Anonymizing Facebook
December 17, 2017 12:35 AM   Subscribe

I have a stalker so I avoid Facebook. But now I'm forced to be on Facebook. How do I do this without the stalker finding me?

I know someone who likes to stalk me online and tried to get me fired for my online activities and I had to shut down the website they found of mine. That person just loves Facebook and likes to brag about how they stalk someone else there, so I avoid it. But I just joined something and got told, "I will ONLY send out announcements via Facebook, so you have to be on Facebook." Fuuuuuuuuuuuck.

How do I do this without being found by the stalker? From what I recall (I stopped using Facebook years ago but my real name is on it), they have some kind of "real names" thing where they shut down your account if they figure out it's fake/not your real name, and they constantly change the privacy settings so that you can't just stay private because at any time they may do something that outs you unexpectedly. What kind of handle can I make up that isn't obviously me and isn't obviously fake either? How do I deal with the algorithms that will inevitably find everyone I know IRL and all that jazz? How do I deal with this crap in 2017?
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (24 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Find them first and then block them.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:41 AM on December 17, 2017 [17 favorites]


As far as I know...

1) Use a throwaway email address.
2) Don't add your phone number/location/schools/photo/jobs/website/etc.
3) Use a name similar or shortened to your name, middle name, etc. If it's not a super suspicious name then it should be fine as well.
4) Set EVERYTHING to "private" and "only me". Double check everything. Friends list can be private too. You can view what the public sees on your profile.
5) ONLY join the group/friend that sends out invites, do not add other friends. Just deny the request and don't respond to messages.
6) Don't add any updates, only use it for invites. I think you can set notifications to email you for stuff like that.
7) YES absolutely block them, but make sure nothing is "public" or anything either.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:49 AM on December 17, 2017 [41 favorites]


Crystalinne has most of it I think. The less information Facebook has about you the better, and set all the privacy settings at https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=privacy to "Only Me" & your profile to not be visible to search engines.

Then I’d go here: https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=applications and turn off /everything/. If the "Facebook platform" is off then apps can’t leak your data because they can’t get access to it.

It’s probably worth blocking the individual here: https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=blocking but they may have alt accounts, so that’s not going to be completely reliable.
posted by pharm at 12:59 AM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


You don't currently have a facebook account, and you're not planning to use your facebook account for anything but to receive notifications from this group? As long as the people sending announcements don't care about whether you use your real name, go ahead and use a plausible-sounding alias and leave everything blank or use the wrong info. As long as you use a name that looks name-ish, you're pretty unlikely to get a pushback, real-name policy or no, and if Facebook decides that your alias is bogus, let the account die and sign up for a new one with different details.

At least that's what I'd do.
posted by Aleyn at 1:00 AM on December 17, 2017 [27 favorites]


I have an account under my real name and one under an alternate name. I haven't used the real accoubt in years. I use the alternate account on a different browser from the one I do my daily browsing on. I hide all private info and have a different set of friends from my real account, save for two who are not from my work. I never respond to any suggested friends from FB.

FB is constantly recommends my actual coworkers to this alternative account, and recently suggested my mom as a contact. I have no idea how FB found my mom.

Tl;dr: in addition to all the other points above, especially do NOT have any friends except for that account that you want to receive invites from, and to be on the safe side I would access this alternative account from a device that preferably has no contact information stored on it whatsoever.
posted by satoshi at 2:28 AM on December 17, 2017 [3 favorites]


Also don't install the phone app and definitely not messenger. It will scan your contacts and then start suggesting you to them and all their friends as a possible friend. This was the one mistake I made when setting up a pseudonymous FB account and it's how my family found me there.
posted by lollusc at 2:34 AM on December 17, 2017 [26 favorites]


