Anonymity and Google don't mix
Last month, an anonymous blogger popped up on WordPress and Twitter, aiming a giant flamethrower at Mac-friendly writers like John Gruber, Marco Arment and MG Siegler. As he unleashed wave after wave of spittle-flecked rage at “Apple puppets” and “Cupertino douchebags,” I was reminded again of John Gabriel’s theory about the effects of online anonymity.
Out of curiosity, I tried to see who the mystery blogger was.
He was using all the ordinary precautions for hiding his identity — hiding personal info in the domain record, using a different IP address from his other sites, and scrubbing any shared resources from his WordPress install.
Nonetheless, I found his other blog in under a minute — a thoughtful site about technology and local politics, detailing his full name, employer, photo, and family information. He worked for the local government, and if exposed, his anonymous blog could have cost him his job.
I didn’t identify him publicly, but let him quietly know that he wasn’t as anonymous as he thought he was. He stopped blogging that evening, and deleted the blog a week later.
So, how did I do it? The unlucky blogger slipped up and was ratted out by an unlikely source: Google Analytics.
Typically, Google will only reveal a user’s identity with a federal court order, as they did with a Blogger user who harassed a Vogue model in 2009.
But anonymous bloggers are at serious risk of outing themselves, simply by sharing their Google’s Analytics ID across the sites they own.
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