While there is no one perfect solution, there are steps we can take to reduce the risk. Here are a few blogging strategies for keeping safe.
Quick Tips for Maintaining Your Privacy and Blogging Safely
- Pseudonym: Using a pseudonym/nickname/alias is a great way to protect your anonymity. If you pick a pseudonym that works with your blog name or the topic of your blog, you'll be safer and you'll get bonus points for building your brand and increasing your blog's SEO. A win win!
- Blog Email: Setting up an email account for your blog is another way to keep your personal and blogging life separate. If you incorporate your blog name into your email address, you'll again be helping to build your brand and your email addy will likely be much easier for your readers to remember.
- Phishing Scams: Okay, if you took my advice, you now have a blog email address that is different from your personal email account. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean your inbox is a safe place. A good rule of thumb for email, as in life, is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A stranger in Nigeria probably doesn't have a zillion dollars that they want to transfer to your bank account.
- P.O. Box: While there are sometimes restrictions on shipping to post office boxes, getting a P.O. box is still a good way to route most of your mail to a location other than your home or business.
- Ebook Only: Book reviewers may also opt out of print copies (which must be mailed to a shipping address). Most authors and publishers have ARCs in ebook format and sending is as simple as attaching to an email message (remember that blog email account we mentioned above?) or providing a download code. With the rise of ereaders and the ease of loading reading apps, such as the free Kindle reading apps, to any computer, tablet, or smartphone, this option is available to more bloggers than ever before.
- Computer Security: One strategy for keeping safe begins with protecting your computer from outside attack. Protect your personal information (and your blog!) by keeping all of your programs updated and backed up. Make a schedule for backing up your computer, and your blog, and update your programs on that day. Picking a day of the week as your backup/update day is a great strategy.
- Security Alerts: It's also a smart idea to keep your finger on the pulse of computer security. Scheduling regular updates is a great strategy, but sometimes you need to stay a step ahead of the bad guys. One resource that I utilize is the US-CERT (Computer Emergency Readiness Team) website's email alerts and bulletins. If you sign up, you can get free bulletins sent to your inbox letting you know whenever new software updates are released or about a new security threat (like Beast and Poodle).
- Check Privacy Settings: Check your privacy settings on social networking sites. Some, like Google+, will default to showing your birthday day and month. (Note: Many sites will return to these default settings when they've performed a significant system/site update.) Information like that can potentially leave you open to identity theft and phishing scams. My suggestion is to turn off any information that may make you vulnerable (real name, birthday, home address). If you wouldn't want a crazy stalker to have it, turn the setting to private. Which leads me to my next suggestion...
- Gut Check: Before you do anything online, listen to your gut. If the thought of sending that email, posting that photo, or sharing your personal information with someone makes you queasy, DON'T DO IT. You are not obligated to share more than you are comfortable with.
- Report Abuse: If you are ever the target of bullying or stalking, let someone know. If threats are made through a website or social network, report the person for abuse and for violation of the site's terms of service. Most sites have a strict no tolerance policy for threatening behavior. Abuse reporting will also begin a paper trail demonstrating a timeline of when the bullying/stalking began and that you attempted to take reasonable steps to make it stop. If at any time you feel unsafe, contact your local authorities.
- Blogging Community: While some of my strategies promote keeping certain personal details private, that doesn't mean you can't talk about your situation with other bloggers. If you're having a problem, it's likely that someone else has been there too and can share a bit of what they've learned from their own experiences. The blogging community is a wealth of information and most of us enjoy helping our fellow bloggers. Don't believe me? Take a look at my Twitter timeline for the past week. The blogging community is filled with many amazing people who will help you, and stand by you. All you have to do is ask.
Have you tried any of these above strategies for having a safer online presence? If so, how have these strategies worked for you?
Do you have any suggestions for keeping safe?
Blogging is incredibly fun and being a blogger means being part of an AMAZING community. I was saddened to hear that some people were giving up their love for blogging due to feeling unsafe. If you know of a blogger who could benefit from the above blogging strategies for keeping safe, please share my tips. I'm also hoping that you will share your own ideas in the comments. Stay safe and blog on!