EFF declares premature victory in Nymwars

In a shamefully credulous statement, they say:

Proponents of pseudonymity scored a major victory today, when Google executive Vic Gundotra revealed at the Web 2.0 Summit that social networking service Google+ will begin supporting pseudonyms and other types of identity.

According to Mashable, Google+ will be "adding features that will 'support other forms of identity' in the next few months."

Google's statement is obvious bullshit, and here's why. The way you "support" pseudonyms is as follows:

  1. Stop deleting peoples' accounts when you suspect that the name they are using is not their legal name.
  2. There is no step 2.

Whatever Google is planning cannot be that, because they think it will take them months to implement. This means they are planning something far more complicated than telling their "abuse" team, "Here is our new policy", and so you can be certain that they're going to fuck it up in some new and exciting way.

My guess? 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.

Fuck those guys, seriously.

Previously, previously, previously.

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100 Responses:

  1. chort says:

    My thought process was exactly the same. Why is the EFF kissing their ass when Google is obviously trying to disambiguate & monetize identities, which has the side effect of making G+ the motherlode for LEAs.

  2. tesseractive says:

    If you can always go by your nym of choice on G+, I'm not sure that it matters very much that you also have to represent to them that your name is Jane Smith. Unless you can't really go by a nym all the time (possible) or they start checking real life ID (unlikely), your name doesn't actually have to be Jane Smith.

    The old approach was obstructive and prevented people from doing useful things. The new approach is likely to be pointless and self-defeating, but not obstructive any more. Win?

    • Ben Brockert says:

      Please read any of the prior threads about this. They have indeed been checking real life ID for names they consider suspect.

      • That's if they consider the name itself suspect (like if it's a company name, or an obvious online handle). As far as I know, they've never gone after someone called "Hank Brickart" because they suspected his real name was "Ben Brockert" (for instance).

        • Ben Brockert says:

          He suggested that they are not checking real life ID. That is not the case.

          It has been shown that they will ask for ID for reasons other than them considering the name suspect. Their exact implemented policy on it remains unknown.

          The idea that anyone should ever need to show ID to use a social network is so fucked up that I find it astonishing that it is a point of discussion.

          • tesseractive says:

            You're right, I forgot that they were spot-checking IDs under some circumstances. Thank you for the reminder of that ridiculous fact.

            And if you're right that they're spot checking names for other reasons, that's something I hadn't known at all. I figured that pulling a name from a (hypothetical) Random WASP Name Generator would be sufficient for avoiding inquiries.

            • aestetix says:

              Actually, as one of the former G+ users who was asked to submit government issued ID, I can attest that not only was there no evident reason for demanding ID, but they don't seem to have any good/secure policies in place for handling it. Further, my friend Sai had his account suspended even though Sai is on his government issued ID.

              For those curious, I published all of my correspondence with Google Plus. Less than a month after that exchange and a really oddly timed reinstatement of my account at the end, my account was suspended again. At that point, I realized it would be an endless, pointless battle full of unexplained policies and unwritten rules, so I left.

              I really like Google Plus. I think it's a great platform, and had a lot of potential. However, I won't use it anymore because I have no way of knowing whether someone will randomly suspend my account when I really need it.

              • RzDz says:

                I followed the link to aestetix 's correspondence with google and was immediately stopped by google and told that my account was blocked because my g+ name did not conform to their name policy. I haven't used g+ since I first heard about their name policy, so that was fine with me. I went ahead and deleted my g+ account at that point and could care less about it.

    • Hub says:

      I was using my real name and they asked me to change it. What do you say now?

      • tesseractive says:

        I say (a) that's appalling and lame (b) it's a separate issue from pseudonymity.

        • Hub says:

          I have to disagree.

          It just mean they have arbitrary rules as they can't distinguish a real name from pseudonymous - as suggested above, unless everybody has to submit a piece of ID. It is part of the problem as a whole, and jwz solution to the problem is the only one worth it.

