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Eric Schmidt: If you can’t use your real name, don’t use Google+ (boingboing.net)
47 points by pier0 on Aug 27, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 93 comments

Schmidt gets lambasted by the media every time he says something pragmatic about Google's services. I respect him for sticking to his guns. Here is a quote from Schmidt about Google Search that he got crucified for two years ago:

Judgement matters... If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place... If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines - including Google - do retain this information for some time and it's important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.

What he said two years ago about Google Search, and what he is trying to say now about Google+, is that these services are not for those with high security and privacy needs. And he's right; they aren't. As a US company, Google must conform to US law. This means Google must store certain information and under various circumstances provide the police and the government with said information. You really think Google+ allowing you to use a pseudonym would then make it ok for use by those with strong anonymity requirements? Absolutely not.

EDIT: Please see jrockway's comment for a correction. Google is not legally required in the US to store information; still, they are in the EU. In any case, they are legally required to provide information they do have in many situations. Google chooses to retain some information in order to produce a more competitive product. This is how Google chooses to do business and it would be silly for those with strong anonymity requirements to use Google's services.

What information does the US government require Google to store?

Google stores information because they think it's a useful service. That is, of course, subject to search by the government. But it is possible to make a search engine that didn't store anything; there is no law that requires maintaining HTTP access logs or anything like that.

Ah, thanks for the correction. I've made a note at the end of my original comment. Either way, storing some data is how Google chooses to do business. Whether legally required or not, this fact should give pause to those who need anonymity and are considering using Google's services. Google isn't trying to capture the segment of the market that requires strong privacy and anonymity. That's all Schmidt is saying.

Patriot Act makes demands on search engines. http://cryptome.org/isp-spy/yahoo-spy.pdf

Personally, I just do not understand all the drama around the issue. I absolutely support the idea that a company has exactly the same right to "fire" a customer in the same way as a customer can "fire" the company. Google does not have to offer services to anyone. A customer can accept the terms of service or just move on and choose another provider to express his/her thoughts.

While I absolutely agree with that principle, it gets awkward when it comes to social media. To use a social network optimally, everyone I want to communicate with should be a part of it. If some subset of that group doesn't want to be on the network, that's one thing, but it's something completely different if the company in charge is actually reducing the utility of using the product.

This entire issue is incredibly sticky and, while I find it hard to disagree with Google's position in the short term, it does have me worried in a number of ways in the long term.

> And he's right; they aren't. As a US company, Google must conform to US law. This means Google must store certain information and under various circumstances provide the police and the government with said information.

I totally agree, and this is true for all other services hosted in the US such as Diaspora who claim to protect you more than Google, this is simply not true. All services hosted there are subject to the same laws. Same goes for services hosted in Europe and around the world.

Diaspora is like an email server project. Diaspora can be hosted anywhere.

As long as it is hosted in the US or in Europe, the government can ask you to give them your hard drives.

I would hardly equate use of a pseudonym with "strong anonymity requirements".

Eric Schmidt has a way with words. And that way has made Google consistently more and more off-putting from my perspective. The message seems clear: we don't think you should have privacy. Disagree? No problem. Go somewhere else. But that's a problem if there is nowhere else to go... True, I don't have to use Google. But Google might offer the best search solution or the best social network. I guess I'm just out of luck in that case. ;\

That wasn't the message I read from that.

It was that they can't provide you with real privacy (against, say, governments), so they're not going to pretend like they do. If you want real privacy, this isn't the social network for you (and personally, I don't think there is one, but there's likely a market for it -- a tor-esque anonymizing social network would be pretty awesome).

On top of that, that it's useful to know that everyone on G+ has passed some minimum bar that they're who they say they are. A low minimum, but a minimum.

For the first part, there are some distinctions ignored, specifically pseudonyms. I suspect the answer is "we don't really care about pseudonyms." For the second, I can see it making sense the same way a financial exchange does. You know there are crooks and ways to cheat, but you also know that even the low degree of securities law enforcement is substantial enough to make your transactions pretty safe.

