Google Plus is a new social networking website, we are all learning about it together. It is unclear at the moment whether or not pseudonyms will be permitted or real legal names will be required for profiles. Some existing social networks require real names, some have a mixture and some encourage or even enforce pseudonyms for all users. What are the arguments for and against, particularly taking into account the impact of the circles functionality and the context of Google Plus.



Anonymity is a basic human right

A much-cited 1995 Supreme Court ruling in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission reads:

> "Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical, minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society."

America wouldn't be what it is today without the Federalist Papers, which were published under a pseudonym.

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It's a God given right and a privilege. Plus it's good for sexy time.

Samuel Clemens did it - (Mark Twain).
Mathematician Charles Dodgson did it - (Lewis Carroll).
Stephen King did it - (Richard Bachman).
Lots of writers, directors, actors, musicians, religious and political figures have used pseudonyms, pen names, and noms de guerre. There is nothing wrong or criminal about it. Some people desire anonymity because of their jobs, position in society, relationships, desire to avoid the use of their personal information when it comes to tracking cookies and targeted advertising on the web, etc.

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This isn't a bank, a job application or any of your business.

I believe google has the information of peoples real names on file, if I went to Amazon and purchased something, they wouldn't sell it to me without my credit card information, but they wouldn't ask me to post it publicly now would they? Google plus is not a place where eCommerce trading takes place,..and even if it were, why would anyone in their right mind post personal information on the internet for all to see? I think a person in a chat room should use a nick name, and social networking is just a more sophisticated form of chat - a pseudonym should be allowed in place of real name public forced profiles; I think this policy of google plus is ludricous. If they have peoples information who cares if I want to call myself sheilabunny? I don't care if anyone else wishes to call them self pickitydoodo - come on google - get a grip. If they don't allow nyms, then they deserve to fail.

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Google already knows who I am

If I have an account, Google can already correlate the sort of things I buy with Takeout, the items in my Reader feeds, the websites I find on Search, the stuff I +1, the kind of ads I click on, and pretty much anything that has to do with Google services.

They don't need my legal name, they can probably already find me easily in their Giant Database of Googly Things by my ID or my Google username for pretty much any purpose they want.

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What about people with common names = e.g. "John Smith"

I share my name (yes, my full name) with at least three other people that are active in the same industries as me. It hasn't been too much of a problem so far, because we don't work in exactly the same areas (e.g. I'm a techy, they're an artist), but I've been lucky there.

I could imagine that if someone shared their name with more than just a handful of people, the potential for confusion and mistaken identity could be massive.

It's much easier to pick an unusual user name and build up an identity around that.

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you can't say something without attribution

if you have a real identity and want to post something that you don't want to be attributable to you because it could reflect badly on your job then you can't. You could post it to a selective subcircle, but you couldn't talk about just the issue in the abstract to a wider audience

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Primarily-online communities identify its members through pseudonyms

The use of pseudonyms is a generally expected practice in online communities, and has been for decades (ex. newsgroups, discussion forums, AOL, Yahoo, YouTube, Twitter...). The only large contrary example is Facebook, and even there pseudonyms are allowed as a "Public Figure" profile. Allowing pseudonyms on Google+ would give G+ much more value to those who participate in online communities.

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Pseudonyms allow a theming or direction of your communications.

Both Twitter and Facebook and others have outlets which are representatative of a brand or celebrity amongst others.
That is how you identify a person or brand, by its name or a title that you can associate with, not the name of a CEO.
If I had interest in a particular artist I would follow and look for Elton John, not Reginald Kenneth Dwight.
I play an MMO amongst other games and on other social networks I follow interesting people by a description or title of their blog, or their character.
I do not know those people in real life, so their name means nothing to me and has no context.

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Real names should have privacy controls

Google+ has generally comprehensive privacy controls (one can even restrict disclosure of one's gender), but real names are an exception. (If you attempt to change the control, you will find that it is stuck at disclosure to "Anyone on the web".) It is a privacy issue to not allow real names to be hidden, and the only way to allow this is to allow an alternative primary method of identification - either pseudonymity itself or via one's e-mail address (which in this context would probably also be a pseudonym).

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People use anonymity to avoid abusive treatment.