    • foljs says:

      No --you win when *you* impose *your* terms, not when Google changes its terms to something that allows you to sorta-kinda bypass its requirements.

      Also their new approach would be "pointless and self-defeating, but not obstructive" ONLY for those giving fake "real names" to cheat it. Whereas, if it didn't require to give real name AT ALL, it would be harmless for EVERYBODY.

      That is even to people who would like to use a pseudonym but give their real name because they:

      1) are intimidated by Google insistence
      2) they are reassured that the real name wont be shown

  3. Or, you can make the radical choice to not use Google+.

    Kinda just like everyone else is doing.

    • jwz says:

      "If you don't like it, don't use it" is the coward's way out of an argument, and it's dishonest. You're allowed to have an opinion of whether a product suits your needs that is more subtle than "buy / don't buy", and people who try to reduce all criticism to that binary proposition are either being deliberately dense to push their agenda, or are... well, being unintentionally dense, I guess.

      Especially when that product is being pushed by an 800 pound gorilla like Google.

      "If you don't like how every extant phone company behaves, then don't buy a cell phone" might have seemed a reasonable response from someone like you back in the 80s. Today it would sound pretty ridiculous.

      • This is not heart medicine, it's yet another social network. Probably feels great 'waging war' against google, but there's a good chance this product isn't going to make it. Plus, willing to bet Google has no idea this conversation is happening.

        I think the true cowards way is to sit around and cut down someone else's product rather than using that energy to create your own.

        • jwz says:

          Oh! "If you don't like it, write your own!" Well played, trollboy. Well played.

          • Don Hopkins says:

            How much money have YOU donated to disappointora, trollboy?

          • No no no, you're missing the point - stop bitching and do something productive.

            Think I'll take my own advice, adieu!

            • Mark says:

              You are reading a blog, on the internet. You are commenting on that blog, complaining that the author of said blog criticized something else on or about the internet.

              Consider spending a few minutes reflecting on these facts.

            • > stop bitching and do something productive

              I'm confused, are you saying that Jamie's contributions to open source software and internet standards do not count as doing something productive?

              • Anonymous says:

                Well, obviously. I mean, he wrote xscreensaver -- the combined hours all *n*x users have wasted over the past couple decades staring at the more interesting hacks easily wipes out any positive productivity he may be credited with. ;)

                • LionsPhil says:

                  I spent part of this morning writing a small shell script to chew up uptimes, network info, various other boring system noise, and ddate to fit nicely on the virtual Apple ][ display which decorates my locked screen.

                  It was time well spent.

                  • jwz says:

                    Screen shots!

                  • LionsPhil says:

                    I apparently can't reply at that depth, so here: screenshot, script.

                    (It took a few minutes to get apple2 installed in a VM to take the shot, and much longer to futilely play MIME-overrides to try to make Firefox just show text/plain as plain text before giving up and making people deal with a download dialogue if they're using it. That is software which wastes time. :| )

                    In theory you could perhaps remove the sleep and add -fast to apple2 to use this like some kind of insane system monitor.

          • foljs says:

            Not to be Captain Obvious or anything, but wouldn't a look at his face/gravatar solve all mystery? The guy *is* dense.

          • Kyzer says:

            But seriously, this is the actual answer. People should run their own servers which host all their blog posts, comments on other people's sites, public key, etc -- much like they host email right now. Discussion websites or facebook-like social websites should transclude from each person's site, with strong caching (a-la NNTP). A simple protocol would you to post a comment on the Facebook-like site. You still enter text on the webpage and press 'submit' but it actually goes both to your own site (to sign and publish the comment), and then to the Facebook-like site, to decide if it'll deign to include your comment, and if so it'll need the URL. Each message can be cryptographically signed so a third party can prove authenticity and identity without actually having to reveal that identity or trust the aggregator.

            For people who can't afford or don't want to run their own server, companies like Google could offer free hosting provided they let them insert adverts into their profile/comments.

            That was pretty much Ted Nelson's vision since the 1960s. He failed because it's hard to implement right and get people to agree it'll work that way. They prefer to be a trusted third party and give people no other choice because it offers them more control.