>On top of that, that it's useful to know that everyone on G+ has passed some minimum bar that they're who they say they are. A low minimum, but a minimum.

Yes, because that's clearly working well:

https://plus.google.com/111162891247384008048/posts https://plus.google.com/118274397320135769169/posts https://plus.google.com/104634693509905640224/posts https://plus.google.com/106516586759796563790/posts

> Eric Schmidt has a way with words.

The words in the article were not Eric's, they were the questioner paraphrasing Eric's response.

My solution so far has been to utterly ignore Google+ even though I usually like what Google does.

If enough people do that, they'll either change or scrap the service.

Google needs to stop allowing Eric Schmidt to speak for the company in any public capacity: It's just bad for the company and the shareholders because he's always off message and the worst guy to deliver any news. Yesterday I was reading how he was dissing the English education system and today it's this. I really wish that Larry Page would learn a lesson from Steve Jobs and step front and center in terms of Google getting the word out there: There's just too much at stake right now.

I can see both sides of the "real name" argument, but one thing I don't understand is why Google is getting so much flak about this when Facebook has basically the same policy AFAICT. Are Google's rules stricter somehow?

There are two aspects I see. One, Google may be enforcing more aggressively and less consistently.

Two, the differing initial demographics. Facebook initially launched to college students and they established its initial environment. G+ started with the technorati, many of whom care deeply about this. Some of whom have handles going back longer than Google has existed.

A lot of it is about brand. First impressions matter.

I'm old enough to remember when Facebook launched with an actual emphasis on privacy. You couldn't even join Facebook as a random person from off the street -- you had to be a Harvard student, then a college student, then a student of some kind. It took some time for the service to open up to the general public at all. Then even at that point (as far as I can tell; I was never much of a Facebook user) your content was more restricted to your immediate circle of friends than it is today. And, of course, friend lists were naturally smaller in those days. When Facebook changed their privacy defaults, it tended to happen gradually, without much fanfare except for revolts among the relatively small number of cognoscenti who knew about the obscure settings screens that most users never even visit.

In other words, Facebook successfully seduced people into trusting them, by starting out smaller and more constrained than they are today, and by almost always speaking with a human voice -- generally, the voice of your good friend who has just invited you to Facebook.

Google, on the other hand, started out as the friendly-but-distinctly-nonhuman omniscient robot who has read everything and indexed everything and can answer any question about anything. Then it watched all our YouTube videos and scanned all our books and memorized all our maps, and it helpfully filed all our email for us, and it got some spy satellites and photographed all of our backyards, and it grew eyes and drove around the city capturing pictures of our buildings (along with the occasional embarrassed passerby).

And only then, after it had established a very strong reputation as the super-powerful arbiter of all world knowledge, including knowledge of every one of us, did the Googlebot throw a party, invite us, and ask us all -- using a voice carefully designed by a team of top-notch professionals -- to be its friend. And to speak clearly into the microphones, so that the after-party analysis team can get a clear transcript of everything we say.

It's all in the delivery.

Yeah, the problem is that it's connected to a bunch of Google services that I already use. So if I started using any of those under a pseudonym, I can't add Google+ to that account.

Facebook is just facebook

Google+ is that and all other services

That article debunks the claims you were making on this site last week about other services not being affected at all.

Google: If your profile is under review, you will not be able to make full use of Google services that require an active profile such as Google+, Buzz, and some social features of Reader and Picasa Web Albums. For example, on Buzz, you can't create content, on Reader you can't share items with other users or follow other users, and on Picasa Web Albums you can't comment on photos.

Compared with: "That is just a vicious rumor. They explicitly said the no other service of theirs will be affected." http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2907098

"Other services aren't affected. Period." http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2907104

Having core features of other services disabled is clearly an affect on those services. So, my question to you is: when did they "explicitly" say no other services were affected? And if they never did, why did you claim they did?

Probably in large part because Google wants to be the alternative to FaceBook. They put the burden on themselves.

