Nymwars: I Told You So.

Remember back in October when Google glad-handed the world with a press release about pseudonyms that the credulous lapped up and called a "victory"? And I predicted:

I'll bet they still require you to register with your "real" name, but then they'll graciously allow you to have a linked nickname or two, meaning they're still fully prepared to roll over on you to authoritarian governments or advertisers at the drop of a hat.

Yup, that's exactly what they did. EFF's post more-or-less translates Google's latest press release into English and softly and timidly explains that this doesn't really mean anything.

(I understand that EFF feels the need to continue to fellate Google on this issue so that Google will return their phone calls, but calling this bullshit anything other than "bullshit" is bullshit.)

Google emphasizes how few people are affected by this policy by pointing out that only 0.1% of users have submitted name appeals, and of that 0.1%, only 20% were seeking to use a pseudonym, but even though their numbers are small, these are often the people who need social networks the most. These are the revolutionaries, the bloggers in authoritarian regimes, the isolated minorities reaching out to the rest of the world for understanding and support. If Google+ hopes to be a global company on the side of those seek to use technologies to build a free society, it needs to make room for the people working (often under adverse conditions) to create that world, instead of dismissing them as edge cases.

I have heard a vicious, unsubstantiated rumor that that last sentence -- before EFF's Google-apologists watered it down by projecting unbelievably high-minded aspirations onto Google -- originally read:

If Google+ hopes to be anything other than a room full of white middle-class Western men talking to one another, it needs to make room for these people instead of dismissing them as edge cases.

Oh, also, Google announces privacy changes across products; users can't opt out.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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15 Responses:

  1. Not coincidentally, Google has also started seriously fudging the numbers on G+ usage.

    There isn't enough popcorn in the world.

  2. Maybe Benedict Hirvi starts spreading stuffed-toyist propaganda on Google+.

    • Nick Lamb says:

      Sure, if you make sure Benedict is just a page attached to your existing account then Google will leave it alone. However, since it isn't a real person it won't be able to go around prodding people and sending them bullshit they didn't ask for, they will have to seek out your propaganda and sign up for it. Maybe their friends will recommend it to them.

      Or, you can do what you did on Facebook and pretend Benedict is a real person. Whereupon if you bug someone (or they just see your name and aren't amused) the account will get banned.

  3. Jason! says:

    Google+ doesn't have to worry about shepherding revolutionaries. Any decent revolution needs a way to manage public and private events; and I'm pretty sure we'll see worldwide democratic peace before Google rolls that feature out.

  4. I am dreading the announcment when Google+ becomes mandatory and I have to move all my email out of GMail. I didn't think it was too much to ask to have a free email service that didn't come with social networking strings attached (including the possibility of having all your access revoked by griefers), but I guess I was foolish. Serves me right for handing my data to Google, I suppose.

    • antabakayt says:

      I think that just happened.

    • Simon C. Ion says:

      > I am dreading the announcment when Google+ becomes mandatory and I have to move all my email out of GMail.

      Isn't that worry addressed by enabling GMail's IMAP support and *not signing in* to your Google account in your browser?

      • I'm more worried about the "someone reports my account and my email becomes unavailable" scenario than the "Google is tracking everything I do" scenario. I kind of figured the latter was already the case.

  5. Jim Strathmeyer says:

    "Google emphasizes how few people are affected by this policy by pointing out that only 0.1% of users have submitted name appeals, and of that 0.1%, only 20% were seeking to use a pseudonym" So, by our numbers, we're banning 80% of our users for illegitimate reasons?

  6. John Doe says:

    "Google emphasizes how few people are affected by this policy by pointing out that only 0.1% of users have submitted name appeals, and of that 0.1%, only 20% were seeking to use a pseudonym"

    Is that 0.1% of all users, or 0.1% of users whose accounts were blocked by Google? If it's the latter, why would Google take the percentage of all users, as if users whose account wasn't blocked would have any reason to submit a name appeal? Is that PR intended for stupid people?

  7. Q says:

    Swiss Banks have been forced to reveal customer information for tax purposes, so I don't think relying on a US company for any type of privacy you can't completely control is very good. Right now, I'm fairly certain that one JWZ could be rolled by an ISP for some type of copyright infringement at the least for downloading something for personal use. I'm a little paranoid, but basically I'm pretty sure the government has access to anything we aren't encrypting, and if I have to rely on someone out there in the tubes to not roll on me, even that's questionable.

    As I warned people when I got a g+ account "Also, when the FBI finds me, this will be the first circle they search." I just try to limit my online posting, I guess, and hope I don't end up living in a repressive regime...oh shit!

  8. Ben says:

    If only 0.0002% of their user base would use pseudonyms, why not just let them?

    Oh, right, they can't because they know a lot of people would use it if it were an option.

  9. I don't understand - I was reinstated to Google+ today as a pseudonymous user. I was not required to supply my "real" name.