Google+ social networking and its impact on online anonymity
Updated: As Google rolls out its Google + social network, it is struggling with the equivalent questions about singularity that have caused problems for Facebook moment the foregone: namely, how much should it tension persons to utility their ” solid ” names? The interlacing giant has been disabling user accounts on Google + for a conglomeration of reasons over the bygone few weeks, but it has caused an shouting from copious who fondle it is being plenty impartial agency some cases and not enough connections others. The chock-full puzzle at the root of this battle, as we own pointed out before, is that imprint varied cases anonymity ( and pseudonymity ) has existing amount. Are we losing that as a determination of Google and Facebook ‘ s absolute – designation obsession?. Google+ social networking and its impact on online anonymity
Those who keep pragmatic their accounts suspended pressure the recent crackdown by Google + inject some prominent members of the hacker community, including one programmer who goes by the single autograph ” Skud, ” as vigorous as one sane – proclaimed iPhone developer who ‘ s usual compellation is ” MuscleNerd. ” According to some reports, certain users have had their accounts restored despite the helpfulness of explicit pseudonyms, including Limor Fried — again admitted as Gentlewoman Ada of Adafruit Industries, who was recently profiled character Afraid magazine, according to writer Violet Fed up ( and a trade name Note: Violet Down-hearted is not a eponym ).
Approximative enervating a shirt reputation a restaurant?
Google senior vice – head man Vic Gundotra, the man who is moment charge of Google ‘ s social efforts, verbal hold response to a post by blogger Robert Scoble that Google doesn ‘ t necessarily thirst to stuff mortals to need by oneself their legally given names — he says the mesh company is fine with users locus up accounts underneath ” commonly used ” names, although it ‘ s not pleasant how this is earmarked. This would presumably cover master users analogous 50 Cent or Female Gaga ( Gundotra noted that supine he doesn ‘ t habit his legal prenomen on Google + ). The Google executive vocal he tidily wants to sustain a ” irrefutable tone ” on the network, and compared it to requiring nation to unenergetic shirts fame a restaurant.
As observers equivalent as Jillian York of Global Voices Online hold described, a irrefutable – nomen policy cognate the one that Facebook tries to enforce and Google has adopted can obtain essential consequences for dissidents sway countries credit the Middle East and elsewhere. If they striving to point these social utensils to rally support and platform activities, they spurt the risk of either using their live names and being tracked down and targeted by the authorities, or using pseudonyms and wherefore ruling that their accounts own been blocked or deleted off-track mark.
Bit this is an appealing metaphor, it ‘ s not as elementary as that, unfortunately. Pressure a lot of ways, singularity is twin the ” inquest lambaste ” of online services — a hugely charged issue that splits many online communities down the middle and causes vociferous debate on both sides — and there simply are no easy answers. While the internet used to be the place where no one knew if you were a dog, now services like Google not only want to know whether you ‘ re a dog, they want to see your papers too.
Real – name policies have negative consequences
It ‘ s not just dissidents in repressive countries either — gay, lesbian and transgender advocacy groups have also noted that many users may wish to go by pseudonyms when they are online for personal reasons. Another commenter on a post about the issue noted that he works in law enforcement, and could be targeted by criminals if he uses his real name, while someone else said that she has been the victim if sexual abuse and is worried about her family members being able to track her down.
Christopher Poole, the founder of the 4chan community, gave an eloquent TED presentation last year ( embedded below ) in which he argued that anonymity has very real benefits online, and that we would be wise to consider those before we switch to exclusively ” real name ” policies. And as we ‘ ve pointed out before, many of these arguments also apply to comments on news stories and forums: many people believe that requiring real names will solve the problems of trolls and bad behavior, but they don ‘ t — and that policy can have negative consequences in terms of suppressing dialogue about important topics.
As a number of users have pointed out, Google and Facebook aren ‘ t just focused on requiring real names because they want to improve behavior on their networks — there is also a very real interest on their part in being able to build a profile of a user for advertising and marketing purposes as well. And more than one user of Google + has raised concerns that Google ‘ s crackdown on pseudonyms or fake names has apparently resulted in users being blocked from using any of Google ‘ s various services, including email, because their profile is tied to all of the company ‘ s other products.
At this point, the company seems to be trying to find a happy medium between blocking or disabling user accounts that don ‘ t belong to actual human beings — or are set up to spam or otherwise cause problems for users of the service — and allowing those who routinely employ ” persistent pseudonyms ” to continue being members of Google +. But when we ‘ re talking about a service that has grown to 20 million users in less than a month, that ‘ s going to be a difficult and potentially even impossible task. And even if Google is successful for the most part, as Facebook has been, what will we as a society lose because of this focus on eradicating anonymity?
Update: Brad Horowitz, the VP of product at Google, has posted a statement about the company ‘ s real – name policies with respect to Google +, in which he says that the web giant is trying to be better about notifying users whose names don ‘ t meet the requirements and giving them a chance to change them. The Google VP also says that there are other fields in the profile that can be used for nicknames, and that no user would ever lose access to all of their other Google services just because their name didn ‘ t meet the specifications. Horowitz adds that Google + is still in development and that the company hopes to build in support for a variety of different use cases and accounts. Google+ social networking and its impact on online anonymity