I have relatives with sensitive government jobs who are absolutely forbidden from using FB and other social media platforms. Is there any way you could plead a similar case with whoever is being so draconian in terms of how they choose to communicate, and get them to email you separately or something? Or maybe one of the other people in your group could forward things to you by email? This seems really drastic... there should be some other method offered.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:57 AM on December 17, 2017 [12 favorites]


if it's just announcements that you want to get, can you get a friend to join instead and send you the announcements?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:01 AM on December 17, 2017 [7 favorites]


As bad as facebook has historically been about maintaining privacy settings, I still have people on my block list that I put on there literally over a decade ago. Facebook has kept that steady all this time.
posted by phunniemee at 5:11 AM on December 17, 2017 [7 favorites]


Unless you have to be on Facebook for work, yes, get a friend to forward the announcements to you. Or alternatively, get the person who's in charge to get with the programme, i.e. respect people's need for privacy and make other announcement arrangements. Because no matter what you do with the privacy settings, you'll still have a facebook account. Will you still worry about the stalker finding you once you've fixed the settings? Will you still worry that the stalker will find you somehow anyway? If the answer to these questions is not no, then I suggest this thing is absolutely not worth your piece of mind.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 5:12 AM on December 17, 2017 [6 favorites]


they have some kind of "real names" thing where they shut down your account if they figure out it's fake/not your real name,

They pay no attention unless someone reports you. They can't even manage to ban Nazis, let alone comb every profile for fake names. I have friends with names like "Goofy Hippo" or "Gothic Snowman" or others that are CLEARLY not real. One of them "lives in Antarctica" although I see him at parties all the time. Don't pick a brand name or a famous person, and don't get pulled into drama that could attract enemies.
posted by AFABulous at 7:27 AM on December 17, 2017 [12 favorites]


Using separate browser sessions and/or logging out is not enough to hide from Facebook, they have widgets embedded in literally thousands of websites which will track you by ip address and link your account to other things and people. You can avoid that if you setup the facebook account at a library or a friends house, set the events notification to forward to a throwaway email address (which forwards onto your real address) and then never log into facebook again.
If you do that, then locking down the facebook account doesn't really matter because you aren't going to use it or post anything which needs to be protected. You will want to turn off all the other email notifications though or they will endlessly nag you to login.
posted by Lanark at 7:36 AM on December 17, 2017 [5 favorites]


I have an account under my real name and an account under a pseudonym. I agree with all of the advice above, if you really want to go through with creating an account.

However, have you spoken to the leader of the group that you joined and explained your concerns? Are they really that insensitive to your concerns? Would they be willing to brainstorm with you to find an acceptable solution? Once they understand that this isn't just "I don't like FB" but an actual safety concern they may be willing to work with you.
posted by vignettist at 7:36 AM on December 17, 2017 [5 favorites]


Don't worry about the real names thing. My sister started an account called "Tina Tinyfingers" and it's still up, 4 years later.
posted by Stonkle at 8:31 AM on December 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


Great advice above. If you do go ahead with setting up an account, make sure that whatever photo you use does not make your identify super-obvious (e.g. cover your face with sunglasses, a scarf, or maybe use an avatar, although an avatar and a fake name might be enough of a combo to get picked up by the FB enforcers).

I've also seen the alternative suggestion to create a whole bunch of accounts under your real name but with fake/ambiguous information to keep your stalker confused about which one is actually you. I guess that could work, too, but would require more work on your part than seems worth it for one set of invitations.
posted by rpfields at 8:48 AM on December 17, 2017


I would also suggest only accessing this facebook account in the "Incognito" or "Private" mode of your browser of choice. Make sure that account info does not leak into any other website that uses facebook tracking.