Imagine if newspapers in the time of the American revolution rejected all articles and letters without real names? There would be no revolution as it was largely argued and coordinated through the press. Even the Federalist Papers was written pseudonymously. What Google is saying is nothing of import should happen on G+.

I don't see how your conclusion follows: lots of important things happen without anonymity. Most civils rights leaders demonstrated openly and without the veil of anonymity. I'm not saying anonymity is never important, I'm just saying it isn't necessary as a condition of importance.

And a site requiring real names for account can still be used to communicate ideas anonymously. Similar to how money laundering works in US banks (which must be tied to a real name! OMG! How will anyone ever be able to use cash!). So on G+ you can have thought laundering!

Anyway, I just don't get why everyone is so anti-Google. Providing a service that requires someone to use their real name doesn't hurt anonymity anymore than putting a hamburger on the menu hurts vegetarians.

What, exactly, is the moral issue associated with letting the vast majority of nicks though?

I can understand banning obscenities for usernames; I can understand banning fraudsters.

But if I show up as LispNerd3K on G+ and only G+... who gives a rip? I mean, seriously.

I was going to put some serious effort into G+, kinda use it as a mini-blogging platform, but I don't really care for the anti-hacker mindset that appears to be driving policy there.

Why does it need to be a moral issue? It should be easy to believe that people will behave differently in an environment with "real" looking names than in one with arbitrary gibberish pseudonyms. They then simply need to believe that on aggregate a social network with the former environment will be more successful than one with the latter.

As for who cares, at least I do. I can't think of anyone whom I care about enough to follow on G+, but only know by a username or nick of some kind. In all but a handful of cases the real name is the primary identifier I have for those persons, the nick is just some added metadata. I find e.g. Twitter's handling of names to be rather repulsive, and it's probably one minor reason for why I repeatedly bounced off that platform.

Admittedly I'm nowhere near as passionate about this as people ranting about how evil the Google+ name policy is, and how as a result they're going to delete their Gmail account, switch to Bing, and block Googlebot. So maybe it would have been more pragmatic to give into those people and turn Google+ into a free for all wasteland. Depends totally on what the ratio of people who strongly hate the policy is compared to the people who mildly like it.

(How is this supposed to be an anti-hacker mindset anyway?)

There are different angles of thought regarding real names; moral/ethical, advertising, identity service/trust, and likely others that I haven't decoded yet.

I specifically said moral, because I want to consider the matter in isolation from the advertising and trust service question. It is unquestionable that different angles on the problem will result in different analysis with different final results. Most discussions don't clearly set out what they are talking about, and conflate the different issues and angles.

Because google cannot make as much money off of an account named LispNerd3k vs your real name.

From an advertising pov G+ wants to have as much information about you as possible to best target ads. This is basically a good thing as you see more of what you want and they get more clickthrough and can sell ads for more. When you type something into google search, google can make an educated guess about who you are based on your query, geo information and past searches. A primary goal of G+ is to associate the G+ information you are voluntarily filling out (real name, address, hobbies, etc) with the rest of googles ad network making it leaps better.

That is why google thinks social networking is important, and why g+ doesn't need to "win" vs facebook for it to have a net positive effect on google. Even mild G+ adoption makes googles whole network of ads much more intelligent.

I am not a business strategy person but this explanation makes sense to me so take it as a guess/opinion.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this has nothing to do with the real name vs. pseudonyms issue, right?

If Google knows you as LispNerd3k, living in Philadelphia, about 30yo, geeky, white, male, past searches "xorg issue fedora 15" and "sicp", that's more than enough to give you targeted ads. As long as your pseudonym is consistent across websites (or Google services at least), there's no need for your real name.

the internet would be better if we knew you were a real person rather than a dog or a fake person. Some people are just evil and we should be able to ID them and rank them downward.

This is a ridiculous argument. How often have you wondered, "Is this person I'm talking to really a dog?" Of course it's a real person, even if he goes by a stupid name like me.

