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Privacy Alias/Persona

All of the following advice is based on the premise that you will only use it to protect your privacy and not to violate rules of ethics or legality.

What Is It?

What I call a privacy alias is a complete profile of your data: name, address, phone number, social security number, birthplace, etc… except all fake. Completely made up. False.

For example, I have real data. But it's nothing that I'll share with you or most other people without specific need (since I subscribe to The Geek Privacy Principle). The point is that you don't want to give people your real data if you can avoid it. But the problem is sometimes you don't have a choice but to give up information.

When to Use It

Keep yourself hidden until you want to be seen (<a href='http://katylouise.deviantart.com/art/Behind-Her-Mask-115194022'>photo source</a>)
Keep yourself hidden until you want to be seen (photo source)

A haircut place is a great example of a store that uses the data for your benefit. The theory is that by entering your phone number and name, they can look up your haircut preferences from the last time. Sure, you could just write it down and keep it in your wallet (and that's a great option if you're the kind that will take the trouble to do it and remember to keep it there), but the computer record is pretty convenient.

The key here is that they don't really need YOUR name and number do they? As long as you use the same information each time, you still get the benefit while not giving up your information.

One technique is to give a fake name and number, but I find it simple enough to use my real first name and my fake phone number.

How to Make a Privacy Alias

I'm going to show you the technique I used to create a completely false alias, but a simple way to get started is to let someone else make it for you.

Random Everything

At fakenamegenerator.com, you can get most of the fake data you'd ever need:

Danny A. Blair
2497 Milford Street
Campton, NH 03223

WebsiteBinocularDistributor.com
Email AddressDannyABlair@example.com
PasswordieC3ohPaz9
Phone603-726-4397
Mother's Maiden namePollak
BirthdaySeptember 15, 1945
Visa4916 1711 7909 3400
Expires7/2011
SSN732-00-5043
OccupationPrepress technician
UPS Tracking Number1Z 236 756 94 1867 824 3

You're not going to use some of this data like the Visa or the UPS number (those are for people who want to test web ordering systems), but the rest is a good start if you're having trouble thinking up your own data to use. The main issue is that the address, phone number and Social Security Number may belong to some real person.

If you want to be safe, use Fakenamegenerator.com for ideas, but use my technique instead:

Creating Fakes More Carefully

Instead of creating completely fake data that's harder to remember and more likely to match some other real person (which then makes YOU the problem for someone else), I recommend you use part of your real data for your privacy alias.

Fake Name

Because it's too confusing to use a fake first name (unless you're used to going by two different names), I tend to use my real first name. My alias last name can be based on your middle name, a nick-name, a pet's name, a famous person's name or anything else you want.

Fake Address

For the address, I chose a fun word (ex: crater) and decided that would be my street name. Then I just checked some cities on Google maps and tried to find a street with that name. When I found a city that did not have a street with that name, that was the one I chose.

Fake Phone

If they don't use it as they say, there's no harm

I'm often told that they "will never use my phone number to call me" so why not set them up for some retribution if it turns out they're lying? I tell them my number is 900-900-9000.

If they don't use it as they say, there's no harm. If they do call it, they'll be helped by a very friendly person who will happily charge them by the minute 🙂

Fake E-mail

You should already have multiple e-mail accounts for this purpose, but if you feel obligated to provide an e-mail and you never want any communication from the asker, just make up whatever you want. You're more likely to avoid a real person's e-mail if you use null@anything.com. Null is a special work in networking that will never go to a real person's e-mail.

Fake Birthday

This one's pretty easy. Pick someone who's close to you or someone famous that you admire and use their day and month with your year.

Fake SSN

The trick I usually recommend is to use your real SSN with the middle two digits replaced by 0. There are three reasons for this:

  1. It's hard to remember a completely fake SSN
  2. If challenged in some way, it's easy to claim innocence and that it was entered wrong or a computer glitch led to the "error".
  3. You will never end up using someone else's SSN this way.

The one problem with Fakenamegenerator.com is that they don't make any efforts to create SSN's that don't already belong to someone else. They depend on the odds of the SSN not matching your fake name, but this method is safer because any all 0 field in an SSN automatically makes the number invalid in the system.

Fake Challenge Questions

Someone this visible should have never used real answers to challenge questions on a Twitter account!
Someone this visible should have never used real answers to challenge questions on a Twitter account!

As part of your profile, make sure you have answers for all the common challenge questions you'll see on websites like:

Functionally speaking, this information is used to help you access your account if you forget a password. What what if someone who knows you uses it instead? Have you ever known someone who's account got hijacked?

Obama, Sarah Palin, Britney Spears, and others have all data brokers, almost anyone can get it too. It's just never smart to use real information, so have some fake stuff prepared.

Even if you use the same fake information everywhere, that's better than using real data. However, even better than that is to use different data everywhere. If you do, be sure to store it securely so you don't forget it..

