Eric Schmidt, no longer CEO of Google, has still got it–”it” being the ability to say things that scare the crap out of people. NPR’s Andy Carvin caught up with the former executive at the Edinburgh International TV Festival and paraphrased the executive chairman’s thoughts on pseudonymity on Google+ in where else, a G+ post, which we discovered by way of Boing Boing.
I asked him how Google justifies the policy given that real identities could put people at risk.
He replied by saying that G+ was build 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.
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+. Regarding countries like Iran and Syria, people there have no expectation of privacy anyway due to their government’s own policies, which implies (to me, at least) that Schmidt thinks there’s no point of even trying to have a service that allows pseudonyms. Unfortunately, the way the Q&A was conducted, I wasn’t in a position to ask him a followup on this particular point.
He also said 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.
These aren’t exact quotes, but I did my best to paraphrase the gist of what he was saying.
It’s not clear what Google considers “evil” (hackers? 4chan people?) or why, if you were Google, you wouldn’t be able to identify a pseudonymous personality and “rank them downward.” There seems to be a range of opinions within Google on the real names question, which was recently semi-settled when Google said it would afford users a four-day warning before nixing their accounts.
There are still plenty of outlets where people can express themselves anonymously or with a pseudonym–Tumblr, for example, and Etsy, Flickr and Twitter. Foursquare, rapidly gaining relevance, has not made any proclamations on the topic except when it comes to venue names. But as Facebook and Google crack the whip on real names, will other services follow?