« Insurance for Virtual Goods | Main | Star Wars Preorder »

Jul 12, 2011



I've been involved in a running debate among my friends on this issue: it's definitely a matter where reasonable people can differ.

I have two Google profiles, one for work and one for friends, the latter under my universal online name. One, I want to be able to close down my work email at times, without making myself unavailable to my friends, and two, if someone's looking over my shoulder at work, they don't need to see what I do in my private life.

I'm identity transparent - I don't "hide" my other profile from anyone who's got any business knowing, but I do believe in keeping private and professional distinct.

When I received an invitation to Google+ on my social account, I declined: Google's identity policy would have me risk losing my email account, Blogger login and access to other services. It's not worth it.

Given their disastrous handling of privacy issues with other services, I actually trust Google rather less than Facebook: I've *seen* them give me inappropriate access to other people's messages, and I've already gotten Google+ social spam from people who place me in "circles" I'm not interested in being in.

From their perspective, I'm not convinced that my data is less mine-able and marketable if I call myself "Opensource Obscure," "John Smith," "IP Freely" or "John Carter McKnight."

And, more and more, I'm seeing people, even my undergrads, taking privacy management seriously and segregating accounts and identities online. Companies in the data-selling business would do well to recognize and at least plausibly pretend to support this trend.


I'm gonna have to reject your binary prompt on this one Julian. As John notes, there are clearly ways in which Google struggles with social in regard to user privacy. At the same time, Facebook technically requires users to only register under their real names. Google is giving their users more flexibility in that regard, so in one sense +, at roll out, is a move away from the notion that social media should be bound up with real ID.

Basically, while everyone wants to make big prognostications about Google+ in terms of how its going to fair in general and what effects it might have on the social marketplace I think it's still too soon to say much about any of those things. I'm not convinced that what we see now is the same thing we're going to see three months from now when it comes to some of these key questions like privacy and user ID.


I think that there doesn't need to be one social network that is king and is for everyone. If Google and google+ want to cater towards people interacting and networking with their real identities, I think that's their perogative. It's not them "missing the point" its just them choosing an audience. This leaves space for another social network that supports virtual identities and/or pseudonyms to rise up along side it. Those interested in not using your real life moniker should give Diaspora a look when it is further along in development.

I do think its overkill shutting down other non google+ services for violating the real-sounding name requirement.


There are a couple things going on here. One, as Tateru Nino and others have already pointed out, is the difference between "anonymity" and "pseudonymity." You can have an online name and identity that's like what we used to call a "pen name." Mark Twain was not an "anonymous" moniker - would he have to be Samuel Clemens on google+ or Facebook? There's a world of difference between that and an anonymous moniker created for a single flaming posting on a website and so on. So I agree with Moses's concern here about your phrasing "irrevocably real" - the name "Mark Twain" is irrevocably real (as is, of course, the virtual more generally).

The broader issue has to do with assumptions about identity and naming that are very Euro-American and culturally specific even in that context, but are getting written into online socialities in interesting (and in some cases, disturbing) ways. In this regard a short piece I've always found helpful is:

Scott, J. C., Tehranian, J., & Mathias, J. 2002. The Production of Legal Identities Proper to States: The Case of the Permanent Family Surname. Comparative Studies in Society and History 44(1):4-44.


Anyone remember the Fakesters on Friendster?



Personally, I think it's great that there is a genuine attempt to force a real ID on people. I think including a 'verification you are who you say you are' would probably have caused riots. I can see them adding a system like it later once consumers are used to the +'real'.

I don't quite understand where google+ presenting and enforcing an identity from the real world is an issue. There are plenty of spaces to be disingenuous or to play as someone else around the Internet (see all of the events of anonymous, lulzsec, second life, irc, etc), but there are very few spaces where you know the person you're talking to is the person you think it is or where there are consequences for lying about yourself.

This is a murky supposition but I think it is sufficient.

Props to google for doing what they said they wanted to. Perhaps now we will finally begin to understand "online" as an extension of reality instead of a virtual reality.


And then there is the issues of business accounts. In real life (Google+) companies are not allowed to have accounts (yet). I never understood this rule, which hold also for Facebook. Is this kind of game Google and Facebook play?


I waited 4 years to join Facebook. I can wait that long for Google+!!!


Well google plus is new search engine socialized version .


Interesting article, I have never heard of the game second life.


Essentially, all this little episode proves is that Google is bureaucracy like any other. It's not concerned with the truth value of what you enter in the little boxes; it just has to look vaguely "correct" in order to satisfy the bureaucratic mind that procedures have been followed correctly.

Though, of course, that presumably applies to eurocentric names only. Would you get kicked for entering the name "Deegeenboyah Arramagong", a perfectly respectable Australian Aboriginal name?


its a dilemma that google forces RL Names so strictly on their accounts, but i agree, they do not have a system to verify the name via ID, CC or similiar stuff...better add your SL Name to FB, i do not feel comfortable with Google+ at all..

FB notes in their TOS you should use your RL Name too but they do not strictly force it the way Google+ does..

The comments to this entry are closed.