Sunday, June 26, 2011

Anonymous...or Not?

Six months ago....

The phone rang at midnight.  Late night phone calls startle me. I immediately think there is something terribly wrong.  I rushed to answer the call.

I did not recognize the voice on the other end of the phone.  After a long pause, a person began talking but did not disclose their name.   The person asked me a series of questions.  I did not respond other than to ask "Who are you?"

I was about to hang up the phone but the next question froze my hand to my ear.  The caller made a specific reference to a post I wrote on this blog. 

The caller knew who I was but I had no idea who they were.

I hung up the phone.

How did the caller connect my blog to the dojo phone number?  After hours of online searching, I figured out how the person found the phone number. 


A setting was automatically changed which listed my site URL on the public profile page.  In a few clicks and searches, I was able to connect the blog-dojo-organization-instructors-work information.  I corrected the setting.

When I started my blog, I decided to be semi-anonymous.  Yes...Michele is my real first name but I try to be cautious about disclosing too much information.  It was months before I told family members about my site.  I am sure their are nuggets of information scattered throughout blog posts and comments which could connect all the pieces. 

Are you anonymous?  Do you blog using your full name?  Is it even possible to be semi-anonymous or anonymous?  Has anyone tracked you down through your blog?  In the age of social networking and instant connections...does it even matter?


Noah said...

Sorry to hear about your scare--that would be pretty frightening! I'm afraid that, with enough digging, anyone with any online presence can be tracked down so there really isn't a whole lot you can do about that short of not having any online presence at all. Leaving as few breadcrumbs to lead back to your personal information as possible will always be helpful, though, and I hope it keeps the stalkers out of your hair!

Michele said...

Thanks for commenting Noah!

The phone call was surprising. Luckily, it only happened once.

Charlie on the PA Turnpike said...

I am anonymous. I've used a pseudonym since I began blogging in 2002.
Like you, my first name is Charlie, and also like you I have told few people even in my own family of my blogging endeavors. One of the two big reasons I maintain anonymity is because I've posted considerably on political issues, and I heard of someone making a scene in front of a blogger's family at a restaurant because of differing opinions. An equally important reason is that my employer would not likely appreciate my hobby.

In recent years I've blogged less because of the changes in my career and family issues. In my real persona I post links in Facebook to my social network on malware, data security and tips to ensure FB privacy lapses (as you're unfortunately now familiar).

I believe that once you are 'known' by others, it is almost impossible to become anon again, unless you reinvent your persona and cut all ties (or at least most ties) to your 'public' self.

Sandman said...

Yikes! Sounds scary!

I don't blog anonymously. - I don't post my last name, but I have pictures and videos of myself traing on the blog. I do think very carefully about what I post and stay away from any controversial topics.

Bob M said...


It was creepy and wrong for that person to call you without identifying himself.

But while most people will respect your wish to remain anonymous, ultimately I don't think anything can guarantee our anonymity on the web. As a locksmith once said to me, locks are designed to keep honest people out of your home.

Charles Hobby said...

I conduct anonymous blogging because I tend to over edit anything written under my real name. I've always admired the people willing to blog under their real names. But that's not for me.

Michele said...

Thank you for your comments!

The phone call seems to have been an isolated incident...I hope. It did make me wonder if I should continue with this blog. I think Charlie made a good point..."once you are 'known' by others, it is almost impossible to become anon again".

Thanks again! Michele