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Security Expert Slams Google+ Pseudonym Policy 373

An anonymous reader writes "A security expert has panned Google's "real name" policy on Google+, claiming that the hard line will damage privacy. Sophos's Chester Wisniewski says that closing accounts where users have adopted false names erodes privacy on the social network. 'What they seemed to have missed is that the very foundation of privacy is identity. Simply knowing my postal code or birth date is meaningless without a name to associate it with. By requiring people to only use their real names, unless they just happen to be a celebrity, they have eliminated the ability for people to be private in any meaningful way.'"
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Security Expert Slams Google+ Pseudonym Policy

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  • Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @09:02AM (#36893740) Homepage

    I'm pretty sure that's Google's exact intention. If you force people to use their real name, tracking them over all the web gets much easier.

  • Dumb for G+ (Score:5, Insightful)

    by assertation ( 1255714 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @09:03AM (#36893756)

    If large amounts of people abandon Facebook for G+ they will be motivated by having more control over their privacy. Taking that motivation away, before G+ is even out of beta is a fairly stupid thing for Google to do.

    Given what happened with Buzz I'm starting to think that Google has some decision makers who are either very stupid or very out of touch with how people think. I suggest leaving the office and geek circles to get to know some regular people.

    I'm glad I created my G+ account with a faux name that sounds like a real name if this is the way they are going to be.

  • by Mostly Harmless ( 48610 ) <`mike_pete' `at' `'> on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @09:07AM (#36893824) Homepage
    I value the importance of privacy as much as any good Slashdot reader, but we're talking about an opt-in social network. If you want privacy, don't use the service that's already linked to everything else you do publicly on the Internet. Rather, get your privacy at one of the other, "more secure," social networking sites, like Facebook, or MySpace. Better yet, eschew social networking altogether. Or, if you want an anonymous social network that plays by your rules, build one.
  • by dBLiSS ( 513375 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .45gnikeht.> on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @09:09AM (#36893860) Journal

    Yes, that's exactly why Facebook never worked...

  • Oxymoron (Score:4, Insightful)

    by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @09:09AM (#36893870) Homepage Journal

    The point of social networks is to share. That's naturally counterproductive to privacy. At the very least I must know something about who I'm sharing information with or I wouldn't be there.

    The only real privacy on a social network could be within your circle of "friends", as opposed to having a public profile. But within that circle absolute privacy would be pointless.

  • by Pope ( 17780 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @09:10AM (#36893874)

    The choice to join is still yours. If you don't like it, don't join it, pure and simple.

  • They lost me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @09:13AM (#36893924) Journal
    When I got to this line of the summary:

    erodes privacy on the social network

    Isn't a social network non-private by definition? There are plenty of ways to meet and communicate with people that are somewhat private and anonymous, but a social network (on the internet or in meatspace) is not one of them.

  • by martyros ( 588782 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @09:15AM (#36893954)
    And FB requires you to use your real name as well. Somehow it has failed to keep it from growing pretty big. The thing with nonymity (as opposed to anonymity): the normal social conventions keeping people from acting like total asshats actually work. If there are actual consequences for what you say, people are more likely to act responsibly. Now, there are obviously bad sides of nonymity; those same social conventions can have nasty side effects, and the consequences of saying something can often make someone not say something at all. But you have to choose one or the other -- have the good and bad effects of anonymity (freedom to express yourself because you know there won't be consequences; freedom to act like an asshat because you know there won't be consequences) or have the good and bad effects of nonymity (People are more well-behaved and polite, because they know there will be consequences; people can't share certain things because they know there will be consequences). Some communities choose anonymity; Google chose nonymity. You're free to make your own website if you wish.
  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @09:15AM (#36893960)

    ability for people to be private in any meaningful way.

    Code words for spamming, trolling, and PR astroturfing.

    I am thrilled G+ doesn't allow psuedonyms. Makes it a much higher class establishment. Rob Malda and I are in each others circles, what could be better?

