my personal privacy stance on pseudonyms

Andrew Storms posted a really nice bit over at nCircle about our personal privacy stances online, namely some commentary about pseudonyms online.

Obviously I maintain a pseudonym online. In fact, I have two. “LonerVamp” is a carry-over from years long past and I keep it mostly because it is far more unique than “Michael” or even “Michael Dickey.” If ever someone from my past wants to look me up, by god, they can do so just fine. And sometimes they do.

Another reason I still like this name is simply the extra layer between my time online and my real person. I really have no difference in who I am based on my screenname anymore. I think I got over that back in 1997. But anyone looking to poke around at me from either the “Michael” or the “LonerVamp” direction will have to do at least some measure of work beyond the first 5 hits on Google to put two and two together, find the bridges, and then actually cross them. Not impossible, by far, but at least not trivial for any nobody to do. Someone really has to want to do it.

I do maintain another pseudonym on a few low-usage sites and mailing lists. For instance, my MySpace identity is linked to another Gmail account and I only use it to comment on journal entries of friends or view pictures. Basically, I can maintain this because it is low interaction. When something is low interaction, I don’t have to worry as much about my real self coming out in that identity.

Andrew is also mostly correct in saying if you want to “properly” enact change, you do need to step away from the veil of anonymity and put yourself out there. I agree with that, which is another reason I don’t mind the connection between my real name and screenname. I accept that connection and likely always will. But I will say some perfectly anonymous people enact change, especially in IT and security, just fine from their dark corners. And I would be willing to bet that a few people with names like Tim Conners are really obfuscated pseudonyms. Why use LordofDespairXX when you can look like everyone else as Jimmy Toulouse? However, like Curphey recently mentioned, why hide your feelings and your opinions and, basically, yourself?

By the way, if you call me LV, Loner, or LonerVamp at a con or meetup or even in IM someday, that is fine. I’m used to it and have always been called that at gaming LANs anyway. In fact, if I have a name-tag, that will be the prominent name although both will likely be present.

One thought on “my personal privacy stance on pseudonyms

  1. i’ve been dre since i logged into efnet with it in 1993. this absolutely coincided with the release of Dr. Dre’s first solo album, and it seemed that everybody in both real life and online called me that ever since then.
    it’s three letters and easy to type. it’s recognizable and easy to remember for others. often full names are not.
    i do use multiple pseudonyms online, and i have used them to argue different points against each other – or to team up against people. i’m sure there are plenty of uses and strategies for using two different identities. it also partly increases your security to have different usernames on a per-site or per-application basis.
    using your real first name (but fake last name or initial) can be useful in social engineering scenarios, although my first name isn’t generic enough for this purpose usually. unless i happen to be in france or something, for example.
    there’s this really hot french girl where i work and i’m scared to talk to her because the only french i know (after taking it for 5 years) is, as tu une preservatif?, which would probably get me fired.

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