In the comments of my post on the things that have made me want to quit blogging, Suze asked for some tips on how to retain your privacy as a blogger – and specifically on how to blog anonymously.

Now, I’ve never actually blogged anonymously, so that’s not something I have personal experience of. To be completely honest, I think that if it was really important to me that no one know who I was, I probably wouldn’t start a blog – not because I think there’s a huge risk of being “found out”, necessarily, but because I think the fear of that happening would probably ruin it for me.

With that said, although I blog under my real name, and am fairly open about what I post, I do take some steps to protect my privacy as a blogger, and that’s what today’s post is about. Before I get to the tips themselves, though, I just want to make it really clear that I’m not trying to scare anyone with this post, or to put you all off blogging altogether. I don’t take these steps because I think I’m particularly at risk, or out of any sense of paranoia about my safety, so please don’t take this post as an indication that blogging is a high-risk activity, or that I’m permanently terrified to leave the house.

While I’m definitely not lying awake at night worrying about cyber-stalkers and other scary online predators, however, as my last post demonstrates, there are some strange people out there, and I think that if you’re putting any aspect of your life online, it’s only sensible to take a few precautions. Here are some things I recommend to protect your privacy and stay safe online…

Get a P.O.Box address

If you’re going to be receiving items through the mail, purchasing a domain, or doing anything which involves telling people where you live, I highly recommend setting up a P.O. Box address, so your real address isn’t ever in the public domain. You can organise a P.O. box through Royal Mail, or there are various other services out there which offer the same thing. You will have to pay for this, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind it’ll give you, seriously.

Be vague about your location

Most bloggers give at least some indication of where they’re based, and it’s not a bad idea to do that: it’s something readers are interested in, and it’s also useful for brands (if you want to work with them) to have at least a rough idea of where you live. It’s not, however, a good idea to be TOO specific about your location: if you live in a large city, the city name should be enough (i.e give your location simply as ‘London’ rather than stating which borough or street you’re in), and if you’re in a smaller town or village, I’d avoid mentioning it by name at at all, and simply state the area instead.

I give my location as ‘UK’ or ‘Scotland’ and will narrow it down to ‘near Edinburgh’ if I’m asked (If a social network or other service requires me to give a city/town name, I say ‘Edinburgh’ even although I don’t actually live in the city…), but I’ll never give out the name of my small village: there’s no reason why anyone should need to know it, and if someone was persistent about asking, it would set alarm bells ringing for me.

Switch off location services on your phone, and don’t use apps which broadcast your location

When I got my first iPhone, I used to use Foursquare – an act which now seems totally idiotic to me, because why on earth would I want complete strangers to be able to see my exact location at any given time? These days I don’t use any services which broadcast my location: I don’t ever geotag my Instagram photos, and if I’m visiting a well-known landmark, or any place people are likely to recognise, I’ll wait until I leave before posting an Instagram photo of it. That might sound overly paranoid, but as I said, while I think the chances of anyone using my Instagram – or any other service – to work out exactly where I am are very, very low, I still think it’s a sensible precaution to take.

Set up separate social media accounts for your blog, and keep work details private

When I first joined Facebook, back in 2007, I accepted friends requests from everyone who sent me one, whether I knew them or not: I just thought that was what you were “supposed” to do, for some reason. As it turned out, though, I DIDN’T know many of the people who sent me those requests: quite a few of them were blog readers, and although some ended up becoming “friends,” many of them didn’t interact with me at all, and just silently lurked on my Facebook page… which ended up feeling a little bit creepy, to be honest, given that I didn’t know them AT ALL. Eventually, I culled my friends list to only those people I know in real life, or consider to be “blog friends”, and set up a sepperate Facebook page which people can use to follow my blog. It might feel a bit cringey at first to create your own “fan page”, as Facebook calls them, but it allows you to keep your blog life and your real life sepperate, and to know exactly who’s seeing your more personal updates.

Protect other people’s privacy, and ask them to do the same for you

If you blog about your life, it can be tempting to post details about everything you get up to,  including things that involve other people. I’d really advise you against posting anything about friends or family members, though (Unless they’re OK with it, obviously, and even then, I wouldn’t say anything too personal) – even if means your readers think you don’t have any! Similarly, if any of your real-life friends read your blog, it’s worth reminding them not to post anything personal there either, as you’re not the only person who’ll be able to read it. I know that sounds patronising, but if your blog is a personal one, it can be really easy for people to feel like they’re communicating with you directly, and forget that their comment will be in the public domain. I even ask people not to share information about me on my private Facebook and I don’t give my location there either, because even although it’s private, you never really know who’s reading. I figure my close friends already know where I live, and anyone else can feel free to ask, and let me decide whether or not to tell them.

Beware of over-share

There are some who’d say ALL blogging is “over-sharing”, because no one really NEEDS to know the things bloggers typically write about. If you’re a very open person, though, it can be tempting  to over-share: especially if you come to see your blog as a community, and your readers as friends – as many of us do. It’s important to remember, however, that while your readers may feel like “friends” – and may even come to BE friends – you have no idea who else might be reading your blog, and whether or not their intentions are friendly. Remember that everything you put onto the internet is accessible to everyone: you might FEEL like you’re chatting with friends, but you never know who might be listening at the door.

Be firm and set boundaries

Blog readers are naturally curious, and that’s not a bad thing: if they weren’t interested in you, they wouldn’t be reading your blog, after all. It’s important to have boundaries, however, and to understand that you’re not obliged to give every tiny detail, even if you’re asked. That doesn’t mean you can’t build relationships with your readers, or that you should keep them at arm’s length at all times (That would honestly be a shame): it just means that you shouldn’t feel obligated to provide information you’re not comfortable about sharing. When you start a blog, you’re essentially inviting people into your life, but that doesn’t mean you owe them anything they ask. Bloggers get lots and lots of questions, and most of them are totally innocuous. From time to time, though, you’ll get someone asking you something that feels intrusive, or that you don’t want to answer… so don’t. It’s absolutely fine to politely decline to answer a question you feel is too personal, or which makes you feel unsafe.

Don’t give details about regular photo locations

I occasionally get comments from people asking where I took certain outfit photos – or ones from real life friends saying, “Oh, isn’t that X place?” I don’t answer those questions (or I do, but I don’t give the information they want), and I delete any comments which I feel reveal too much about where I was. I’m obviously aware that people who live locally will recognise some locations (And if it’s a well-known place, lots of people will recognise it: I don’t live in Buckingham Palace or on the London Eye, though, so I don’t think there’s much risk in naming/photographing them!) , and there’s not much I can do about that, which leads me to my final point…

Take reasonable precautions offline as well as online

I’ll take the opportunity to just say again here that I’m not trying to scare people, or put them off blogging. At the same time, though, blogging about your life does mean giving up some privacy, and it also means exposing yourself to some of the seedier elements of society. As the comments on my previous post in this series show, I’m far from the only blogger who’s had creepy comments from people who’ve stumbled across my blog, and you don’t have to have a hugely popular blog to experience that, either: it only takes one person to become fixated on something about you/your blog to make you feel uncomfortable. It’s also worth noting that no matter how careful you are about protecting your address, etc, if someone really WANTS to find you, they’ll probably be able to, so it’s important to make sure you take reasonable precautions to protect yourself offline as well as online.

I’m speaking here about things that are hopefully common-sense: don’t meet up with someone you met online without telling someone where you’re going (and ideally meeting in a public place), be aware of any suspicious comments or emails you get, and don’t be afraid to contact the police if something is causing you concern. Better to be safe than sorry, after all.

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These are just a few of the things you can do to stay safe as a blogger, and make sure your online life doesn’t overlap too much with your offline one: if you have any other tips on this subject, I’d love to hear them!

32 Comments
  1. These all seem totally sensible to me! It’s like when people post on fb or twitter ‘here’s my address, and now I’m going away for a week on holiday!’ and then get surprised when they are burgled, just basic common sense not to say that! I think as well people seem to forget that on twitter (unless you are private) everyone in the world can see what you write not just your friends. Even those with good intentions- like turning up at the door with presents- don’t seem to get that it can come off as creepy not friendly! Fantastic addition to the blog series Amber 🙂 xx

    1. Yeah, I definitely think some people get caught up in the idea that they’re “chatting with friends” or whatever, and forget that what they’re saying is visible to the entire internet, should they want to see it! I actually get a bit frustrated by the way social media has come to be the ONLY form of communication for some people: there are some things that are just better said in private!

      1. I agree, I actually write letters and postcards to a friend (we are very old fashioned lol) and even text messages at least are private, I’ve definitely moved away from social media over the last year- if I really want to say something I will but no-one really needs to know a lot of the boring day to day or private stuff! Not to mention the work implications now which a lot of teenagers don’t realise might come back to haunt them.

  2. Very sensible. I hope people take this seriously: I had a stalker for about 13 YEARS who followed me around the world and threatened me and my family when I failed to return his ‘affections’. I had government law enforcement agencies on two continents involved. This was nothing to do with blogging but it so easily could have been. I was STRONGLY advised to disappear, as in, from then on, to keep my whereabouts off the internet. It totally screwed up my life and my business (which depended on giving my locations). Please be careful, people.

    1. Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry you had to deal with that – it must have been so frightening! It’s a good point about these things happening to non-bloggers too: people can be so scary 🙁

  3. Great tips! Thanks for expanding on your previous comments. Granted a lot of it should be common sense but I’m also amazed at the amount of info people divulge online – personal information which they certainly wouldn’t offer up if asked by a stranger on the street, but for some reason they don’t mind freely putting it out there for any old Tom, Dick or Harry with web access (and dubious intentions) to find. And I bet loads of bloggers hastily instagram pics from identifiable locations (whilst still there) without really thinking about it – such is the nature of Instagram, I guess.

    It’s also worth reiterating the fact that a simple ‘whois’ search (which anyone can do online in a matter of seconds) can potentially reveal the full name and postal address of a domain name’s ‘owner’, for all to see, unless they’ve opted out. I’ve heard of quite a few bloggers being caught out by those privacy settings so it’s definitely something to be aware of.

    Keeping it all in perspective, I can see that blogging can be a hugely rewarding and positive experience overall. It’s great that some bloggers, such as yourself, share the bad as well as the good though. Forewarned is forearmed and all that. Thank you! 🙂

  4. Great post for any aspiring bloggers! In the light of all the (very reasonable) precautions you suggested, I was reminded ironically of that time you posted about someone calling the police because they thought Terry was stalking you…:P

  5. Thank you so much for this post. I think it is SO important to keep certain details to yourself and to be careful when posting things. I also feel like bloggers do feel somewhat pressured into answering questions they’re not very comfortable with as they don’t want to use their followers – but you definitely have to be able to draw a line.

    Ilia from Ilia’s Cup of Tea

  6. Thanks for the great post Amber. I was glad you addressed the issue of PO Boxes as this was something I was thinking about just last night. If I’m fortunate enough to be offered products at some point down the line, I wouldn’t be keen on handing out my home address. I thought this was just me being paranoid but it’s good to know that PO Boxes/Mail Boxes are something bloggers do actually use and it’s pretty normal to have one.
    http://www.luvstyleblog.com

  7. I really enjoyed this post, but as a fairly sensible person it does all seem like common sense – which is why it amazes me people need to actually say it, if that makes any sense? I’m sure people are being innocent 99% of the time but honestly some of the questions and comments I’ve had asking SUCH inappropriate questions (someone literally posted ‘oh my friend _____ knows you, you went to _this school_ together and had _this teacher_ for _this subject_’ and as I deleted it posted again saying ‘don’t know what happened with my other comment but was just saying my friend knows you… ‘repeat whole comment” I was just like WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!) I have no idea why some people seem to genuinely not realise that kind of thing isn’t OK to put out there?!