            • jwz says:

              People should do all kinds of things, and I should have a pony.

              This is why Diaspora exists, but you may have noticed that it has gone fucking nowhere.

              So, like I often say, "good luck with that."

              Google is the only credible alternative to Facebook that has emerged so far, so efforts to convince Google to change their policies to suck less than Facebook's seem to me to be the best bet. It's a long shot, but not nearly as much of a long shot as is getting any non-trivial number of people to use something like Diaspora.

            • LionsPhil says:

              Let's be fair here: Ted also failed hugely because he wanted to patent and monetize the fuck out of it and shrouds Xanadu in semi-secrecy, whereas Tim said "hey guys have a thing go forth and do whatever nobody really has control".

              Hell, as far as I know (and I've read quite a bit of his stuff as academic research and met him in person a couple of times) he's never quite explained how exactly the magical backend-to-backend sync is supposed to work. Guy has vision, but lacks in getting it executed, and getting it ubiquitous.

        • Chaos Crafter says:

          Actually, not using google+ can be tantamount to locking yourself in a cell.
          I have elected not to use it because of it's policy on pseudonyms, and because they don't (yet) support google apps accounts.
          The consequence is that about twice a day I hear someone say "Oh, sorry, I assumed you'd be there - I put it on ggogle"
          When most of your social circle relies on a common tool (be that mobile phones, google+, war-drums or whatever), not using it isolates you from the group. So your suggestion of "just don't use it" is like suggesting that if people don't like hearing swearing they should cut their ears off.

          I do understand that the pseudonym debate must sound like a lot of white-noise to anyone to whom it doesn't matter. A bit like debates on quality of mastectomy bras sound to most guys. If that's where you are, then the polite thing is to be quiet, and let the people who are affected by the issue bring up the problems they see. If you are interested, read deeply, and try to make sure you understand the reason for their upset before you barge in.
          Chiming in with the equivalent of "If you've had a mastectomy you won't need a bra" just makes you a prat. (I was going to say makes you sound like a prat, but actions define us.)

          So to finish - why did you feel the need to post "Or, you can make the radical choice to not use Google+."
          Did you feel you were contibuting an idea no-one had considered?
          Or were you just saying to everyone "Shutup! I don't want to hear your complaints even if they are important to you and may have some validity"
          'Cause if that second one is you you are a priviledged prat, and I hope one day you find yourself the victim of a government witch-hunt.
          And if it's the first, then please, have some respect - the situation isn't black-and-white, and very few people bother raising issues if they are not affected. We wouldn't be complaining if there wasn't some real issue.

          • Simon C. Ion says:

            "Oh, sorry, I assumed you'd be there - I put it on ggogle"

            IIRC, you can add "email only" friends that get spammed notified by email when they get @mentioned in a post or whatever. Maybe suggest to your friends that they do this?

          • ac says:

            I see his as a response that effectively drives to the heart of the disagreement.

            For example, following your counterargument, I take issue with you equating "don't use it" to cutting your ears off. That signals to me that you may be acting as the "priviledged prat" here in your expectations of services being made suitable for you, just because someone makes a service that is important to you.

            • foljs says:

              " you may be acting as the "priviledged prat" here in your expectations of services being made suitable for you, just because someone makes a service that is important to you."

              Right, instead of doing the normal thing and bending over backwards...

              • ac says:

                So if someone makes a service that's not suitable for me, my being okay with that is "bending over backwards"? This is what makes responses like "just don't use it" totally justified.

                Don't get me wrong -- it's fine for you to express your wish for the service to suit your wishes. But one should avoid getting on the high horse of expecting it as an obligation to you, and saying "fuck those guys" if it doesn't happen.

                • jwz says:

                  To be clear, I'm not saying "fuck those guys" because they are not providing a service that I want. (Personally, I use my real name, you may have noticed.) I'm saying "fuck those guys" because I think their behavior and motivations are morally reprehensible.