    If G+ was the only social network / web bloggy thing on the internet, if 1% of the population violently disliked a policy of theirs, I guess that would be bad. But they aren't.

    Lets visit a paradise of psudonyms, how about my local, not dead yet, newspaper web site. The comments sections are nothing but a dead wasteland of political extremist astroturfers screaming the same corporate / party talking points at each other over and over, spammers trying to sell shoes (wtf?) and pills, and 4chan/goonsquad style shock trollers. Everyone else has been successfully repelled away. Seriously. No normal human beings use it because its a toxic waste dump.

    Which brings up the obvious question that always has to be asked... who benefits? Say G+ allows 4chan /. zerohedge style psudeonyms. Who benefits? Mostly I suppose any competitor, since the users of G+ will be strongly repelled. Also PR astroturfing firms will benefit. Who else makes more money? Hmm.

    Lets say G+ allows the rabble in, and the rabble repels everyone as they always do. Then whats the point? Who will ye annointed ones, ye whistle-blowers and ye wikileakers tell their important secrets to? The spammer selling dick pills? The political party talking point autopost-bot? No one's perl script will care what they post.

    One thing I've noticed in debates on G+ about anonymity is the straw dog always trotted out that unless G+ allows fake names, we'll never have whistleblowers and anonymous leaks. All of which happened before G+ was invented, so presumably could continue to happen after. Furthermore, all the people trotting out that straw dog have NEVER added anything positive to the ecosystem in general or that argument in specific other than "nah nah naah naa na, you don't know who I am, ha ha ha". Anyone trotting out that straw dog better be carrying a wikileaks-grade release, or their just annoying poseurs at best.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @10:18AM (#36894760)

    The thing with nonymity (as opposed to anonymity): the normal social conventions keeping people from acting like total asshats actually work.

    The problem with nonanonimity (no such word as "nonimity" btw) is that, unlike normal life, the Internet has perfect memory. In normal life, if I fuck up eventually people are likely to forgive and/or forget. If you fuck up on the Internet it gets preserved forever.

    And the second problem is that when people stumble across such a preserved moment, they tend to react to it again. They don't check the date and go "oh, this was 10 years ago when the author was young and in so and so circumstances, let it go". They just slam you again and again for it.

    I say fuck that. The only way to not lose is to use multiple fake identities online. It's not paranoia, it's basic precaution. Whoever doesn't do that, I guarantee you WILL get bitten by it eventually. Whether you care about that or not, that's your business, but it will happen.

    And no, staying off the Internet completely is not possible anymore. They made it into a human right for a reason.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @10:28AM (#36894898)

    And requiring "real" names changes that in what way exactly? The average troll/spammer does not even expect his account to live any meaningful length of time. Besides, who says that I'm not really "Frank Benson" or "Thomas Senner"? I mean, until I trolled and spammed like there's no tomorrow, i.e. when this account gets closed and "Norman Richardson" registers?

    (disclaimer: None of those names are mine, neither do I know anyone by that name. I made them up. Any similarities with existing people is purely coincidental and not intended)

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @10:32AM (#36894964)

    While I agree with you, I might want to point out that if people do not complain about things they do not like, these things will not change. No, we're not entitled to forcing a provider to give us whatever we want, but if people voice their opinion, maybe someone will notice that there's a market for it and will start a service.

    Free market works both ways. Sometimes, the suppliers just need to be shown what is wanted.

  • by CapnStank ( 1283176 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @10:33AM (#36894990) Homepage
    THANK YOU! I'm seriously sick of this entitled attitude where a company/person/group puts tremendous effort into some system only to have a chunk of users go "WHY CAN'T I USE IT THE WAY I WANT THAT WASN'T INTENDED FOR!?" If you don't like Google+'s rules then stay off, its not a necessary service by a long shot and if you're so damned concerned about privacy wtf are you doing with Social networks in the first place?
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @10:35AM (#36895032)

    In a nutshell, it's kinda hard to dump your real name and start over with a new one if you happened to have attracted a stalker and want to get rid of him.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments