This article is about Opsec. Opsec is “operations security”, which is a military term that describes the process of preventing sensitive information from falling into enemy hands. Opsec is vital for not only vtubers but all internet celebrities of any amount of fame. 99% of the people you meet online will be nice, genuine people who do not wish you harm, but you need to act as though they’re the 1% who do (even if they don’t think they’re harming you).
You want to stop people from getting your dox (documentation, ie personal information). Assume that a bad actor will watch every stream, read every tweet, and be in every public chat room. Remember that by itself one piece of information is rarely an issue, but combined they can be a problem. There’s probably hundreds of people with the same name as you, but with the same birthday or in the same town?
So, here are some tips for preventing people from finding out who you are. These tips assume you want to be as anonymous as possible within reason, and may not apply to everyone. Furthermore this article is strictly about opsec. I make no moral judgements here about the content you are or aren’t posting, and instead aim to provide a guide to be as undoxxable as possible.
That being said, there are always events outside your control. You could follow this guide perfectly but your Mum finds out you’re a vtuber one day and decides to tell everyone on Facebook, or your computer is hacked after you download “Drive_(2011).exe” and your files are posted online. You’ll have to accept that if you keep creating content, the chance of your identity being revealed eventually reaches 100%. Preparation for that event is another article itself, but keep in mind that all these tips are merely delaying the inevitable.
These tips are not presented in any particular order.
1. Sort your information
Mentally sort your personal information into two piles: “fine to share” and “do not share.” The “do not share” group is information that would be bad news if it got out, and the “fine to share” is basically everything else. This helps to have a mental state of having things you cannot share, which, when you’re talking on stream for hours at a time, is very useful.
This tip is possible the most important, because it ties in with being in “streamer mode.” The theory and practice of changing mental states when streaming or performing is its own article as well, but the gist is you’re not your normal self while streaming, and your mental state is different. Purposefully establishing boundaries in your mind when in this state is very valuable, not only for opsec but for kayfabe too.
2. Don’t post pictures of yourself
This is pretty obvious. If you post your face online, well, that’s some pretty juicy dox. Your head is risky in general, but the rest is usually fine unless you have unique features like tattoos.
3. Don’t share personal information.
Name, age, place of residence, credit card numbers, mother’s maiden name, name of your first pet, etc. You may be tempted to share innocuous details, but details add up. Let’s say you mention your first name, the town you live in, and your age across multiple streams. Well, now it’s much easier to find out who you are. And obviously, don’t use your real name for save files, character names, etc.
This can include specific details in personal stories, too. If your story contains things that are public record, such as game tournaments, news stories, etc, then there’s a chance a person could find those records. A good way around this is fudging stories a little bit. Slightly change locations, people involved, dates, etc. If it’s just a story for some humour, then there’s no harm in it and it protects your privacy.
4. Don’t share risky information with anyone
This tip’s a bit of a downer, but then this whole article is. It can be tempting to open up to new friends you’ve met, but be very, very careful. Even if they share personal information with you, you have no obligation to share in return. You may be friends now but time can sour any relationship. Can you risk your dms with this person being shared publicly? It happens a lot, and there’s always the small chance of one of you being hacked.
5. Don’t post pictures you’ve taken
For two reasons this is risky. The first isn’t always an issue: phones will store time/location in the metadata of a picture but most websites will strip this data. Double check before posting, though.
The second also depends. Double then triple check the picture you’re posting doesn’t contain identifying locations or items. Going out for a walk and want to share a picture? If there’s a unique feature and people know your general location, well you’ve just told them exactly where you are. If it’s a picture inside your home, make sure there’s no photos or other things in the background, and be wary of reflections. Photos of electronics, or other specific goods, if posted on both your professional and personal accounts can link them together.
6. Don’t talk about the area you live in.
This can be local shops, local events (ie a farmer’s market or fair), or local features. Talking about a cute pastry shop that is near your house? If someone knows what city you live in, now they know you’re within walking distance of a pastry shop. If it’s a really unique kind of shop, like a gelato place, comic store, etc, then it could narrow it down quite a bit. In general, don’t mention specifics at all.
7. Make new accounts
When you’re starting your career as a vtuber, make new accounts for everything. Twitter, Discord, Twitch, Curious Cat, Steam, Facebook, Myspace, Neopets, etc, etc. Do not, DO NOT use an old identity. Even if you’re pretty sure you never posted personal information on your old accounts, even small slip ups can be disastrous. Do not mention the names of your old accounts publicly. Some platforms can show your user name when you least expect, so having a vtuber specific account is very important.
