What Is Pseudonymity?

 Unleashing the Potential of Pseudonymity: Exploring the Digital Frontier


  • What is a pseudonym?
  • Why should I use a pseudonym?
  • How far should I go with my pseudonym?

Becoming Pseudonymous

  • How do I get started with a pseudonym?
  • How much information should I disclose?
  • How realistic should my pseudonym be?
  • How many pseudonyms should I have?
  • How can I start using my pseudonym in person?
  • Can I change my existing online accounts to reflect my pseudonym?
  • What if I want to take credit for something that I used a pseudonym for?

Pseudonyms and privacy: Mail, phones, and online

  • How can I use a pseudonym through mail?
  • How can I use a pseudonym with my phone?
  • How can I use a pseudonym online?


**What is a pseudonym?**

A pseudonym, also known as a nym, is a false or fictitious name. It allows you to provide others with a fake or pseudo name. In contrast, being anonymous means not providing a name and being labeled as having an unknown name (Kabay, 1998). The most well-known pseudonym in the Bitcoin community is Satoshi Nakamoto, the individual or group that created Bitcoin.

**Why should I use a pseudonym?**

1. **Basic privacy**

Privacy is a fundamental aspect of human life, and throughout history, people have enjoyed a certain level of privacy. However, advancements in technology have significantly eroded everyday privacy for the average person. Using a pseudonym can help you regain a basic level of privacy that you would otherwise lose in this digital age.

2. **Independence**

If you are already a public figure known by a specific name, adopting an alternative pseudonym can liberate you from the influence associated with your original name. One notable example is Joanne Kathleen Rowling, better known by her pen name J. K. Rowling. Seeking independence from the reputation of her well-known name, Rowling published a book under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. She aimed for her new book to stand on its own, separate from the hype surrounding her previous work (e.g., the Harry Potter series) (Bury, 2013). Another renowned author who used a pseudonym is Eric Blair, better known as George Orwell, the author of the dystopian social science fiction novel 1984. Lastly, adopting a pseudonym from the beginning can be advantageous if you become well-known in the future. This way, your pseudonym remains distinct from your personal identity right from the start.


A pseudonym offers various forms of protection, including:

1. **Sharing controversial ideas**

Using a pseudonym allows individuals to share controversial ideas without fear of backlash or negative consequences. The Journal of Controversial Ideas (JCI) exemplifies this by permitting authors to submit articles pseudonymously. The JCI recognizes that without this opportunity, potential authors might refrain from publishing ideas or arguments that could contribute to our understanding of significant moral, political, or social issues (Journal of Controversial Ideas, 2023). Consequently, pseudonyms indirectly facilitate free and open discourse on society's most pressing topics.

2. **Avoiding threats**

Pseudonyms serve as a protective shield against various threats. For instance, in the case of the Ledger hack, using a pseudonym could have protected individuals from the repercussions of having their personal data compromised. Victims who used their real names, emails, and home addresses in the Ledger hack experienced their information being leaked online. Subsequently, they reported receiving phishing attempts, extortion, and threatening emails, including kidnapping and violence threats, such as murder (Wook, 2022b). Moreover, in extreme scenarios like future hyperinflation, pseudonyms can safeguard Bitcoiners from potential anger, aggression, or violence directed towards them by No-coiners. By concealing their identities, individuals can protect their lives, property, and families from potential threats related to their involvement with Bitcoin (Frost, 2021). This explains why many Bitcoin developers choose to remain pseudonymous (Hertig, 2020).

3. **Protection from negative social evaluation**
A pseudonym shields individuals from the fear of negative social evaluation, allowing them to express their thoughts and feelings without inhibition. This freedom from concern facilitates emotional purging and can have positive effects on one's well-being (Christopherson, 2007). By adopting a pseudonym, individuals can confidently express themselves, reducing the impact of potential judgment or criticism from others and improving their overall emotional well-being.


A pseudonym can serve as a powerful symbol, fulfilling various functions, including sending a message. One notable example of this is the publication of the Federalist Papers in 1787 under the pseudonym Publius. The Federalist Papers aimed to persuade the anti-Federalists to adopt the constitution (Ramos, 2009). In response, the anti-Federalists published a series of letters under the pseudonym Brutus, inspired by the Roman figure who attempted to protect the republic by assassinating Julius Caesar. 

The choice of pseudonyms held symbolic significance. The name Brutus conveyed concerns that the proposed constitution would result in the establishment of a unitary government, akin to the one Julius Caesar assumed through dictatorship. On the other hand, the name Publius referenced the role of a Roman figure who played a pivotal role in establishing the early Roman republic by leading the overthrow of the monarchy. By adopting the pseudonym Publius, the authors signaled their belief that the proposed constitution would lead to the creation of a republican and federal government, similar to the ideals behind the Roman Republic. 

