Privacy: How Bloggers Can Protect Themselves from Stalkers and Trolls

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The Internet is a gift and a curse. On one hand, we have all these tools and resources for information, connecting with people, and sharing your expertise. On the other hand, the anonymity and the instant access to public information (or the private information you share) can make your experience hell.

A recent scenario has the book blogging community in a frenzy, as an author wrote an essay on The Guardian about how she didn’t take too kindly about a book blogger giving her novel a 1 star review on Goodreads, and somehow ended up at this lady’s front door!

Luvvie interjects: WHO THE HELL SHOWS UP AT SOMEONE’S DOOR LIKE THAT???

There are long time bloggers who are down right petrified, and threatening not to blog again. Because if you can’t express your opinion on the web without being stalked, why are we here?

Nobody knows dog

The whole situation and conversation really got me thinking. I’ve been on the Internet since I was 9 (which admittedly wasn’t that long ago). When I first started, I used a pseudonym, because, well, I was 9. But as I got into the age of MySpace and other social networks, I became a lot more lax about my information. Granted, my parents taught me the importance of things like not posting our address, but I was still making some rookie mistakes.

So in light of that recent event, as well as all these hacks done to systems and websites we trust, here are 5 tips for bloggers (and every Internet user) to use to protect themselves online:

1. Switch up your passwords

As much of a pain it is to do, changing your passwords often is going to save you a lot of heartache in the long run. At my job, our system makes us change it every 60 days. We have to use uppercase, lowercase, numbers and symbols, with at least 8 characters. Not only is the strength of your password important, but not using the same one for every site you login is crucial. It can take one answer to a secret question before a hacker gets into your online banking, your Twitter, your email, and everything else.

Password is bad

2. Always get domain privacy

For those of you who have yourname.com and any other domain name, no matter where you purchase it, be sure to also purchase domain privacy. If you don’t, whatever contact information you signed up with on GoDaddy or any other registrar is public information in a WHOIS lookup. So if that’s your home address, it takes all of a few clicks for somebody to get your address, Google Map it, and find out where you live. Domain privacy keeps that information hidden.

When you go to purchase your domain, the registrar will ask you if you’d like to buy private domain registration, which protects your identity and personal details from being displayed in a WHOIS search. GoDaddy offers privacy protection for individuals at $7.99/year per domain, and a higher level business protection with a few more features like a seal certifying your site ownership is valid for $14.99/year per domain. Each registrar’s price varies, but you can usually find a coupon code on RetailMeNot.

3. Get a PO Box

This always seemed like a hassle for me, but is going straight to the top of my to-do list. While I’m not a full on book blogger, I do review books from time to time, and have them sent to my home. That is stopping today! If you have any products or blog related items sent to you via email, have those things sent to a PO Box instead to protect yourself from the crazies.

4. Be careful where you log in

We all rejoice when free wifi is available, but you should be very careful about where you log in to when you’re on it. I just read a post on Medium about how two guys were doing an experiment on just how vulnerable your computer is when it’s connected to public wifi. They were able to access everybody’s computer, see what websites they were on, and even find out who each person was, because they had their Facebook open!

5. Exercise your right to block

My mom laughs at me because of how quick I am to block people. The number one rule of the Internet is “do not feed the trolls”, and we need to remember that rule like we remember our mama’s birthday. Everyday, someone is being rude and ignorant online just to get a rise out of people. You can tell the difference between someone engaging in a healthy debate, and somebody who ain’t about that life. If it’s someone who belongs in the latter group, exercise your right to block. Report as spam if necessary. Leave them where they are, and don’t reply.

Blocked gif

These are just a handful of suggestions. Sometimes, we’re too trusting of the Internet and websites we frequent. We complain about Facebook always changing their privacy settings, but we’ve been using the same password since high school. It’s time to protect ourselves on these Internet streets.

Also: don’t be a troll.


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  • Christine St.Vil

    This is a great post Briana! I was using a UPS box for that reason then stopped for a few months (kept forgetting to renew cause I wasn’t getting any packages). But I just opened up a new PO Box. There are definitely WAY too many crazies out there. I’m with Luvvie: who the heck just shows up at your front door????

    • Thanks Christine! It’s crazy out here for folks to think it’s okay to just show up at someone’s house. So we have to do what’s necessary to protect ourselves.

  • This article was very informative. It’s indeed super-important to protect yourself online as a user and more so as a blogger. The Guardian essay was interesting. Kathleen’s obsession with Blythe’s obsession with Kathleen felt like something a Hollywood writer cooked up.

    • Thank you Marsha! When I was reading it, I had to keep asking myself “is this real life?!”

  • ratherbeeating

    Really great post! I’ve recently been considering getting a P.O. box and now I’m convinced. Also great info about public wifi too. This is scary stuff!
    –Na’Tasha J. (@ratherbeeating:disqus)

    • Thank you Na’Tasha! The wifi info threw me for a loop. I knew it wasn’t 100% secure, but knowing just how open it is was creepy.

  • This is a great post. Domain privacy. Who knew? Scary stuff.

    The trolls (this is not a troll comment) is a tricky one because I think it can be hard to tell the intention behind someone’s words, especially online. In real life I wouldn’t stonewall someone except in extreme cases so I apply the same online – my rule is walk away to reflect, then engage to a “reasonable” degree as if we were face to face, remaining calm, civil, but firm. Sometimes people aren’t trolls, just twats. Or maybe something is just getting lost in the translation (in either direction), or there’s something genuine to be learned on my side. I’m amazed how often I’ve uncovered a more moderate/reasonable opinion from an apparent troll within a few exchanges.

    • But yeah – who the heck shows up at your front door??

  • Ronnie

    Great Suggestions Briana!

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  • As far as renting a PO box or private mail drop goes, could this be considered better for your privacy to rent one in a part of town that isn’t close to home such as a few suburbs away or at a transport interchange. This can be of value if you have another location that you regularly visit like your day-job, favourite cafe or friend’s house.