Google+ was built to be an identity service. There it is. No hiding it. Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt came right out and said it this week at the Edinburgh Intl TV Festival when questioned by Andy Carvin about Google+’s strict ‘real name’ policies.
According to Danny Goodwin’s article The Google+ Identity Service Project, Google+ does not allow pseudonyms or unusual characters is the primary name section.These all have to go in the ‘other names’ section. It also does not allow a profile to represent more than one person. Violation of these policies initially resulted in the accounted being banned immediately. Google + has since revised this policy, giving a four day warning to offenders. This is not sitting well with many consumers.
Goodwin quotes Schmidt as saying:
“Regarding people who are concerned about their safety, he said G+ is completely optional. No one is forcing you to use it. It’s obvious for people at risk if they use their real names, they shouldn’t use G+… the internet would be better if we knew you were a real person rather than a dog or a fake person.”
Although this is true, that no one is forced to use the Google+ service, it raises questions about the choice of ways to represent one’s self over the internet. The ability to control ones internet presence is becoming difficult enough. Consumers such as me are now trying to devise way to keep their personal and professional online presences separate. Using alternate name from my private presence could be a solution. If this is not an option of G+, perhaps I will stick to Facebook for private and LinkedIn for professional purposes and avoid G+ all together. One comment left on Goodwin’s article pointed out that being able to remain anonymous is not the issue. The issue is the fact they want the right to choose.
But what does Schmidt mean by an identity service? It all sounds a little bit ‘Big Brother 1984 totalitarian’.
According to Andy Carvin’s G+ post, Schmidt claims “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.”
Future Projects? What future projects? Does Schmidt mean projects to help the consumer such as further free Google services? As Emily Banks reported for Mashable “how could Google leverage users’ identity information for new products? Perhaps through more targeted advertising or personalized search, or maybe something completely different.” But isn’t Facebook already achieving personalized and targeted advertising? How does Google + knowing my name is Rebecca Maher not Reb8@ca M@rr, change their ability to scour through the keywords on my profile or the search history linked to my IP address? They can still customize a service through this information.
Could it be as Bank suggests for something completely different? Venture capitalist Fred Wilson raised the question on his blog who are the Google services built for? You or them? I would suggest it is for them. However this is not new. Many businesses create ways to gather personal information on consumers that appears to be for the benefit of the consumer. It could be in the form of a social network, a music sharing site, a loyalty program such as Woolworths Everyday Rewards or various other methods. But most of these do not make the public aware that they are storing and using these details. It is usually hidden and therefore it is harder to hold the company accountable.
Google+ has at least given its users something not seen as often; complete transparency. This is what we are doing, use it if you are ok with it, don’t if you are not. It may not be the friendliest stance, but at lease it is truthful.
Bank, E, 2011, ‘Eric Schmidt: If You Don’t Want To Use Your Real Name, Don’t Use Google+’, Mashable, viewed 1 Septemeber, http://mashable.com/2011/08/28/google-plus-identity-service/
Goodwin, D, 2011, ‘The Google+ Indentity Service Project’, Search Engine Watch, viewed 1 September 2011 http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2105026/The-Google-Identity-Service-Project
Wilson, F, 2011, ‘Google+ Is An Identity Service’ AVC, viewed 1 September 2011, http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2011/08/google-is-an-identity-service.html