These pseudonyms served as symbolic markers, expressing the authors' perspectives on whether readers should approach the proposed constitution with caution or trust. The use of these pseudonyms carried a message, shaping the readers' perception of the document and its implications.

Determining how far to go with your pseudonym depends on your goals and threat model. Here are some considerations:

1. **Fun nickname**: If your primary objective is to have a lighthearted or creative alternative name, you can choose a pseudonym that reflects your personality or interests. In this case, there may be no need to take extensive measures to conceal your true identity.

2. **Secret identity**: If you aim to maintain a complete separation between your pseudonym and your real identity, you may need to take additional steps to protect your personal information. This could involve using a different email address, avoiding sharing personal details, and being cautious about linking your pseudonym to your real-life activities.

3. **Privacy and anonymity**: If your goal is to preserve your privacy or achieve a higher level of anonymity, you might consider using pseudonyms in contexts where you don't want your real identity to be readily associated with your actions. This could involve using different online accounts, employing encryption tools, and being mindful of the digital footprint you leave behind.

4. **Threat model**: Assessing potential threats is crucial in determining the level of pseudonymity required. If you anticipate specific risks, such as targeted harassment, online stalking, or reputational damage, you may need to take more extensive precautions to safeguard your identity.

Remember, the extent to which you go with your pseudonym should align with your desired level of privacy, the nature of your activities, and the potential risks you may encounter. Evaluate your goals and threat model to determine the appropriate level of pseudonymity that suits your needs.

**Becoming Pseudonymous**

Getting started with a pseudonym involves several steps and considerations. Here's a guide to help you begin your journey:

1. **Define your goals**: Reflect on your reasons for adopting a pseudonym. Consider which activities within the bitcoin community you want to keep private or separate from your real identity. Determine the level of seriousness or experimentation you intend to pursue with pseudonymity.

2. **Develop a threat model**: Create a threat model by identifying potential vulnerabilities or threats to your security and privacy. Assess the risks you may face based on your goals and the specific activities you plan to undertake within the bitcoin community. This will guide your decision-making process and help you develop appropriate preventative measures and countermeasures.

3. **Disclose information selectively**: Determine the level of information disclosure based on your goals and threat model. For example, consider your location and how much you want others to know about it. Assess whether attending meetups or sharing location data on social media aligns with your desire for privacy. Adjust your online presence and activities accordingly to limit the disclosure of sensitive information.

4. **Realistic pseudonym**: Consider creating a pseudonym with a realistic persona. Derek Sivers (2023) suggests using a name, a fictional city of residence, a job description, and an AI-generated avatar to establish a believable identity. This can help deflect inquiries about your personal details, allowing you to maintain privacy. However, it is crucial to be familiar with your pseudonym's persona to avoid accidental information leaks.

Remember, the process of becoming pseudonymous is highly personal, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Take the time to reflect on your goals, assess potential risks, and make informed decisions about information disclosure and the persona you create. Regularly reassess and adapt your pseudonymity practices as needed to align with your evolving needs and circumstances.

**How many pseudonyms should I have?**

The number of pseudonyms you should have depends on your specific needs and activities within the bitcoin community. It is possible to use multiple pseudonyms for different purposes or to maintain separation between various aspects of your online presence. However, managing too many pseudonyms can become challenging. It's important to strike a balance that allows you to effectively maintain your desired level of privacy and identity separation without overwhelming yourself.

**How can I start using my pseudonym in person?**

To start using your pseudonym in person, you can engage in what is often referred to as live action role playing (LARPing). Embrace your pseudonym as a character and introduce yourself to others using that name. This can be done at bitcoin meetups or other relevant gatherings. Simply let people know that you would like to be called by your pseudonym, and gradually transition from your real name to your pseudonym in your interactions. Most members of the bitcoin community will understand and respect your desire to become pseudonymous.

**Can I change my existing online accounts to reflect my pseudonym?**

If you already have online accounts associated with your real name and wish to transition them to reflect your pseudonym, it's important to consider the potential implications. Changing the name associated with an existing account may create connections between your pseudonym and your real identity, especially for individuals who follow you or are followed by you. In such cases, it may be more advisable to create new accounts under your pseudonym to maintain a clearer separation between your real identity and your pseudonymous activities.

By creating new accounts, you can establish your pseudonym as a distinct online presence while reducing the risk of inadvertently linking it to your real identity. Remember to update your settings and privacy preferences accordingly to support your desired level of pseudonymity.