While it's true some people hide behind a pseudonym to spam, harass or troll, other people do not. Having said that, many people use a pseudonym to help protect themselves from direct abuse and mistreatment directed at them by others. There are rare but very real cases of someone trolling another on the internet and going so far as to steal or otherwise harm the other individuals real identity or reputation because the information was available to do so.

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Controversial Circles Knowing Real Name is Dangerous to Privacy

But now that those one's controversial circle(s) know one's real name, they are armed to inflict perhaps catastrophic damage upon the reputation and livelihood of the participant.

Depending upon the nature of these various circles, knowledge of real name between them opens up possibilities of extortion and betrayal (perhaps an innocent slip of the tongue).

Examples: Teenager who is closeted homosexual and a gay "friend", perhaps even inadvertently, reveals his/her sexuality to the wrong crowd.
Lawyer/Doctor who can't speak his personal political views without alienating clients.
Someone seeking help for substance abuse in a support group doesn't want casual acquaintances of that circle armed with damaging information/experiences and a real name for extortion/blackmail purposes.
A club supporting the liberation of various tyrannies are subject to grave dangers themselves if they do not use pseudonyms.
Activists are threatened without the use of pseudonyms.

The list goes on and on...

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Public posts seen by all your circles

If you want to post something for public view, all of your subscribers will see it and it will be attributed to the full name associated with your account. Thus, even if you segment aspects of yourself into different circles for semi-private conversation, you cannot reach a larger audience without outing some aspect of yourself.

This problem could be mitigated if you were allowed to associate multiple public names with your account and then select which public name goes in the author/byline for the post. (of course, the other solution is to have multiple accounts where at least one is under a pseudonym).

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Multiple identities, each with good reputation

People should have the right to maintain multiple identities and build up reputation for each. We already do this in real life (reputation in my family vs at work). Many do this online such as reputation of an identity in an online gaming community vs a professional identity. We are all made up of many different identities and this becomes more true the older we get. My political identity, religious identity, hobbies-identities, work identity, and family identities are all different parts of me that make up the totality of who I am. Unfortunately, if the whole picture is put out there in one big package under my wallet name, I've overshared with the world and I run the risk of losing credibility among any people who think that certain aspects of my total package of identities detracts from who they want me to be when they associate with me.

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Disconnecting your online identity can help you manage your reputation

It is true that people will look at what you do on the internet when applying for a job and such. But, not all of that information is necessary for the employer to know. Assuming a pseudonym for your online life can help prevent them from finding the information you don't want them to, and allow you to cultivate the reputation that *is* associated with your legal name.

Simply put, your personal life is none of your employer's business, and sometimes you have to take steps to protect that from nosey bosses and colleagues.

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A pseudonym identity can be a tool to change oneself

Often when someone assumes a new identity, it is the "ideal" version of oneself that the person wishes to become. Maybe it's someone more outgoing, or with more confidence, or who has lost weight. Identifying as this "better" person can be a great motivation to help you become that person.

Being "forced" into the identity you do not like can be equally demotivating.

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Pseudonymous is NOT the same as anonymous

Anonymous means no name is attributed or, on the internet, one could extend anonymity to toss-away sockpuppet/troll/spam accounts.

Pseudonymous, on the internet, typically means that a name is used in a consistent manner. Many bloggers and online community members responsibly use pseudonyms to discuss topics that interest them. Many of these people protect the reputation of their identity. In fact, I've known people to purposefully change their pseudonym to reflect a larger change in their inner self (their beliefs, interests, and positions).

Pseudonyms are not part of the swamp. They say who we are just as much, if not more so, than our choice in clothing, accessories, and physical appearance.

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Massive online photo databases can ID anyone walking down the street

Requiring us to put real photos of ourselves next to our real names is a massive attack on privacy and safety.

"As a proof of concept, the Carnegie Mellon researchers also developed an iPhone app that can take a photograph of someone, pipe it through facial recognition software, and then display on-screen that person's name and vital statistics."

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... or is it?

In the end, everything Google does is a business decision, and google's primary business is selling advertising. G+ is another channel for Google to gain information about you and another place to advertise to you.

