Despite the dream start of Google+, I’ve always believed that it was a matter of time before it would run out of time. I always maintained that Google+ won’t kill Twitter or Facebook and that it may not be able to sustain its scorching growth for long periods of time. While Google+ continues to rake in large volumes of users, concerns over its ‘real name’ policy may soon lead to an identity crisis for its users.
Google’s current Chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt says that G+ was built primarily as an identity service, so fundamentally, it depends on people using their real names if they’re going to build future products that leverage that information. However, not everybody is comfortable with revealing their real name and a large number of users are already claiming their right to anonymity and pseudonymity.
So, why is Google hell bent on people using real names on Google+? Does it see as a solution to address privacy concerns? Or is it to misuse the use of social networks such as Google+ for riots, uprisings, political dissidents and regional/ national riots. Let’s try and understand the reasons and implications of this move.
Google has laid out the law in clear letters – if you want to use Google Plus, use your real name. If you can’t use your real name, don’t use Google Plus. However, the question remains how does Google verify real names? What about people in third-world countries who do not even have social security numbers, passports and other name proofs?
In fact, Google+ recommends that if using a real name creates a danger, for people like those in in Iran or Syria for instance, they don’t have to use Google+. I’ve to admit that when I read this first, it came across as a comply-else-leave order. In a practical world, I don’t think this is a workable solution in several countries.
To be honest, I’m not really sure if the real name policy will help streamline Google+ privacy. In fact, using your real name may make you more vulnerable to privacy issues. I’ve thousands of people in my circles and though I currently use my real name, I was actually planning to switch to an alias.
In fact, I’m a bit concerned about the privacy aspect of Google+ Games. When I play a game, Google+ asks me to agree to grant the game and its developer various permissions to access and use information from my Google+ Profile–including my Circles. Why the heck does Google need to know my circle info? Needless to say, I’m concerned over such features which potentially compromise my G+ privacy.
Google knows that fake and hacked accounts are frequently used on social networks to send malware or for online frauds. Most often, attackers get away with their motives because we place far too much trust on our friends in these networks. Establishing identities will help Google reduce such incidents.
Google is a champion at advertising – both direct and indirect. Speculations suggest Google+ wants people to use real names so that advertisers can make direct attacks and attachments of other identifying information, including age, location, gender, and associations including family and in some cases, friends. If that’s the case, it would be a huge plus for business users and advertisers. However, it may be irritating for end users if there’s no mechanism to turn these ads off. Of course, at this point of time, it’s mere speculation.
In your opinion, what’s the reason behind Google+ real name policy? Are you comfortable sharing your real name on G+? Please share your experience by leaving a comment.