If Google is really trying to build an identity service rather than a social network, they need to come up with better arguments than this as to why that's a good idea.

It's probably a reference to this famous comic:

http://bit.ly/jb485V (Wikipedia, shortened because HN breaks the real URL by stripping out the apostrophe).

Oh, yeah, I bet you are right. Thanks for the reminder. I had forgotten about that one.

He should have replaced "dog" by "bot". Think about spam. CAPTCHAs are a poor substitute to an identity provider saying "this person already passed a Turing test". (However, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to adopt the trivial trust network with Google as the root node.)

I was actualy wondering if Eliza* could get a G+ account. Honestly, I await the day bots can fool me.

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ELIZA

I got a laugh out of that. I honestly don't think it was meant to be taken as a solid example, but rather an exaggeration.

Time is ripe for an anonymous social platform worth billions of dollars. One with email, chat, voice, video, pics, blogs, circles, groups, followers and games. Preferable from the open source community. Two names come to mind as possible candidates for developing such worldwide platforms: Canonical and Mozilla.

I'd slit my wrists to have a name@firefox.com email.

I call bullshit. The only reason why Google has an interest in verifying your identity is advertising money. They don't care about these allegedly "evil" people out there, nor do they really care about talking dogs.

"Don't use Google+" is the only sensible thing I see here.

Don't use Facebook either then.

Given the number of different ways that this policy can be used for "evil", Google's motto is beginning to sound religious and righteous rather than moral. That is, the decision is not justifiable. Its just dogma. Rather like a Christian Crusader saying "Don't be Evil" just before murdering a town of Muslims because, after all, if you aren't Christian, then by definition, you are evil, and eradicating evil is what we do. This is how Schmidt's "sticking to his guns" comes across to me. When "Good" means "What we think Good is", then "Don't be Evil" is the epitome of evil.

You know, I don't necessarily agree 100% with Schmidt's conclusions, but I wouldn't mind so much if he were advocating something he sincerely believed.

But the fact that Lawrence Page and Vivek Gundotra are allowed to keep their pseudonymous "Larry" and "Vic" accounts makes it clear that Schmidt is lying through his teeth about real names being essential to identity. (I agree that these nicknames are better choices for the account than their real names — but that fact runs contrary to Schmidt's position, so either he's unaware of his CEO's real name or he's being disingenuous.)

This is not really related. But has anyone seen the video of Eric Schmidt practicing public speaking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bA1I6MUOKkU Found it just yesterday and it's amazing to see how he used to be.

I know there are exceptions, but most of the time I find myself wanting to post something anonymously it's because I'm saying or doing something I shouldn't. I appreciate Google's stand. All you need to do is look at 4chan to see what happens when anonymity reigns.

Well, you see the username I'm using?

I'm 'ubernostrum' here. And also on reddit. And also on a bunch of other websites. And on Twitter. And also on IRC. And it's part of my most-often-publicly-distributed email address. I've been 'ubernostrum' since the last millennium, and I actually get annoyed when I find a site where someone else already has the name, because that means someone's using it who isn't me.

This is the difference between anonymity and pseudonymity. Someone who's anonymous is a one-off. Someone who's pseudonymous is the same person, the same identity, consistently over time -- just not their actual real name. And that's an incredibly common thing in the tech world, and I'm surprised so many people don't get that when they've probably been living happily in a pseudonymous world for years.

Anonymous != pseudonymous. An account with a pseudonym is still accountable within the limits chosen by its owner. 4chan is completely different.

I agree. The problem is the line between them is so thin that from a rules/enforcement perspective they may as well be the same thing. How are they to tell the difference between a long-used pseudonym and a throw-away account?

Not when you can create as many pseudonyms as you want.

When I want to say something anonymously, it's usually because there are people who disagree with my opinion who I'd rather not reveal my identity to.

For instance, I argue regularly against violent racists on certain football forums. I've been threatened by them and had them asking people what my real name is. Thankfully, I use a pseudonym on there (a different one to the one I use on here) and have so far been able to express those opinions without being physically attacked by thugs.

