What’s in a name?

Like many other people I rushed to join Google+, partly because I was finding Facebook a rather restrictive and passive aggressive space – like the insistence of ‘real names’ and forcing you to adopt ‘real-sounding’ names (they have no way of checking apart from keyword searches although will ask you to send ID if they still don’t ‘believe’ that is your name – CIA much?). So I was disappointed to find that Google+ was copying Facebook even down to the ‘real names’ policy.

So I joined the outcry of likes of Skud, danah boyd and Scoble (apparently not his real name?) and others I know personally (Madge Weinstein was one) who have been thrown off G+ for not having real names (and those people have been slurred by Google employees for having unspecified ‘naughty’ things they were doing, conveniently shielded by ‘legal’ reasons – in itself a very bad PR move). I dared Google+ to end my account, reported myself as being in violation in feedback and on Google employee threads. If having a real or ‘real sounding’ name and living under the fear of losing my account on a whim, then you can keep your wanky Fakebook. I’ve not heard anything as yet…

I hope Google steps down from this stupid policy which isn’t just a few tech-bloggers getting annoyed that they can’t call themselves Sparkleface McJones The Thurd or something. This issue affects LGBT people, abuse survivors, teenagers, those in various minorities and disaffected groups (like the Latin American transgender people I mentioned in the last post – bullying doesn’t just exist offline) and just those like me who just don’t want a bored security guard at an airport Googling up my entire online history (it does happen) or my clients or enployers searching for my details getting random and possibly work-losing posts popping up. And I agree with danah it is an abuse of power – these networks aren’t completely optional anymore, with people having to join for work or because of relatives (or have to leave because of same). The idea of ‘lump it or leave it’ ignores how big and ubiquitous these networks have become, there will be a time when all these sites are connected and you don’t have an option anymore…and then ‘real names’ will be an even bigger issue.

To me, my online nicks ARE my names, people call me by them in real life sometimes and it doesn’t bother me – and I’ve been using them upto 15 years. Strange idea of what a ‘real name’ is – and Facebook is full of nasty, homophobic, racist and mysoginistic stuff written by those with ‘real  names’ – it doesn’t stop those things, make it suddenly more fluffy…the insistence on real names is more for advertisers, news corporations (hey how else will they find the picture of the latest killer or victim?!?) and I suspect more sinisterly security organisations. This row over G+ reveals how anonymity is being eroded on the Internet, gradually – and that these corporates want to know everything about you – and don’t really care if you get sacked or your identity is stolen by someone else, they just see the advertising dollars – real profiles are worth far more than pseudonymous or anonymous ones – Google and Facebook knows that. If they want people to use their networks they do need to make sure leaks and privacy invasions can’t happen, and with all the ‘privacy’ leaks and changes on Facebook I see not very much concern from them about that, so hence not wanting to have my name out there, intentionally or otherwise.

BTW I love this site ‘My Name is Me’ which says it all really…

Relatio Clash

Tim B Written by:

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