        • cw says:

          "This is not heart medicine"

          You may not care if everyone on the web finds you an asshole, but I don't want my personal name tied to everything I type forever.

      • If "If you don't like it, don't use it" is truly a coward's answer then what do you think of Google Buzz and Google Wave? Apparently the gorilla doesn't quite tip the scale at 800 pounds.

        You know if this were a television show and people were trying to get it altered, the online outcry about censorship would be deafening. I fail to see how this is really that much different. Can you explain to me how it is that what people who are yelling and screaming about not being able to use pseudonyms is that very much different than people wanting to tell me what I can (and cannot) watch on TV. If I don't like a TV show, I don't watch it. If enough people don't watch a show (or use a web service for that matter) it goes away. The math is pretty direct.

        • jwz says:

          Yeah, being concerned about side-effects like this is exactly like your online petition to get Firefly back on the air.

          Totally the same thing!

          • Can you speak to the point about Google Buzz and Google Wave or are you just going to resort to ad hominem arguments? If I'm wrong about Google Buzz and Google Wave and their fates, please explain to me what it is that I've missed. And explain to me how it is that Google is going to force Google+ down our throats when they couldn't force Buzz or Wave on us.

            And if not being allowed to use a pseudonym is such a terrible thing then where is the hue and cry about Facebook? They have exactly the same policy but I don't hear anyone trying to force them to change their ways.

            • jwz says:

              Maybe Plus will fail just like Wave did. Who knows.

              You seem to be claiming that just because a product might fail is a reason to not point out what's wrong with that product.

              If you think that nobody's criticizing Facebook about this exact same thing, you haven't been listening. Seriously, "I don't hear anyone trying to force them to change their ways"? Open your fucking ears, dude.

              I didn't post about Facebook because Facebook aren't the ones who just came out with a disingenuous load of bullshit about how they are going to support pseudonyms real soon now and everything's fine.

              • You're misunderstanding me a little bit. I'm not saying "Don't criticize". Criticize as much as you like. I am saying the best way to get a commercial entity (be it Google or Facebook or whoever) to change their product is not to use it. If few enough people are willing to use a product--like Buzz and Wave--then said product will not be profitable and it will go away. Or the company providing the product will figure out what people don't like and fix it. Criticize all you like. I just think that the lesson of Buzz and Wave is that voting by staying off of the service is a far more effective strategy to get Google to change things.

                • Mark says:

                  In fact, if you're jwz, it's pretty much an indisputable fact that complaining about it on your blog is going to have a bigger impact than quietly opting out.

                • foljs says:

                  "I am saying the best way to get a commercial entity (be it Google or Facebook or whoever) to change their product is not to use it."

                  Really? Thanks, Einstein. And in what way will they change it? Add more green icons? What message exactly does the sole "I don't use your product" convey?

                  I also thought that "not using it" was the best way to get them to DROP a product, not change it. Sorta like, you know, Wave, Buzz, etc...

            • Elusis says:

              You keep using that term. I do not think it means what you think it means.

          • Jason Punyon says:

            (Hands palms up tipping back and forth like scales) Internet Anonymity, Extreme Violence from Drug Cartels, Internet Anonymity, Extreme Violence from Drug Cartels.

            Yeah, I didn't know what to get pissed off about from that story either :)

          • ac says:

            I don't see why that outrage should be directed at a social service that requires real names. Explain?

            If people using the service avoid saying things that will get them in trouble when connected to their identity, then this result wouldn't happen. That's the same thing you and I have to practice while speaking in public.

            • You mean like the people murdered in Mexico for what they said about the narcos on twitter?

              • ac says:

                Sure, my same point applies (though I read it was for blogging, not twitter).

                If people using the service avoid saying things that will get them in trouble when connected to their identity, then this result wouldn't happen. That's the same thing you and I have to practice while speaking in public.

                • Natanael L says:

                  Then the problem will become that you can't ever say anything at all, because without loud complaints against these social networks there will soon not be any ones left that let you stay anonymous.

