of them are dead” does hold true. Exposure is a risk, and one that can have very telling consequences. How much one is willing to risk is a choice each individual blogger must make.
UPDATE: One other tactic to consider is using a service such as PookMail to obscure a “primary” email address and the attached identity. Considering there still are a plethora of free email services out there, having multiple accounts for different uses is relatively simple to set up (ePrompter is excellent for this if your computer is not shared). Also, be proactive – consider Googling yourself on a monthly basis. See what comes up, and if the reference is one that may inadvertently provide information you don’t wish to share, consider asking the site where the reference is to remove it.
UPDATE 2: A little more digging led me to TrueCrypt, a free program that allows you to encrypt the entire contents of your hard drive. Also, there is Eraser, a free program that over-writes an erased file several times to make it extremely hard to recover by law enforcement or other individuals. Note, I do not say impossible. There is reason to believe the encryption for Pretty Good Privacy, (basis of encryption used by Hushmail and GNUGP) has already been cracked by the NSA (and other nation’s intelligence agencies), and there are instances already in the public record where usable information has been recovered from hard drives over-written to DOD standard. However, it is likely that individuals seeking to “snoop” or even a local constabulary, would find the results of these tools more than what they were capable of defeating. Also, think about using Skype. Skype to Skype voice conversations (while not always at “phone quality”) are encrypted (if you set your settings properly), unlike standard phone calls.
Keep in mind, the harder information is to find and reach, the more incentive there is to find an easier target. So don’t be the easiest target! Any other updates to this will appear on a new post.