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Staying anonymous on mumsnet

(21 Posts)
ipsos Thu 29-Oct-15 16:23:20


I wondered if I could ask for a spot of advice about using mumsnet safely?

I love that we are anonymous on here and that we can discuss all these difficult situations safely. I especially like this relationship forum where people help with such difficult problems. However, I worry about what would happen if we all suddenly lost our anonymity. For example, when the hackers get into the mumsnet computers and pinch all the data we could just all lose our anonymity overnight. The hackers could put all our discussions online with our proper names listed instead of our nicknames and a lot of people could suddenly find themselves in hot water (perhaps with the controlling partners that we hear about on here).

I haven't posted much that's really interesting, but a lot of people post stuff on relationships that is very personal, and that could get them in difficulties if their anonymity was blown.

I just wondered if anyone had come up with any unwritten rules about how to stay safe here? I know that Mumsnet will delete individual posts if asked, but I get the feeling that they are not that keen to do that, and they say they don't delete whole posting histories as it messes up the threads.

I just wondered if anyone had thought this through and worked out how to keep vulnerable people out of trouble in the event of a serious hack?

MidnightRed Thu 29-Oct-15 16:28:49

I have an anonymous email address I use just for mumsnet. My real name is not linked to it. The name on my MN profile is not my real first name either. I think I'm as safe as I can be both on MN and elsewhere on the Internet. To assume you will always be totally anonymous on the web is foolish but you can take steps to protect yourself.

ipsos Thu 29-Oct-15 16:46:42

Gosh! That's very thorough. I like your style. :-)

ipsos Thu 29-Oct-15 16:48:25

I also wonder it would be worth having two personas on mumsnet. One for serious private stuff and one for day-to-day wittering. I've noticed that over time a lot of little personal details can slip and, particular for someone who may also have a public persona outside mumsnet, it's possible to become recognisable eventually.

Seeyounearertime Thu 29-Oct-15 17:04:04

I think it would take a lot to put together a real person from snippets on mumsnet. I'm lucky though because of anyone found who I really was, in wouldn't really care. I don't put anything into a public domain that I wouldn't be happy for the public to know.
I understand others aren't as fortunate though.

Best ways for anonymous postingnis separate email, don't fill in profile, keep the password for here totally different to every other password you use.
Use a long password too, something like a short sentence instead of a word, add capitals and numbers.
So instead of: pancakes
Use: 210PancakesWithSyrup!
(That's not my password before you try..... Lol)

Tianc Thu 29-Oct-15 17:13:36

<wave from the friendly MN cyberstalker>

I've identified people's real life IDs from putting together MN posts. At their request, you understand, to show it can be done.

If they're prolix, it's quite easy.

I'd say having different personas is definitely a good idea.

One public one that you don't mind if they're outed, which can witter happily about birthdays and what school you went to and your favourite shop round the corner from your house in Borchester.

And separate ones for specific private issues.

You just need to be good at remembering to namechange.blush

I agree that a separate MN email is probably a good idea, too. With

Tianc Thu 29-Oct-15 17:13:51


ipsos Thu 29-Oct-15 17:15:06

Thanks, that's a good idea.

It only came suddenly into sharp focus for me because a complete stranger who had a google alert set up for a given topic emailed me directly yesterday out of the blue, and I was very very surprised. I had been writing in a magazine, not on mumsnet, but if their google alert picked up my magazine article, then it must have picked up my mumsnet musings too. It made me realise how easy it is to slip up and blow my cover. In this case, using a different name or email address on mumsnet would have made no difference.

I suppose the answer always is not to say anything on mumsnet that I wouldn't say to the whole world. Seems a shame though.

ipsos Thu 29-Oct-15 17:16:09

Tianc yes I see what you mean. :-)

VoyageOfDad Thu 29-Oct-15 21:25:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ipsos Thu 29-Oct-15 21:39:50

OMG! I had no idea there was a darknet. Now I want to dig a moat round our house and live in a bunker. Shudder.

<slopes off to buy a copy of The People's Friend>

Seeyounearertime Thu 29-Oct-15 21:43:24

Ipsos, you should move into the woods and become a spoon whitler. grin

HopefulHappyStrongAlone Thu 29-Oct-15 21:45:53

I change my username every six weeks or thereabouts.

Hassled Thu 29-Oct-15 21:49:45

If you have no reason to think someone might have malicious cyber-stalking intent, and if you are reasonably sensible about details (that funny story about your 7 year old DS is just as funny if you decide he's now your DD, for example) then I don't think most people have much to worry about. Some people stick to Chat, on the basis that it disappears after a few months - and I think many people will namechange for a specific thread where they could be outed.

But there are some incredible threads where people are asking for and giving very specific information - and it's just the sort of information that will be enough to confirm that yes, I definitely know who Hassled is in RL because she's said that she has a magenta front door and 2 pet armadillos - that sort of thing alarms me. On its own the information is nothing, but it's enough to confirm a suspicion.

VoyageOfDad Thu 29-Oct-15 21:57:36

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ipsos Thu 29-Oct-15 22:12:31

Seeyou I spent my teenage year whittling in the woods. grin No idea if it's relevant.

The more I read here, the more I realise that I don't have enough guile for any of this. I couldn't imagine pretending all these things, or having a different name all the time. Maybe I should just be myself and keep all the private stuff private? It is nice to be able to be honest though. Hum. I just wish there was a delete button that I could press, like in facebook.

CakeMountain Fri 30-Oct-15 03:04:40

You just need to be careful OP. Name change, anon email account. Tweek DOB for anything non-official.

Runningoutofnamesagain Fri 30-Oct-15 03:18:40

The thing is, even if you are careful and name changed for something which may out you/tweak info to avoid possible identification it can still happen
Some use mn as have no outlet of support in rl so it's difficult yet the threat then comes from a small minority of unkind individuals on here who in some vindictive or misguided way decide to out people anyway.

The threat isn't just from hackers sadly. On the whole the vast majority are kind and helpful but it's still the Internet and you can't be sure who anyone really is so I have come to realise it's probably preferable to learn to live with no outlet or support for issues and in future post about trivial maters or just to not post at all

dratsea Fri 30-Oct-15 04:52:04

ipsos Couple of suggestions for your bunker: All homes built in Switzerland between 1960 and 1985 had a bunker, most are now full of wine! These guys will build one for you in the UK but better off moving to US and getting one ready made by the military. I found a thread on chat with what I hoped would be good advice about kitting it out but after the first couple of pages it got too sensible to keep reading. thlwink <returns to chat with tail between legs>

ipsos Fri 30-Oct-15 07:48:49

I'm delighted to hear that other people have noticed this stuff too. I'll start digging my bunker.

ipsos Fri 30-Oct-15 13:47:59

I just realised from mailing MNHQ that the "Report" button can be used to ask MNHQ to delete a post even if just because of one's own mistake in including too much personal information. I hadn't realised that. I thought it was just for reporting aggressive or dodgy posts from other people.

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