>All you need to do is look at 4chan to see what happens when anonymity reigns.

Or, God forbid, the Wikileaks. Damned whistleblowers... :P

The solution I'd like to see, to help those with delicate sensibilities, is a way to toggle whether or not you allow interaction with pseudonymous folks. This would allow those of us who enjoy hearing from folks who use pseudonyms to continue to do so, but would allow those who don't to employ filtering.

It's looking, however, like it's G+'s business model, and not concern for what users wants, that is driving G+ policy.

Straw man.

Regardless: 4chan is not a model for Internet privacy.

John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory would seem to disagree with you.

I'm okay with this stance. If you don't want to use real names, find another service.

You do realize that (a) The John Gabriel Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory is a joke, and (b) its inventor, John Gabriel, is a fictional character with a fake name?

Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, Acton, Currer and Ellis Bell, George Eliot, George Sand, Richard Bachman and Nicolas Bourbaki, among others, would like a word with this theory.

In this case there is another service, but that argument is quite weak in general. Here is a fantastic video with lots of legitimate criticism of that stand: http://www.securitytube.net/video/1084.

At a certain point your choice is give up privacy or give up participation in society. Right now giving up G+ is not giving up email, or giving up having a cell phone, or giving up driving, but at a certain point it will be exactly like that.

At a certain point your choice is give up privacy or give up participation in society. Right now giving up G+ is not giving up email, or giving up having a cell phone, or giving up driving, but at a certain point it will be exactly like that.

This is the argument that needs to be raised more frequently in these discussions. Until there is a unified architecture for social interaction across different networks, it is very important which networks you can access. If we don't have a unifying protocol that links all social networks, then in the end, there can be only one.

Arguing that pseudonymous users should find a different service is equivalent to arguing that they should be entirely excluded from social interaction with the broader society.

But what about when you do need anonymity, for example to leak video of a corrupt official, or evidence your employer is knowingly causing harm, etc?

How do you propose to do this when all services are tied to identity?

It's their product, why not let them decide what they do and do not allow?

I don't see anyone claiming for a law forcing G+ to accept pseudonymous. They have all the right to decide. And we have all the right to criticize them for that decision.

This is the same guy who said that if you are doing something and you don't want Google to know about it, then you should probably not be doing it in the first place! He clearly does not get privacy!

No, he said that if you're looking to do something that you shouldn't, i.e something illegal, you shouldn't type that on Google, as they can be sued and forced to reveal what you searched.

"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." Not merely talking about it, but even doing it at all. That is quite literally what he said, and it's perilously close to asserting that those who've done nothing wrong have nothing to hide.

To add some context: he was asked by a war reporter (Andy Carvin) about people living under totalitarian regimes and their correlation with the G+ real name policy.

So basically the answer is that if you are endangered by reveling your real name, you shouldn't use it, at least not at this stage which is prudent advice.

What a wanker.

Agreed. I've lost a lot of respect for Eric Schmidt since reading this.

That said, all this proves is this: No matter what you think of Google and G+, vis-a-vis Facebook - or what you think of any other centralized social-network that's controlled by some central authority - the bottom line is that they all suffer from the same problem: autocratic, dictatorial control by a cabal of leaders who aren't accountable to the users.

This whole debate should serve to remind all of us of the importance of research, development, and standards work around decentralized, federated, distributed social-networks where the user maintains control of their information. Whether it's Appleseed, Diaspora, OneSocialWeb or something that hasn't even come along yet, we need the ability to walk away from the Facebooks and G+s off the world, while not giving up on this form of communication.

This is why geeks have such a hard time dealing with the real world. Schmidt tells it like it is, and then he gets made fun of for not lying to his customers and shareholders.

The reality is that Google+ can't provide strong anonymity because of all the laws it is subject to. Rather than entice someone into a false sense of security, they are flat out saying, "don't use our service if you require anonymity". It's not a pleasant message, but it's the truth, and that has value.