                  • ac says:

                    No way...why would you think you can't say anything at all (without anonymity)? It's not as if there's nothing we can say in public!

                    Maybe to cut to the chase, it seems like you're focusing on the desire for a platform where you can say things that WOULD get you in trouble if connected to your identity. And while I can identify with that desire, I haven't seen any decent justification to DEMAND that from an offered service.

                  • Natanael L says:

                    @ac: I know we've got no absolute natural right to demand such things. What we CAN do is to tell them what we want loud enough that they can't ignore it.
                    Sooner or later SOMEBODY will provide the service if there's enough demand.

                  • ac says:

                    I see that service (social+anonymity) as already available with facebook/twitter, while we are lacking in the service of social+validated, which is additionally valuable.

                    But generally I don't have much issue with your position of iterating that it's what you want -- my issue is more with what justifies jwz raising it to the level of "fuck those guys".

        • cw says:

          "If "If you don't like it, don't use it" is truly a coward's answer then "

          Nope, that phrase is still a lazy coward's way out.

      • damy says:

        If you are not paying for it, you are the product!

      • gryazi says:

        Having managed to purchase a cell phone that can only organize its contacts by syncing with gmail, fuck these guys, seriously.

        (I would be less bitter if the updates to the carrier's mandatory apps weren't running me out of internal Flash, as I discovered when I audaciously tried to answer an incoming call. While driving. Phones go on my list of things I only want to have to sysadmin when I want to. But at least it's great for port-a-porn.)

  4. Thomas Lord says:

    And here I thought I was the only one who thought EFF has been going soft.

  5. [...] Source: Tweet @ SwiftstoriesWeb2.0サミットで、グーグルのソーシャルビジネス部門、シニアVPのVic Gundotra氏が、グーグルは、これまでの厳格な実名制から、匿名性も認めるよう間もなく変更する予定、と発言した。サンノゼ・マーキュリー・ニュースとSiliconValley.comで新聞記者をしているマイク・スウィフト氏がツイッターで報道している。以下はそのツイートの画像。最近、グーグル社内のエンジニアが痛烈にGoogle+を批判したり、グーグルの経営幹部層がGoogle+を積極的居活用していないことが話題になっているが、早速Google+の戦略の軌道修正を始めたようだ。追加:Mashableも同様のニュースを報道している。この報道によると、匿名性を導入するのはこの先数カ月以内とのこと。一方、このGoogle+の匿名利用については、懐疑的な声が既に挙がっている。これまで、法的に認められた氏名とは異なる名前でGoogle+へアカウント登録したユーザが、そのアカウントをグーグルによって差し止められるというケースが起きていた。この差し止めを行わない代わりに、Google+への登録は実名だが、公開する名前はニックネームも可能といった運用にするのではないかと言う声がある。これでは本当の匿名利用とは言えないというのが懐疑論者の意見。Googleは、具体的にどのような運用やルールとするかについて、詳細は発表していない。 Tweet [Translate] [...]

  6. [...] [toread] EFF declares premature victory in Nymwars | jwz – [...]

  7. [...] [toread] EFF declares premature victory in Nymwars | jwz – [...]

  8. Soleil says:

    The way you "support" pseudonyms is as follows:

    1. Stop deleting peoples' accounts when you suspect that the name they are using is not their legal name.
    2. There is no step 2.

    This. This. A thousand times this.

    • Darael says:

      I would venture to suggest that, while a damn sight better than what we have now, we'd immediately have a few wishlist features, to whit:
      -Different names shown for different circles
      -Public sharing with name-to-share-under selectable from a list

      The two-point plan is great, as far as it goes, though.

  9. Watts says:

    Of course it's going to be more complex. To Google everything is an engineering problem, including social issues. "Stop deleting people's accounts" is not an engineered solution.

  10. Jason Punyon says:

    I don't think Google needs your real name to roll over on you to authoritarian governments and advertisers.