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Some people do not personally identify with their legal name

There are many reasons a person doesn't identify with their legal name:
* Transgendered persons almost always have a different name for their other-sex identity.
* People with "passed down" names like Joe Smith IV may not often use their legal name, since the person they inherited the name from, or passed the name to, usually lives in the same house. Three family members named "William" quickly become "Will", "Bill", "Willy" or even simply "Bubba".
* Some people identify with a religious name that was given to them later in life
* Sometimes your legal name is just so bad, or has bad associations beyond your control, that you simply do not want to identify with that name.

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Linking real names to pseudonyms would be a bigger privacy issue

Some people have reasons to have separeted identities and havein g a public profile that links them whould be a real problem. Someone could have a "work and friends" identity and a "political/sexual/religion opinions" identity that he/she uses to express his/hers ideas on controvertial topics that can create problems with coworkers and family. Having the nickname in the profile would link the controvertial ideas to the family/worker name so the person involved would bo forced to choose between alienating friends/family/coworkers and repress his/hers ideas.

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You can do business with someone who is using a pseudonym

One may be employed, do business, and enter into other contracts, and sue and be sued under any name they choose at will (Lindon v. First National Bank 10 F. 894, Coppage v. Kansas 236 U.S. 1, In re McUlta 189 F. 250).

Such a change carries exactly the same legal weight as a court-decreed name change as long as it is not done with fraudulent intent (In re McUlta 189 F. 250, Christianson v. King County 196 F. 791, United States v. McKay 2 F.2d 257).

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You can't search for pictures like you can for names

Even if you know how the person looks like, there exists at the time no option to upload a picture and search for people looking like it. To find your friend John Smith you'd potentially have to look at every single photo of them before finding your friend. And even if the option was there, you'd have to have the picture first.

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Nicknames aren't searchable

This makes the field useless for searching people. Additionally, since it's visible only in the user's profile and not in the search results or in the hovercard, not even having their first or last name can guarantee that you find the right person without having to check every profile returned by the search.

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Google has already been cited by the FTC for Deceptive Privacy Practices

"FTC Charges Deceptive Privacy Practices in Google's Rollout of Its Buzz Social Network

Google Agrees to Implement Comprehensive Privacy Program to Protect Consumer Data"

Google has released Google+ with a confusing, obscure, and possibly illegal name policy despite agreeing to a settlement with the FTC specifically stating that Google will not implement a confusing or obscure policy.

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names in non latin scripts

If someone has a legal name that is in a non-latin script such as Japanese or Arabic, but interacts online in English their name would be rather hard to type for people they talk to if they can't have a romanised pseudonym

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We don't know who most corporations are

Corporations are a maze of parent companies and private interest groups that are extremely well hidden. There are offshoot companies, front companies and myriad other ways to hide those who want to be hidden. As long as we perform our promised function, there is no reason for individuals to be any more exposed than corporations.

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G+ is not 4chan

Google+ does not allow anonymity, 4chan prefers it.

Pseudonymity is not anonymity. When one has an established online identity they are more likely to shape their arguments based on the history of that identity.

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You can only build up a reputation if you have a consistent identity

your online and real world reputation go hand in hand these days, you will be googled for job applications and people in your professional network and they will expect to find your online presence and positive impact in your field of expertise. If they can't find examples of your contribution on the internet because you are hiding behind a pseudonym then you are disadvantaging yourself.

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G+ is not 4chan

If you want to moan about your job or be hurtful and spiteful to others with no consequences to your own online reputation then please go exercise your freedom to do so on the rest of the internet. Look at the attached thread on reddit(pseudonyms) about an image from 4chan(anonymous) and you will see that if anonymity and pseudonyms were banned then nothing of value would be lost.

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Identical twins will be identified by photo AND name, not just either one

Straw man fallacy: the previous point did not suggest identification by photo only.

The original argument posited that people with common names can be mistaken for one another, and the counter-argument stated that even people with common names can be told apart by using their photo. Identical twins will not have the same name, so the "identical twins" argument holds no water.

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so don't use a social network

nobody is forced to use a social network, it is a tool to organise your relationships with other people and map out your social graph. If you are going to keep these people at arms length and not tell them your name then why bother using a social network?

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