  8. You should be careful on what you put out there on social media and the blog. I never write on my personal fb page if I’m planing a trip or going away some place, even if I know the people that have access to my page it doesn’t feel safe to write stuff like that.

  9. This is absolutely fabulous for me to read! I decided to set up an anonymous blog where I can share e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g without holding anything back – it’s still so new and I’m still learning the ropes of it but your advice is fantastic! Thank you Amber!
    You have no idea how helpful this was.

    Hope that we keep in touch! I know my blog is a lifestyle blog and very, very real… but I like to think that’s what makes it that much quirkier.

    http://www.mystery-girl007.blogspot.com/

  10. This is so incredibly helpful! I have started to reach a point where my blog is growing and becoming part of my career which is wonderful, however, it also means a lot more people/companies are reaching out which can sometimes be a little scary. Having a PO Box is something I without a doubt want to invest in at some point this year. I recently took my location off Instagram, as I didn’t realise how closely it put you on the map, a little scary really. x

  11. Great post, with such practical advice! Thanks for including this series on your blog – I’ll definitely be returning to view it as I work to grow my own site. xx

  12. Amazing post! I’m not a blogger but I get most of my work through sharing my life on the internet (I’m a performer) and I’m always very careful about all this. I don’t give my current address even to my own phone company, never talk about my private life (friends, boyfriends, family) unless related to my work (people think I’m single and friendless, I wonder if they also think I was made by robots 😉 ) never post pictures while I’m still in the place where I took it etc. People freak out about me getting work through people I meet on the internet but I think as long as you are careful and protect certain areas of your life and use common sense you can be pretty safe. I also think there are way more dangerous things to do than teach a class o perform for someone I met on Facebook (like using foursquare all the time for example).

  13. Amber,

    Do you have any advice on growing a blog or increasing traffic when you’re anonymous? My best friends and I have started a blog about navigating out twenties.. but we want to keep our real identities private because we are sharing A LOT of personal things. Because we can’t post to facebook and other social media outlets, I can’t gain traffic. We have a Pinterest for our blog, and I’m thinking of starting twitter.. but I’d love more advice.

    MascaraMartinisMoneyandMen

    1. I don’t have any personal experience of blogging anonymously, I’m afraid, so I don’t think I can give you much of an insight on that – perhaps someone who blogs anonymously and seems to have built up a decent following would be more help?

  14. Good tips. I’m also careful about not sharing plans – e.g. I won’t be sharing where I’m taking my kids trick or treating. It seems obvious, but being aware of the potential dangers is especially important if you blog about parenting.

    TenThousandHourMama.com

  15. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible for German bloggers who are by law obliged to provide their address on their website, or they are actually fined. It’s horrible. You have entire organisations scanning German websites just to make money of even the littlest of bloggers. I am, however, wondering if this article then only applies to the UK, as I believe even in the US you are obliged to put your address on your newsletter. I know people try to get around it with a P.o. box, but that isn’t really legal. At least not, how I understand it. So that makes your other tip even more so relevant …

    1. In the UK, bloggers aren’t obliged to put their addresses on their website, but limited companies are, and you do have to have an address on newletters. We have a registered business address we use for those purposes (We’re a limited company), but I’m not sure if that’s legal elsewhere!

  16. Totally agree but I have a huge problem. There is a website in my country that keeps some records of phone numbers and addresses.
    My mom is a medic so she was part of this online phone book and so was I so my name and address is avalible online.
    and that site is no longer in service by the owner which is privet but the website with those details are still there!
    Arggh I want to start my blog with my name but cant! A simple google search gives that information.
    What should i do? Juat have a pen name?

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