For some editors of Wikipedia, having their "real life" identity discovered can be a major problem, threatening their well-being, careers, or even personal safety. There are a variety of steps you can take to help protect yourself from this happening.
100% guaranteed ways
The only 100% certain ways to avoid getting outed:
- Out yourself. Give your real name on your userpage or use it as your account name. No one can out you if you've done it yourself (see below).
- Important: this option is absolutely not recommended for children or underage users. If you are a child, do not post any personal identifiable information about yourself anywhere on Wikipedia.
- Don't edit Wikipedia. Access and use Wikipedia only for reading purposes.
In lieu of these, there are some safe but non-guaranteed ways to make sure you aren't outed (see below).
Safe but non-guaranteed ways
If, for some reason, the guaranteed methods above aren't preferable or possible to you and the risk of being exposed or outed on Wikipedia is a serious concern for you, you should read through and follow the recommendations listed below. The list specifies safe, but not 100% guaranteed, ways to avoid being outed on Wikipedia:
- Don't use your real name. Don't use a name that alludes to your real name or anything about you in any way.
- Don't use a username you've ever used anywhere before, or anything resembling a username you've used before. If all your usernames previously used are variants on something like "SeismicGuy", don't use it as your username here – your username should be totally unrelated to you, and new.
- Don't add any personal information about yourself to your user page that could be used to connect your on-wiki identity to other websites or be used in search engines to find you.
- Do not upload any images that you've created yourself (such as a picture of you) and display them on your user page – especially if they have been uploaded, published, or used anywhere else on the Internet – even once. The images you upload and display on your user page here can be used in reverse image searches, and any website where you've uploaded or published the same image (such as social media accounts, forum accounts or forum posts, public websites where your information is present, or other personal accounts) can be found and connect you to them. Images may also contain Exif metadata showing your name, location, and other personal information; online tools are available to check and remove this data.
- Don't use your primary / personal email address for any Wikipedia-related activities or communication with other editors; create and use a unique and separate email for this, and do not use this email address for any purpose except for Wikipedia-related activities – treat it as your "Wikipedia-only email account". Never send emails to anyone from this email account except via the webmail interface, to conceal your IP address (most webmail services do not forward a sender's IP address in the email headers). Do not send messages from this email using a desktop or mobile email client application. Never open any attachments mailed to you to avoid possibly exposing your IP address. Disable all inline image loading from the webmail interface and from any email clients you use to check your emails.
- Don't even enable mail if you're extra nervous – you can live without it.
- Don't e-mail anyone on Wikipedia, even someone you completely trust – information you send to them may be hacked and leaked without their knowledge. This applies even to such official addresses as the Arbitration Committee mailing list.
- Don't edit any articles related to your job, home, school, known activities, known relationships, your town or county or anything directly related to you; but if you must, don't do it with any tone of an "insider". Act like it's unrelated to you. Hide your possible interest in the topic.
- Give out nothing about yourself on a personal level; keep the job "on-wiki". If you are [[User:Fluffy Nose]] here, that is the extent of the existence you present to the world. You live only within these pages of Wikipedia.
- Never meet anyone from Wikipedia in real life, over Skype/voice chat/telephone, over any form of instant messaging or IRC communications, or anything else that gives them more than what they see "on-wiki".
- Exclusively edit using proxy-based Internet access, or only edit from public locations/connections, to conceal your IP presence. (See WP:IPBE.)
- If you use IRC identifiable to your on-wiki username and use Libera Chat, consider requesting a cloak[a] to hide your IP address. If your application is refused, you may request an unaffiliated cloak in #libera-cloak. Cloaks are not 100% effective however, so you may still want to connect via proxy (see point above).
- Don't out other people yourself.
- Do not edit Wikipedia from the same computer you tend to use to send e-mails. All internet traffic is being logged and, if edits are made to Wikipedia at the same time that e-mails are being sent, it's easy to correlate the two by their IP address.
The more of these recommendations you follow and apply, the less likely you are to be exposed and outed on Wikipedia.
Outing is not just about exposing your real name...
You might think that using your real name as your username or that self-disclosing your real name means you're already "out" and thus you can't "get outed". However, "outing" can involve much more than simply revealing your true name. Someone who doesn't like your on-wiki activities might still try to look you up online (using your real name, which you've conveniently supplied them) and post your address or other information they might find about you ("doxing") – or, inadvertently, about some unrelated person who happens to have the same name as you. Consider this before you decide to use your real name on Wikipedia – afterwards it may be too late.
- Wikipedia:User analysis tools
- Wikipedia:An article about yourself isn't necessarily a good thing
- Wikipedia:Personal security practices
- Wikipedia:Wikipedia is anonymous
- Wikipedia:Wikipedia is in the real world
- Wikipedia:Child protection
- Wikipedia:Protecting children's privacy
- Cloaks are explained at m:IRC/Cloaks.