If you could go back in time and do the internet all over again, what would you change? Would you think twice about joining Facebook, decline to upload those fancy dress photos from ‘09 and delete that rhetoric-laden blog post instead of hitting ‘Publish’? It’s too late to undo the mistakes of the past, but it is possible to start afresh by creating a new online identity using privacy tools and cryptocurrency. Here’s how.
How to Disappear (Almost) Completely
Disappearing in real life is hard. It calls for giving up your friends, family, and favorite places. It means changing your name, documents, ID, employer, and location. It’s a virtually impossible task, which is why so few people achieve it. Criminals who go on the run rarely last long; they’re usually busted by a phone call home or an inability to blend into their new surroundings and keep a low profile.
The internet, though, is different. As the adage goes, on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. But what if you tired of being a dog and decided you wanted to reinvent yourself as a cat, bear, or anonymous panda? Today, all the tools exist to do just that: retire your public profile and emerge, reborn, like a butterfly from a cocoon. To live life in technicolor, first you have to go dark.
1. Buy(or earn) without kyc: bisq, hodlhodl, mining.
2. Coinjoin often, especially if you do KYC.
3. Control your own keys. My favorite hardware is coldcard, consider multisig.
4. Use your own full node.
5. Use VPNs & Tor.
Great wiki here: https://t.co/N3FAtLzPU6
— Matt Odell (@matt_odell) September 24, 2019
A Life Worth Living Twice
This article is intended as a guide for how a person might start afresh online, using encryption, anonymity tools, pseudonyms, and cryptocurrency. It’s not a blueprint to follow meticulously, and it’s not going to be for everyone. Remember how bitcoiner Jameson Lopp took extreme measures to conceal his real life whereabouts, while maintaining his real name on the web? Well, this is basically the reverse of that.
Even if you’re not intent on retiring your public persona and starting from scratch, there are tools and techniques contained herein that everyone – cryptocurrency users especially – can use to reclaim some privacy.
We were free and easy with the information we shared online in the early aughts because we didn’t foresee the compliance-crazy, language-policed, blockchain-surveilled panopticon we now inhabit. Who knows what the AI-powered internet of the future will look like, but it’s a safe bet it will be a distinctly less private one. The steps you take now to bolster your pseudonymity could pay dividends further down the line.
Step 1: Pick Your Persona
While it’s possible to operate as more than one persona on the web, complete with multiple Twitter accounts, business profiles and emails, it’s a mission best left to the spooks. Assuming a single pseudonym allows you to be yourself, minus the real name. Trying to run two or more identities in parallel is fraught with risk, and you’re never more than a misplaced message away from blowing your cover.
Crypto Twitter is full of anon accounts, some of whom have maintained their cover for years, while operating full-time in the cryptosphere as professional traders, shitposters, writers, token economists, and project advisors. Which brings us onto our next step…
Step 2: Pick Your Profession
While there’s nothing stopping you from working a 9-5 at Starbucks while larping as a gender neutral unicorn on the web, the beauty of living today is that you can work remotely, and be handsomely remunerated without needing to disclose your real name, address or social security number. There are numerous industries where this is achievable, but tech – and crypto in particular – are ideal.
Aside from the obvious benefit of getting paid in digital currency, crypto is a sector where what you can do is worth a lot more than who you are. If you’re a proficient programmer, your Github commits are the only validation your username needs. If your code checks out, you won’t struggle for work. For programmers just starting out, responding to bounties on Gitcoin is a good place to show your skills and earn some digital crumbs.
Other jobs that lend themselves well to aspiring anons include copywriting, video editing, graphic design, and web development.
Step 3: Set Your Privacy Level
Privacy exists on many levels, and unless you’re performing something illicit like operating a darknet marketplace, you don’t need to obsess over opsec. For most people, privacy can be categorized into consumer and professional levels, with the latter describing anyone who wishes to hold down an online job anonymously.
Consumer-grade privacy: Use a pro-privacy web browser, disable trackers, consider using encrypted email, limit your reliance on crypto platforms that require KYC, and mix your coins before sending them to long-term storage.
Step 4: Cash Out Carefully
Getting paid in cryptocurrency is relatively easy these days, as is paying for goods and services, now that thousands of retailers accept digital assets such as BCH and BTC. You can’t pay for all of life’s expenses in crypto, though, and converting from cryptocurrency to fiat can be tricky. Selling coins for cash P2P is the obvious answer. Although Localbitcoins has now removed that option, many sellers provide their contact details alongside their listings, and some will be happy to trade in person. Alternatively, local.Bitcoin.com will allow you to buy and sell BCH privately in whatever manner you prefer.
Even if you can switch from crypto to cash, it’s not always practical to use paper money in today’s card-based society. Convenient as crypto debit cards are, they’re impossible to obtain without undergoing KYC, but there is a potential workaround. If you happen to know someone who could be persuaded or incentivized to sign up on your behalf, you could obtain a crypto card and use it sparingly in-store, online and at ATMs.
Living Pseudonymously Is Not as Lonely as It Sounds
Living a pseudonymous life on the web, never revealing your real face or name, may sound like a lonely and even paranoid existence, but it needn’t be. You’re not in the witness protection scheme, and are free to associate with friends and family. Discretion is required, admittedly, and there will be aspects of your life you’ll need to compartmentalize. For a subset of crypto proponents, shedding the social metrics and personal branding typically associated with success is a small price to pay for economic freedom and absolute privacy.
Do you think it’s feasible to lead a completely anonymous online existence? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
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