  11. Real Name says:

    Sounds like they are talking about their planned feature for Limited Liability Persona like corporations and brands that don't happen to be a public relations firm posing as a celebrity, just like you can have your brand page on Facebook if you like. I note that the statement is not necessarily credulous, they might mean to give people the impression this is going to come so Google will face more bad publicity when they do not deliver.

  12. swami says:

    Google + is overrated lets see what happens in the near future; Yeah its probably for Brands but here is my case against google +; you cannot succeed in life if you are trying to outdo someone or other people. You have to want to use the product and make the product for yourself in order for others to enjoy it. Sure people use it but would be really use it if it didn't have the google name? Highly Doubt it!!

  13. Matt says:

    jwz, you've become an irrelevant blowhard relic, bleating to a shrinking audience while the internet born generations get on with life.


    • I hope he posts traffic numbers, because I'm pretty sure this blog reaches way more people than you might suspect. Jamie says something and it ends up on the front pages of some pretty big sites.

      • Matt says:

        Jeremy, I said shrinking, not small. To the savvy, internet born masses today, he is irrelevant. jwz's audience represents an internet age gap.

        These "nymwars" rantings represent a connection with a fantasy vision from the past, of a digital future that will never come, and a fundamental disconnect with what the internet born actually want.

        jwz and his ilk's cyberpunk fantasy has slipped away, never realised, and the younger generations who've grown up immersed in the internet just don't care about what the older generation's fist waving rants say they should want.

        All the rationalisations based on white knighting for imaginary defenceless women and middle east activists are self deceptions. It's a fascinating study in delusion and projection, to be sure.

        • Terry Glass says:

          I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "internet born", but I'm going to operate under the assumption that you mean when the internet really opened up to the masses in the mid 90s. That would make your "internet born" folks all minors. Kids historically haven't know what they need, and I doubt that this generation is any different.

          • Matt says:

            Terry, it's not a scientific term. I would consider anyone who was on the net during puberty (when socialising becomes serious business) would be a better measure. So that includes people in their early thirties.

            But most dominantly I'm hearing the perspective from people in their 20s. They hear what jwz's ilk are saying, they understand it, they're politically aware, and to them it's extremist and disconnected from reality.

            • Ben Brockert says:

              I'm 29 and I think you're a twat.

            • I'm 26 and I think you don't know what you're talking about. You're taking a small set of interactions and extrapolating it into assumptions about a broad spectrum of people. This, while not wrong, shouldn't be defended with this kind of purple prose; heavy on the metaphors and light on the logic.

            • Darael says:

              I'm nineteen, and I, too, think that to call the push for pseudonymity "extremist and disconnected from reality" is simply ridiculous. I know that I, for example, would like to be able to keep what I write as Darael different from what I write as the other 'nyms I go by, without my "real" name entering into it at all. The names are for different audiences and have different content, and why should the members of one audience have to get used to my "real" name just to find me?

        • fyngyrz says:

          Matt, you represent an unfortunately large group of individuals who poorly understand privacy and liberty; both what comprises them and the value of them to whatever degree they can be implemented.

          This isn't, most likely, your fault, as government and corporate interests have been working very diligently to convince everyone they can that privacy is outmoded and that these ideas themselves are overrated. However, your lack of vision does not, in fact, change the benefits that privacy and liberty convey.

          While you gambol about on Facebook, etc., there are others working to see to it that these social trends claim fewer victims -- now and in the future. Privacy is important. Your view that it is outmoded is not.

          • Matt says:

            "Matt, you represent an unfortunately large group of individuals who poorly understand privacy and liberty."

            I'm afraid that's not true. It would certainly help your position if myself and others were ignorant of either history, facts, or the various ideological arguments, but you don't get to own that. Your position has no claim to greater knowledge or understanding.

            I could just as easily accuse you of lacking vision and informed perspective. In fact, I do.

            • jwz says:

              Your vague, undefended assertions and personal attacks, while adorable, are getting repetitive. Contribute something or take it to your own blog.

