Why a Pseudonym Won’t be Enough to Keep You Anonymous Online?

false name used by an author

What is the first thing you think of when you want to be anonymous online? It’s probably using some kind of a fake name or a pseudonym. After all, this was a tried and tested method used for centuries by writers who, for one reason or another, didn’t want their real name known when publishing a new book that maybe strayed from their “usual” writing and what they became famous for.

A great example of this is, for instance, J.K. Rowling, author of the “Harry Potter” book series, who wrote a crime novel titled “The Cuckoo’s Calling” under the pen name Robert Galbraith.

Other examples of a false name used by an author famous for some different work include: 

  • The Bronte sisters (Charlotte, Emily and Anne) used male pen names to publish a collection of poems titled “Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell”.
  • Agatha Christie wrote 6 romance novels under the pen name Mary Westmacott.
  • Steven King started his writing career as Richard Bachman.
  • Stanley Lieber used a pen name to distinguish his more serious literary work from the “less serious”. Don’t know who that is? Try Stan Lee, the legendary comic book writer.

Why an Anonymous Name Doesn’t Work Online That Well?

There are different reasons why these famous authors used pseudonyms. 

Some like J.K. Rowling and Agatha Christie didn’t want to risk damaging the work they were already famous for.

Others like the Bronte sisters believe they would get published more easily under male names.

Steven King used a pen name to publish more books (at the time publishers widely believed that the public would only “accept” one book per year by an author.

Stan Lee initially had his sights on “serious” literary work and not his comic book writing. 

But doing the same as these writers (using a fake name) won’t keep you anonymous online. 

Why is that?

Well, first of all, a “pseudonym” and “anonymous” are not the same. 

Let’s see what the Merriam-Webster dictionary says about what is a pseudonym and what does “anonymous” mean:

  • Pseudonym: a fictitious name
  • Anonymous: of unknown authorship or origin

The two are similar and there is certainly some overlap (a pseudonym or alias is a good start toward anonymity), but they are different.

So why then a fake name won’t make you anonymous online?

Because, sooner or later, people figure out that it’s you under that false name.

Let’s go back to our writers. All of them, except for J.K. Rowling (who wrote “The Cuckoo’s Calling” in 2013), used pen names before the Internet was a thing. And all of them eventually had their real names revealed. 

The effectiveness of a pseudonym erodes over time. The more you use it, the greater the chance that someone will figure out that it’s you, especially if they already know your writing style.

But let’s assume that you are not a world-renowned writer, but instead a regular guy on the Internet.

Surely in that case it will be harder for someone to find out your true identity?

Not at all. Today’s analytic tools are very good at identifying someone online. This used to require an expert in the subject (i.e. the writer’s writing style), but not anymore. Facial recognition software, for example, can recognize (with solid accuracy) photos of complete strangers and there’s software that can instantly recognize a writer by his style.

Not to mention that the “secret” might slip from you if you tell about it to certain friends. The more people know about it, the less effective the pseudonym is.

Is a Fake Name Completely Useless Online?

Does that mean that using a pseudonym is completely useless online?

No, it can still protect your privacy to a degree.

For example, you might want to post something online, but using your real name wouldn’t be a good idea for many different reasons. A journalist writing about government corruption, or a public figure about a controversial topic would likely want to keep their identity hidden under a fake online name.

Or, you don’t want your boss to type your name in the search engine and see that you are writing strange fanfiction.

Or you might be trolling people, I don’t know. 

Whatever the reason for using a pseudonym is, whether good (journalist writing about corruption) or bad (trolling people online), it takes much more to keep your identity hidden online.

How can You Keep Yourself Anonymous Online?

Using an anonymous name, as we’ve seen, won’t be enough on its own to keep you anonymous online.

For this, you will need to obfuscate any information that can potentially reveal your identity and especially your location.

Using a good privacy browser (check out our choices for the best private browser for 2021) is a good start. 

Another thing you want to do is to make sure people (and search engines) can’t track your real IP geolocation either using the email header, a ping, or via server logs.

Finally, use a secure email service that will help you keep your online privacy. If you are using Gmail, for example, your email data will always be available to Google and through it to other 3rd parties like advertisers, government agencies and anyone else who wants to take a look. A fake name or alias won’t stop them.

They’ll be able to track you through your IP address, phone number, credit card, or other data they store about you.

With CTemplar, however, your IP address will be stripped from all logs and metadata. Instead, we use our own IP address for all outgoing emails.

Also, CTemplar doesn’t require a phone or other kind of verification to sign up as most other email providers do and you can pay anonymously using Monero (though you will need to contact support for this) so your payments won’t be traced back to you through the credit card or the bank.

Stop risking your online privacy. Sign up for CTemplar and take your privacy back, because privacy is a human right worth fighting for!