Note: You can family share games from your existing Steam account to your new one so you don’t have to rebuy games. Note that steam still shows the account which owns the game in your library, so make sure not to show Steam on stream.
8. Scrub your online presence
Following on from the previous point: if possible, delete or hide everything on your old accounts. Private any youtube videos, lock your old twitter, deactivate your old discord. People can’t find dox if there’s nothing to find. This isn’t always possible though, so never tell anyone your old account names and make sure you make new accounts.
Note: search your old account names with Google, Bing, Duckduckgo, and any other sites just to be sure. Each search engine has different results.
9. Turn on 2FA
Pretty much every service has 2FA (Two Factor Authentication) these days. Basically, if you log in from a new IP you are sent a code in your email or phone. It makes it much, much harder* to be hacked.
*Note: Everything can be hacked. Everything. All you can do is make it less likely.
10. Never show your full screen
While streaming, you can choose to either display a single window or a full screen. If possible, always pick a specific window. If you do, there’s always a chance of switching to discord or a browser window with sensitive information.
11. Set up your browser properly
If you use a browser while streaming, use private browsing. This will prevent any websites from automatically logging you in. Turn off bookmark toolbars and autofill when typing in search/url bars. Consider even using two browsers: one for regular browsing and one for browsing on stream.
12. Use a new account on Windows
Create a new user account on your PC and only use it while streaming to prevent the vast majority of personal information being contained. Having a separate account also helps get you into a different mental state, which like previously mentioned helps prevents accidental info sharing.
13. Don’t give people a reason to go after you
This is perhaps the most difficult yet important point. It doesn’t matter if you literally have your name and address publicly available if people don’t care. In general, steering clear of controversial topics and not baiting communities will help a lot. That’s not to say you can’t have your own opinions, but this is different from specifically seeking drama.
14. Turn off notifs
In Discord, Steam, and any other programs you’re using that have popups, turn off notifications. If possible, even log out of them while streaming. Do you need Discord open? Probably not, so log out for a bit.
15. Minimize/Close everything you don’t need
On the chance your streaming software malfunctions, other programs other than the one you want to capture may be shown. Minimizing what you can and closing anything you don’t need will prevent these programs from showing up accidentally.
16. Clean up your desktop
Hide everything on your desktop. If you’re using Windows, it’s easy: right click on your desktop, go View, then uncheck “show desktop icons”, and do it again to bring them back. If you’re on Mac, well, the only advice I can give is stop using Mac.
17. Use a business Paypal account
If you have a Paypal business account, when people send you money they will only see the business name. Keep in mind the fees and taxes are different on business accounts, and you will have to tell Paypal to use the business name instead of your real name. This tip is not financial advice, don’t sue me.
18. Don’t send money
Following on from the previous, don’t send money unless you really, really have to. Paypal will dox you to whoever is receiving your money, so only send money to people you trust or consider cryptocurrency. This is also not financial advice, but crypto is really cool.
19. Use studio mode
In OBS you can turn on “studio mode”, which allows you to see a scene before changing to it. Just give the next scene a quick glance before switching.
20. Be careful who you follow
Don’t use your vtuber account as your personal account. Don’t follow the same things on your vtuber account that you do on your personal account, especially if those interests are unique. If your irl friends follow your vtuber account, don’t follow them back.
21. Be careful of what software you run
You know trojans, right? Well they’re real and they can happen to anyone… including you. Run regular scans, be careful about using pc access software (such as VNC or Parsec), and don’t visit any shady sites.
Is this list exhaustive? No. Am I exhausted and can’t think of any more? Yes. If you take one thing from this post, it’s that you have to think twice before posting or even speaking. As nice as the vast majority are, there are people who will do you harm for reasons you can’t understand, and it is your responsibility to protect yourself.
22. Double check your games won’t dox you (21/02/12)
Games can sometimes reveal your steam name, your region, or even your IP. Double check your game won’t do that before streaming.
Special thanks to
- Bunzel: https://twitter.com/bunzel_ch
- Kongou: https://twitter.com/KongouVTuber
- Koopa: https://twitter.com/Koopachaneru
- Arypie: https://twitter.com/ArypieVirtual
- Leon and Alice: https://twitter.com/leonandalice
- Veleck: https://twitter.com/Veleck_
- Corpse: https://twitter.com/corpse_ch
- My managers :)