If you want to take credit for something that you accomplished using a pseudonym, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:

1. Selective Disclosure: If you want to highlight specific work done under your pseudonym for job or professional opportunities, you can selectively disclose that information to prospective employers or relevant individuals. You can provide details about the work without necessarily revealing the full extent of your pseudonymous activities. This allows you to showcase your skills and accomplishments while maintaining a level of privacy.

2. Be Mindful of Sharing: When disclosing your pseudonymous work, be mindful of how much information you share. You may not want to reveal all the details or associations related to your pseudonym, especially on public platforms or social media. Maintain control over what aspects of your work and identity you choose to disclose.

3. Maintain Proof: It's important to have evidence or documentation to support your claims and establish your credibility. Keep records or documentation of your work under the pseudonym, including any relevant achievements or contributions. This will serve as proof of your accomplishments and can help verify your claims if needed in the future.

4. PGP Verification: Adding a PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) fingerprint to your work can provide an additional layer of verification. PGP allows you to digitally sign documents or messages, providing a way to verify your identity and ensure the integrity of your work. By maintaining a PGP fingerprint that can be verified, you can establish a connection between your true identity and your pseudonymous work.

Remember to assess the potential impact and consequences of revealing your pseudonymous activities. Balance the desire for credit and recognition with the need to maintain your desired level of privacy and pseudonymity.

Using a pseudonym through mail and phone requires some specific steps to maintain privacy:

1. Mail: To maintain pseudonymity through mail, you can obtain a PO Box. In the USA, you will need to provide government-issued documents for verification, such as a driver's license, to get a PO Box. Paying with cash and using a smaller-sized box can help minimize personal information associated with the box. Having a PO Box allows you to receive mail and packages without disclosing your home address. When receiving packages, ask the sender to address them to "recipient" at your PO Box address.

2. Phone: To use a pseudonym with your phone, consider purchasing a separate SIM card and burner phone. This phone will be associated with your pseudonym and used for communication within the bitcoin community or other pseudonymous activities. You can buy physical SIM cards from prepaid service providers with cash, and no identification is typically required. It's recommended to use a de-Googled phone running privacy-focused operating systems like CalyxOS or GrapheneOS. Alternatively, you can use an older phone from sources like Craigslist. Always use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) when using your pseudonymous phone to add an extra layer of privacy.

Maintaining separate devices for your regular use and your pseudonym can help keep your personal and pseudonymous activities separate. Be cautious about sharing personal information associated with your regular phone and ensure that any communication related to your pseudonym is conducted through your designated pseudonymous phone.

Remember to assess your threat model and the level of privacy you require when implementing pseudonymity in your mail and phone communications. These steps can provide additional privacy, but it's important to stay vigilant and keep your personal information separate from your pseudonymous activities.

Using a pseudonym online involves implementing several privacy measures. Here are some steps you can take to enhance your pseudonymity:

1. Bitcoin: Bitcoin itself is pseudonymous, as transactions are linked to addresses rather than personal information. To maintain pseudonymity with Bitcoin, avoid providing personally identifying information when making transactions. Additionally, consider using coinjoin services to enhance on-chain privacy by mixing your transactions with others, making it harder to trace the origin and destination of your funds.

2. VPN: Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) helps protect your online privacy by masking your IP address and encrypting your internet traffic. This prevents others from easily associating your online activities with your identity or location. Choose a reputable VPN service that values privacy and accepts bitcoin as payment, such as Mullvad VPN. VPNs allow you to browse the internet with an alternative IP address, making it more difficult to track your online behavior.

3. Tor: The Tor network provides anonymous browsing by routing your internet traffic through a series of volunteer-operated nodes, encrypting and redirecting it multiple times. This helps protect your identity and online activities from being easily traced. While Tor can be slower than regular browsing and has some security considerations, it offers a free and valuable tool for pseudonymous online usage.

4. Email: Use pseudonymous email accounts when registering for online services. Choose email providers that don't require personal information or phone number verification. Services like Cock.li, ProtonMail, and Tutanota offer options for creating pseudonymous email addresses. Avoid linking your pseudonymous email accounts to your real identity or using them for personal communication that could reveal your true identity.

5. SMS Verification: When online services require SMS verification, consider using services like Text Verified. It allows you to bypass SMS verification using a pseudonymous phone number. This can help you create and manage pseudonymous accounts on platforms like Twitter, Telegram, and Signal without tying them to your real identity.

Remember, maintaining pseudonymity online requires a combination of privacy-enhancing tools and careful consideration of the information you provide and how you engage with online platforms. Assess your threat model and adjust your privacy measures accordingly to align with your goals and level of pseudonymity desired.

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