Even if you're using a pseudonym for something the government doesn't care about (like _why was), it can still be upsetting when someone finds out who you really are. _why dropped off the face of the Internet when some kids decided to make it their life's work to figure out his "real name". Google wants to avoid being a tool for this sort of disruption to life and communities.

I fail to see why people make such a big fuss about Google's real name policy. If using your real name online puts your life at stake, use a damn fake name. I'm pretty sure Google won't ask for a scan of your ID card. Edit: Apparently Google can ask for your ID card (under exceptional circumstances)

I'm pretty sure Google won't ask for a scan of your ID card.

I'm pretty sure you're wrong, based on the work of Gary Walker:


as reported by Charlie Stross:


"Send a poison pen email and you can get an account suspended until the owner verifies their identity by sending a scan of some ID."

> Now that I had a completely innocuous, completely non-infringing account created, it was necessary to have that account reported. On August 4, 2011, we did just that.

Simple steps to get a Google+ account, using a fake name:

1) Choose a name that doesn't have multiple Wikipedia entries. [1]

2) Do not report your own account as fake.

Following those 2 simple rules, I was able to maintain multiple Facebook profiles for years. I doubt Google+ is any harder to game than Facebook.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Walker_(musician), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Walker

I was able to maintain multiple Facebook profiles for years.

That's hardly good enough. The Library of Alexandria was able to not burn down for years.

Tomorrow Facebook may catch on to you, and then most of your Facebook profiles will be gone. Hope there's nothing in there you wanted to keep.

Google is very clearly reserving the right to demand ID from us at any time in the future, and to delete our profiles if that ID doesn't satisfy them. Just because they are very undemanding, easy to satisfy, and easy to spoof today doesn't mean they won't get stricter tomorrow. And then our fake names, and all their associated data, and all their friends and reputations, and perhaps even all the data from associated accounts... will be gone. I fail to see how it's a feature that Google will give me plenty of time to accumulate precious things in my account before they get around to summarily deleting it.

Of course, someone could just forge such an ID scan, which is far easier than forging the ID itself.

[Things could get harder the day governments start issuing cryptographic IDs (like, say, a smartcard which Google can query remotely).]

>Things could get harder the day governments start issuing cryptographic IDs (like, say, a smartcard which Google can query remotely).

Some already are. My citizen card (Portugal) already contains a public-private key pair that I can use to log in to online governmental services. I'm not sure if there's a service available for third-parties to check someone's identity, though.

No, it's easy to get a valid "fake" ID. All you need is a birth certificate, which is a paper document with no authentication features, and a utility bill, which is a paper document with no authentication features. Government-issued IDs are as worthless as anything else the government produces. The only value they have is that you'll have to pay a fine if they catch you with the fake birth certificate. Which is highly unlikely.

These days you'll probably need a valid SSN that maps to the name you want to use as well. Good luck accomplishing that without ripping off someone else's identity.

You can get a new SSN with the following documents, according to the SSA's website:

    Employee ID card;
    School ID card;
    Health insurance card (not a Medicare card);
    U.S. military ID card;
    Adoption decree;
    Life insurance policy; or
    Marriage document (only in name change situations).

I'm personally not a fan of anonymity on the web, most people are using it to insult others, being racists, bigoted and cowardly telling you things they wouldn't tell you to your face. If you live under a repressive government or need to whistle-blow, then sure, post your critics on an anonymous blog or to wikileaks, but apart from these rare cases, people should take responsibility for what they say and stop the annoying coward attacks. This is how it works in real life, when you have a comment or critic to do, you show your face and who you are before talking.

On the flip side, those who advocate for real names are often those in the best position to not be harmed by the consequences of discussing their social/political/etc. views in public.

I really don't get this "don't say it online unless you'd be prepared to say it to their face".

Does this mean that I shouldn't be prepared to express opinions unless I'm prepared to defend myself physically for holding those opinions?