And do not install any app (FB, Messenger) on your phone under any circumstance. It will try and raid your contacts list and try and find you out to your friends.
posted by nickggully at 9:30 AM on December 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


Don't worry too much about needing to use your real name. My pet chicken has had her own Facebook page for a few years. It is in her real name, but she doesn't have any ID to prove it with, and hadn't been asked. She has 149 friends on Facebook.
posted by Ery at 9:53 AM on December 17, 2017 [4 favorites]


I have like three fake accounts that I set up for jobs where I needed to keep track of organizations and competitors, but didn't want to use my personal account to do it. Facebook isn't going to catch you if you aren't using your real name. Use a nickname for your first name. Use your middle name as your last name. Or, heck, just make up fake names. Whatever you feel comfortable with doing. I know people who split up your names, i.e. I know a person named "Kelley" who made their Facebook name Kell Lee or something along those lines. I know a person named the equivalent of like Meghan Washington whose Facebook name is Meg Wash. And so on. Just do that. Then, make the account as private as possible and only use it for the Facebook invites/announcements you wanted.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:03 AM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


(Sorry about the tiny picture of my pet chicken, here's a better link.)
posted by Ery at 10:04 AM on December 17, 2017 [5 favorites]


Someone mentioned it upstream but it is worth repeating, you need to signup with a new email address that can't be tied back to you. Furthermore, you can't give it your mobile number or any other details they can use to link this identity to your real identity.
posted by mmascolino at 10:10 AM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


Someone mentioned it upstream but it is worth repeating, you need to signup with a new email address that can't be tied back to you.

Yeah, and to clarify, things like this can be (even though they may not be in this case) a result of using an email address that other people in your life know about:
I have an account under my real name and one under an alternate name. I haven't used the real accoubt in years. I use the alternate account on a different browser from the one I do my daily browsing on. I hide all private info and have a different set of friends from my real account, save for two who are not from my work. I never respond to any suggested friends from FB.

FB is constantly recommends my actual coworkers to this alternative account, and recently suggested my mom as a contact. I have no idea how FB found my mom.


One key reason to use a throwaway email address that no one else knows about is that even though you may be incredibly diligent about never giving Facebook access to your contacts list, other people in your life may freely click some "share contacts with Facebook" option and suddenly Facebook sees your email address in their contact list and starts suggesting a bunch of other people they know to you, and vice versa.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:18 AM on December 17, 2017 [5 favorites]


Make sure to use a throwaway email address, that's the main thing. A lot of people give FB permission to cross-reference their contacts list, and if you use an email addy you actually use, your profile will be somewhat findable.

And yes, as soon as you join, find the stalker and any of their close friends/relatives, and block them all.

Also, use a fake-but-believable name that's generic and really hard to search (like a Lee Smith type name).

And make your profile pic a photo of something that doesn't recognizably point to you (for instance, an animal you don't own, and aren't known to love).
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:47 AM on December 17, 2017


I have friends with names like "Goofy Hippo" or "Gothic Snowman" or others that are CLEARLY not real.

I am one of those people who reports fake-looking accounts obsessively when Facebook recommends I be friends with them -- here is the response from Facebook I get on a regular basis, including one Facebook user which was calling itself {Town} PD, when {Town} PD already has a Facebook Page so looked awfully shifty:

"Thanks for your report - you did the right thing by letting us know about this. We looked over the profile you reported, and though it doesn't go against one of our specific Community Standards, we understand..."

And nothing was done, they're still using that name. You're OK with whatever name you make up for yourself. I, like others, also maintain a fake Facebook account that is many, many years old now and has never been dinged.

I think the "real name" rule is mostly looking to avoid people impersonating other people or deliberately misleading Facebook users, but they clearly don't have a problem with the guy that says his Real Name is "Localtown Kettlecorn" and only posts pictures of the product he sells.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:30 AM on December 18, 2017


This happens a lot with a group I volunteer with. The volunteer leaders don't have the time to get information out on all the different platforms the members ask for -- some people want texts, some people want Shutterfly, etc. If you won't do Facebook, even under a fake name, the standard advice on the volunteer groups I read is to ask another member of the group -- not the volunteer who's already putting in time -- to take on the responsibility for getting the information to you by whatever method works.

If the person you're dealing with is a paid staff member of the group then you could give them some pushback about requiring Facebook, but if they're a volunteer then please be nice to them.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:49 AM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


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