Summary

Once you've taken the trouble to make a fake profile, your goal is to use it forever (or as long as you can) so give it good protection. I store mine with my passwords in an encrypted file so if you don't have software to encrypt yet, maybe it's time you go get some.

The Basics

The Geek Privacy Principle: an argument for why you should choose to keep information to yourself most of the time.
Ever heard someone say they have Nothing to Hide? Learn why that's such a bad thing and what you can say in response when you hear it.

Current Dangers to Privacy

Data Abuse - Companies buy and sell all kinds of data about you from the foods you like to the color of your hair to the names and ages of your kids.
RFID - Radio Frequency IDentification - Companies are beginning to use tiny radio transmitters on products and in clothing to track your movements and add it to their profiles on you for marketing purposes.

Protecting Your Privacy

Build a Privacy Alias/Persona to give to people or organizations you don't trust.
Data Defense - Learn how to keep your information to yourself.

4 Comments to “Privacy Alias/Persona”

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Is this ok to do when making a purchase online–to just randomly fill in the info with true e-mail but random name, address…no intention of fraud, but so they don’t have all my info and then pass it along to third parties. Is it legal?

    I imagine that you’re going to have to give them your actual address or one of a friend/family member/neighbor if you want to receive your item. As for legality, I don’t believe there’s any law that requires you provide accurate information to stores when purchasing so long as you legally pay with your money and not someone else’s.

    For instance, people can use fake names when checking into hotels, people ship items to other people’s addresses all the time, and there’s certainly no reason you can’t provide just your initials instead of a full name for a shipment.

    I’m certainly no lawyer, but I’ve never heard of anyone getting into any kind of issue from withholding unneeded data or using psuedo-information. About the only thing that comes to mind is that if you’re using a credit card, there may be issues if the names don’t match up. Your mileage may vary.

    For me, I give them no more than I think they absolutely need. If in doubt, I can call the company and talk to the operators about whether they must have real information or not and what the consequences are if I don’t provide (which in many cases is none).

    If this is something that really concerns you, I would check with a real lawyer.

(you just got my fake alias! lol)
I’ve just been reading your website for the past hour, and really don’t have the time to do so. But you have a ton of very quality information!

Albeit when it starts to get too thorough, most people just don’t care enough, even though they should. It would be awesome to mention which are easiest to implement and most important when choosing articles. IMAO anyway.

I’m definitely going to have to start implementing this. I sorta started to a while back, but keep getting lazy about it. Thanks for the tips and motivation!

i think i read it all,i got out of order.i just want to thank you for the info and your time.well explained .i will definately share.

IDENTITY THEFT
How to Steal Identities - Why It's So Easy
Credit Freeze
Data Defense
Credit Monitoring
Id Theft Insurance
The Identity Theft Victim's Mini-Guide to Recovery
PRIVACY
The Geek Privacy Principle
Nothing to Hide
Data Abuse
RFID - Radio Frequency IDentification
Privacy Alias/Persona
Data Defense
INTERNET SAFETY
Online Addiction
The Consequences of Posting Online
Photo Safety
Tricks and Scams
Account Hijacking
Trusting Companies
PASSWORDS
Bad Passwords
Password Tips and Tricks
Password Protection
Password Mugging
Computer Security
E-mail Safety
Kids and Computers
Shopping Online
Retailers
All About Warranties

The Geek Privacy Principle

The most basic principle of privacy is to be able to choose who knows what about you and when. The Geek Principle describes why you should choose by default not to share information.

[Click for full description]

The Geek Privacy Principle

The most basic principle of privacy is to be able to choose who knows what about you and when. The Geek Principle describes why you should choose by default not to share information.

[Click for full description]

Nothing to Hide

Do you say "I have nothing to hide" or do people you know say it to YOU? Read this tutorial about why no one should ever say they have nothing to hide again.

[Click for full description]

Data Abuse

Learn how your data is taken from you and used against you by large companies for their own benefit.

[Click for full description]

RFID - Radio Frequency IDentification

One of the most risky technology when it comes to your privacy is Radio Frequency Identification Tags (RFID). These radio chips broadcast your identity sometimes hundreds of feet and can be found in passports, farecards, credit cards, and even some clothing.

[Click for full description]

Privacy Alias/Persona

Sometimes you are required to give away information to be able to get service, but you know the company has no real need of your data other than to share and sell it. In these cases, having a personalized alias comes in handy.

This guide will explain in more detail why you should have one and how to create it.

[Click for full description]

Data Defense

One of the most important, but least understood, threats against us today is the creeping data-abuse by companies seeking to compile complete profiles on every American in order to enable "targeted marketing".

Until laws are in place to control their use of your data, learn the tips and tricks to make it harder for them while improving your identity-theft defense at the same time.

[Click for full description]