Until last week, FBI chief James Comey seemed like a pretty savvy internet user. The guy knows that you’re supposed to cover your webcam with tape to hide from the NSA and WhatsApp is a fantastic way to communicate securely—even if he hates you for using it. But when the numbnuts set out to make a series of secret social profiles online, he elected to use the name of a 20th century theologian known almost exclusively to theology students and political figures trying to sound smart.
Now, thanks to some very smart journalism by Ashley Feinberg, a senior reporter from Gizmodo Media Group’s Special Projects Desk, everyone knows the head of the FBI is probably an egg on Twitter who likes New York Times stories about himself.
So, apart from eschewing social media all together, how can you, a private citizen, avoid a similar reverse-doxxing?
Don’t give people hints
— Kevin Rincon (@KevRincon) March 30, 2017
If you’ve got a super secret Twitter account you don’t want people to know about, don’t give hints about it in a public forum. This goes for everything from a sit down with the Intelligence and National Security Alliance to a drunk brag on Facebook.
Avoid using really obscure shit in your online name
Look, we all really appreciate the fact that your favourite director of all time is Heiner Carow, the man behind Coming Out and The Legend of Paul and Paula. But the only other people outside of Germany who know who that is are the other schmucks who attended that 9am German Cinema class with you in 2002. So @HeinerCarrow is probably not a very good handle for you to use.
Feinberg made the crucial link between what appears to be Comey’s private Instagram and public Twitter account because they both used the name Reinhold Neibuhr—a man Comey once wrote a paper on—and the Twitter handle shares a name with a project Comey worked on 10 years ago. So when making your own ultra private social profile might I suggest @TwilightSparkle226 or @McDreamyLives instead?
If you’re truly compelled to tie your online persona to something you’re passionate about, than make sure it’s something a lot of other people are passionate about too. Hide in the big fandom rather than be the leader of the little fandom.
Don’t mix the private and public
Creating an online profile so you can interact with family is fine, maybe even healthy. But be sure to put it on private so people you don’t know can’t see your family and friends enjoying your rad birthday cake.
Now, if you choose to make a public account (also totally valid!) make sure there isn’t one damn thing that can link it back to you. Think of any public social media account as an alter ego. If you’re going to have public and private personas online there needs to be a really big firewall between them. Use separate email addresses, passwords, and never, ever let likes, follows, or other interests crossover between the two worlds.