Is Anonymous Blogging Possible?
posted by Daniel Solove
Howard Bashman at How Appealing muses whether anonymous blogging is really possible:
These days, however, most users of the internet understand that every bit of information communicated electronically leaves electronic fingerprints that can be used to trace the source of the information, even if the source hoped to remain anonymous. To be sure, there are ways to anonymize emails and other forms of communication, but they tend to be complicated to use and difficult to figure out. . . .
I doubt whether anonymous blogging is possible. It surely isn’t possible if the blogger conducts email correspondence with others and fails to mask his or her internet protocol address. Plus, even the act of logging on to a blogging service provider, such as TypePad or blogger, leaves electronic fingerprints, and I’d have to assume that “UTR” had a TypePad subscription, enabling someone to subpoena the blog owner’s identity and/or payment information. So, to you anonymous bloggers out there, have fun, but don’t fool yourselves into thinking that simply by not providing your identity you are doing an effective job of remaining hidden.
I generally agree that it is very difficult to blog anonymously, but it is certainly possible if a person is careful.
First, the term “anonymous” is often used as a catch-all term that refers to many things, such as psedonymous blogging. To be more precise, there’s (1) anonymous blogging (no name or identifier attached); and (2) pseudonymous blogging (using a pen name, such as A3G). It is hard to have an anonymous blog since it depends upon having a stable existence — and hence the blog itself becomes the pseudonymn — so perhaps the only real anonymity is when people post anonymous comments. Beyond anonymity and pseudonymity, there’s the issue of linkability. To what extent can a person’s anonymous or pseudonymous postings be linked to their true identity? This is what Bashman is referring to in his post.
Of course, there are some limited legal protections for the anonymous blogger from being unmasked in a lawsuit or by the government, but these protections are limited. What Bashman is referring to, however, is whether it is possible to blog in a way so as to never be linked to one’s blog.
Here’s one possible relatively easy way to blog anonymously (in the sense of not having one’s true identity linkable to one’s blog): A person can sign up for a free account on Google’s Blogger, having only to provide an email address as a contact point.
For the contact email, a person could establish a Yahoo email account which anybody can readily establish from anywhere. If a person is careful to not use any computer that she can be linked to, she might be able to pull off anonymous blogging. A person could just move around to various coffee shops, schools, apartment buildings, and other places with unsecure WiFi connections and connect wirelessly to their networks. Of course, this would probably mean not being able to blog while at work . . . which I’m sure absolutely nobody does . . .
I am by no means an expert on the technical issues involved here, so I would welcome the comments of those with greater expertise. Would the above way of blogging (if done carefully) prevent a person from being linked to her blog?
For more on blogging anonymously, see the EFF manual, How to Blog Safely.