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How to avoid leaking info while streaming

Murrayしないで

Just go live!
Joined:  Nov 18, 2022
TL;DR: Use stream-only accounts on consoles and computers. Set up a "BRB" scene in OBS and transition to it when you need to do anything unusual. Disable Windows' "helpful" news and weather widgets. Use window capture instead of desktop capture as much as possible. Avoid capturing web browser windows if possible.

I've been doing this for almost three months now and thought it might be good to follow through on an idea I had to go over some privacy tips for streamers, at least at the technical level. This won't stop you from blurting out stuff in the mic yourself but should at least reduce the chance that your computer inadvertently flashes sensitive information on screen. That way, when I inadvertently do it myself and get myself doxxed and you all see what a fat ugly bastard I am in real life, you all can come back here and laugh at me.

Tip 1: Consider what your computer knows about you

Under normal operation your computer will come to know a lot about you. Consider that any of that information could appear on screen at any moment. Most of this is mitigated by creating a new user account as outlined in the next section, but just to emphasize:

  • Your computer account username, which may be a variant of your real name
  • Your personal or work email accounts
  • Your name and address(es)
  • Contact information of friends and family
  • Family photos and videos
  • Web browser bookmarks, browse history, and search history
  • Web browser and app accounts and usernames (Steam, YouTube, Spotify, etc.)
That's why it's very important to:

Tip 2: Create new user accounts

Ideally you'd have a dedicated computer and/or consoles which you'd stream from, but that's not always possible. In that case, get familiar with the user account features of your computer OS and consoles and use them to create a new user account which you only use for stream-related activities. Particularly on the PC it's a pain to switch between the user account you stream from and the one where all your "stuff" is, but your OS will support setting up a "Shared" directory where you can dump files that need to be accessible from both accounts; I typically work on my schedules and thumbnails under my normal user account, then dump the final files into the shared directory so I can tweet them when I'm in my Murray account and about to start stream.

When under your stream account, simply do not do anything you do not want to be associated with your stream identity. Do not log in to any other email accounts, Discord accounts (see: Rushia), web sites, etc. Resist the temptation! If you need to do any of that, switch back to your normal user account, or just do it from your phone (assuming you won't be streaming your phone). Similarly do not search for your favorite degenerate porn, any terms involving the area you live in (such as "dentists in Flagstaff"), or anything else you don't want to be seen on stream.

If you want to be streaming Steam games, I suggest also creating a new Steam account, as Steam games will have access to your Steam username and may display it on screen. This will mean you'll have to re-purchase all the games you want to play through Steam. More recently I've taken to buying games through GOG as those games do not have access to your GOG account data as you play them, so you can safely play games you've purchased under your real life identity.

Tip 3: Avoiding other leaks

Geolocated weather info and news: Recent versions of Windows by default will helpfully display local news stories and weather forecasts on your desktop. Disable these.

Your IP address: Every device connected to the internet has a unique IP address used to route information from one device to another. This information can be used to geolocate your computer at about the state (or equivalent in your country) level, identify which ISP you use, and possibly direct DoS or hack attempts at your computer. In cases where your IP address may be visible on screen, use a VPN service which basically anonymizes your IP address, at the cost of making the connection a bit slower as data has to basically pass through a middleman between your computer and what you're connecting to. Which VPN to use is beyond the scope of this article, but I will say that you don't really need to bother with ones that have top security and aren't keeping logs and that sort of thing that some people stress about unless you're really doing something illegal or potentially embarrassing. If you're just being an anime girl on the internet streaming video games and other stuff that the glowies are unlikely to care about, just use one of the ones that your favorite YouTubers or podcasters constantly shill.

Geolocated info on web sites: Even if you don't imagine a case where your IP address will leak and forego a VPN, you still want to be particularly careful when streaming yourself browsing web sites. Try going to Craigslist or Yelp right now without a VPN and you'll be directed to a regional site for the nearest metropolis. Try searching something like "Italian restaurants" in a search engine and you'll probably be shown specific restaurants close to you. If you're not in the US, if you go to https://youtube.com/, the YouTube logo in the upper-left corner will usually have a country abbreviation after it, like "YouTube DE" for Germany. And, of course, browser autofill features will helpfully fill out forms with your real name and address and other personal information - or they would if you didn't follow Tip 2 above and entered that information into a form while in your streamer account. So just in general, streaming web browser windows is a landmine, especially if you aren't using a VPN and especially if you have not been careful about what you've been entering into forms and search engines.

Your computer name or disk name: Aside from your user account, some games or apps may show the name assigned to your computer, which is hopefully not something like "(Your name)'s computer." Or it might be something like "Dell Edge 1234" which is less incriminating but still not great. Change it to match your streamer name instead, or use something generic like "Computer." Similarly, be aware of any named disks you might have connected - if a desktop window comes up, you don't want it to show you have a USB disk plugged in named "(Your name)'s homework" or something like that.

Wifi networks: If you have a widget to switch between wifi networks on your desktop, disable it, as a misclick will not only show what network you might be connected to but other ones in your area, which may be enough information to geolocate you within a city block. Similarly avoid bringing up any windows with network information while streaming.

Tip 4: Use window capture, not desktop capture

The tips above are important, but, at least theoretically, they can be made almost redundant if you just be sure to only use the window capture feature of OBS to only record your game window and not your entire desktop. You don't have to worry about what weather widgets or web browser windows are saying about your location if the only thing that OBS can "see" and send out the wire is the game window. This is easier said than done since games and/or OBS can be finicky and only work together properly in desktop recording mode, but as a rule, get used to trying single window capture first before you result to full desktop mode. It's a bit of a pain in the ass but it will keep you safe.

Tip 5: Use a BRB scene when doing anything dangerous

Put OBS in studio mode, if you don't do it that way already. This will show you two previews instead of one and can show two different scenes in each. The one on the right is what's being sent out the stream currently (if you're live), and the one on the left is where you can prepare a scene to be shown next. Clicking the "Transition" button will transpose the two scenes so whatever was in the left preview moves to the right and starts being broadcast, and the one that was previously being broadcasted jumps to the left preview and you can work on it. Prepare a BRB scene - even if it's just a blank black screen for now. If at any point you have to bring up a web browser window, fiddle with OBS settings or so on, transition to the BRB scene, do what you need to do, then when you've confirmed that what's in your normal stream scene is safe again, transition back. The exact workings of OBS are beyond the scope of this post but if what I said above doesn't make sense to you, fiddle around with OBS and/or watch some YouTube videos about configuring OBS until it does - this is pretty important.

Please let me know if you can think of anything I might have missed!
 

UberSoldat

Well-known member
Joined:  Oct 19, 2022
If you want to be streaming Steam games, I suggest also creating a new Steam account, as Steam games will have access to your Steam username and may display it on screen. This will mean you'll have to re-purchase all the games you want to play through Steam. More recently I've taken to buying games through GOG as those games do not have access to your GOG account data as you play them, so you can safely play games you've purchased under your real life identity.
Look into this https://store.steampowered.com/promotion/familysharing
 
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