As I've mentioned elsewhere in this thread, I argue regularly (using a pseudonym) on one of my local football team's forums against a group of racists. Those racists are people who I'm pretty certain have used violence in the past, and I'm pretty certain would be more than happy to use violence in the future. I'm personally not a violent person, so should I simply keep quiet and let the voices of those prepared to use violence be the only ones that are heard?

These racists probably wouldn't post their racist coward attacks if they couldn't post them anonymously. Whether you argue with them using your real name or not won't change their opinion and won't change the fact that anonymity allowed them to spew their racists comments in the first place, you're wasting your time. Oh, and if you know who they are and know they attack people violently, you should call the police.

The racists don't post anonymously. Pretty much everyone knows exactly who they are, and the kinds of violence they have been happy to carry out in the past. As for reporting them to the police - several of them are well known to the police and have been done for their crimes in the past. Others - we have no proof of what they do individually, but knowing who they hang around with and what has happened in their groups, it's highly unlikely to all be just talk.

My posts may not change their opinions, but it's got a chance of changing the opinions of other people who go to these forums. Being a sports site, there's plenty of impressionable kids going there and if all they read, day after day, is links to stories about blacks or Muslims doing this crime or that crime, without any balance being presented they are going to get a pretty screwed up view of the world.

>These racists probably wouldn't post their racist coward attacks if they couldn't post them anonymously.

You don't get out much, do you?

I was born in Paris, France. Lived in Syria for 5 years then I got back to Paris and now I live in Arequipa, Peru. How about you dear?

And you still think that violent racist football fans all hide behind anonymous names on the internet? How sweet.

I've never been to an internet forum dedicated to football fans, it sounds like the most terrible way to waste time. But if that's your thing, how sweet.

Unlike commenting on this forum of course.

And I notice that your lack of knowledge of the subject didn't stop you commenting on it.

But we’re not talking about anonymity on the web, we’re talking about choice of names in a certain social network.

I’m less likely to use G+ when I can’t use it to talk to people who aren’t using the form of their name that’s on their birth certificate. That’s quite different from anonymous griefers.

> I’m less likely to use G+ when I can’t use it to talk to people who aren’t using the form of their name that’s on their birth certificate.

Google+ doesn't force you to use the name that is on your birth certificate. They say you can use what most people call you so you aren't force to use your full second names for example. For example, if your name on your bc is Patrick John David Smith, G+ says it's ok to just use Patrick Smith if that is what most people call you.

That’s true; I was exaggerating. I’m on G+ using a highly conventional nickname for my given name, on the order of Meg for Megan.

The problem here is that many people have legitimate reasons to, for example, go by more than one name. Always having to use your most popular name is simply not good enough in many cases.

I think most people are fine with Google trying to discourage lightweight throwaways on their service. What upsets people is what seems like an inflexibility that isn’t in Google’s own interests. Advertising to me under an “alternate” name is not significantly less efective than under my most popular name. If I’m willing to use a name to socially network, clearly I have some significant commitment to it; functionally, it is a real name.

I don’t want to rehash all the arguments here, though. I just wanted to point out that requiring “real” names is not necessary or sufficient to prevent G+ from being 4chan, and shouldn’t be conflated with that.

most people are using it to insult others, being racists, bigoted and cowardly telling you things they wouldn't tell you to your face

I always hate this argument. I honestly don't give a flying fuck what most people are using it for if there exists a nontrivial contingent of people who are using it for legitimate purposes and, trust me, there are a fair number of people using anonymity and pseudonymity for legitimate purposes.

I acknowledged that fact in my comment, if you need anonymity, use a private blog or wikileaks or tor or the tons of other solutions there are out there.

You acknowledged limited and narrow cases. Taking even one example, there are a number of transgendered people holding conversations on online forums anonymously or pseudonymously because of potential IRL consequences if people they knew linked them to the posts. Giving these communities this sort of safe haven is worth all of the asshole anonymous posts we see across the web, and they're only one example.

I talked about opening a private blog, a private forum would be fine too for people who need to remain anonymous.

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