              • Matt says:

                I've already contributed all I want. That your perspective is disconnected from what people actually want and believe they need, and frankly has become shrill and increasingly irrelevant. It represents an internet age gap. I think the evidential support for that is overwhelming in the social networking world, so there's no need to highlight anything specifically.

                That's all. I'm done here :)

        • Joe says:

          Ha, "imaginary defenceless women" indeed. Men can be stalking victims, too. If you think the internet doesn't have a stalking problem, then you are some kind of bot.

          And the cops know how to use facebook, too. Don't need be in the middle east to get in trouble.

    • cw says:

      Sorry, I only pay attention to half-cocked idiots who post using their real names.

    • Pat Gunn says:

      Not all of us have signed on to whatever confluence of values and principles condemn any real-name requirements on the internet, but calling jwz names really doesn't help the discussion. Maybe what you mean is: not everyone is with you in this struggle. That's a fair thing to say, particularly given the stridency of jwz's position without a lot of argument as to why the rest of us should agree with him. Why not just say that? At least then reasonable discussion is possible (whether it happens or not is up to everyone else).

      (fwiw, I'm not actually against or for against real-name policies; I think it's reasonable that sites might make either choice and mainly want to argue against anyone who says either choice is unreasonable. Militant neutrality, perhaps)

      • Matt says:

        No, really, I said what I meant. It was intentionally a comment on jwz's diminished relevance and connection with contemporary mores, intentionally said in an insulting fashion. I meant it to be rude and disrespectful.

        If I thought debating the topic with jwz had any merit I would make deeper arguments. But the point is that his lack of relevance and connection voids his shrill proclamations, so debating his demands is largely pointless, and debating it here especially so. The arena for effective debate of this topic is not here, and not with jwz.

        • Pat Gunn says:

          Then why would you even bother saying anything? As jwz has opened his blog to comments, it's probably ok to disagree with him here, but I suspect it's a waste of time (and think it's kind of rude) to make comments that don't make much of an argument and are just meant to be rude and disrespectful.

          Besides, it's not like there's a shortage of people who are very pro-Nym. I'm about 10 years younger than jwz, and spent most of the last 10 years at CMU, and at least a fair number of the young geeks I know there consider the pro-Nym position as much of an "of course yes!" thing as jwz does. I would not call jwz out-of-touch with at least a reasonable portion of younger geeks (even as I don't agree with the pro-nym stance).

  14. jasonp says:

    [I am biased here]

    1) re: rolling over to authoritarian governments, http://www.google.com/transparencyreport/governmentrequests/
    2) Google is not verifying your real ID unless you sign up with a fake-sounding name. lazerboi69's ID gets checked Jack Horsey's does not. That seems like a pseudonym-friendly policy, no?

    • jwz says:

      Re 1: Policies change. Management changes. Databases never go away.

      Re 2: That does not sound pseudonym-friendly, it merely sounds like a policy that is capricious and inconsistently enforced. Certainly Google considers it a bug that Jack Horsey doesn't get IDed and will "fix" that some day, unless the policy changes to explicitly allow pseudonyms.

      Sure, you can cheat, and take the chance that you probably won't lose access to your GMail once they find out. It would be better if you didn't have to cheat in the first place.

    • Hub says:

      so why did they tell me my name was fake? I you JFGI it show that it is me. Maybe I should have used the name John Smith.

    • cw says:

      "Google is not verifying your real ID unless you sign up with a fake-sounding name. lazerboi69's ID gets checked Jack Horsey's does not. That seems like a pseudonym-friendly policy, no?"

      I don't see how. I signed up using my initials, they're now demanding to see a government-issued ID for whatever I change mine to after that, and will manually verify.

  15. classifieds says:

    Yup, and this comic reflects how in fact Google+ treats pseudonyms currently. Who knows, maybe they are really ready to change something?

  16. omnibot says:

    but, JWZ, how is this any different from using your real name on FB?

    • jwz says:

      It's not. Facebook has basically the same policy, and it's just as bad, for all the same reasons.

      The only real differences are: A) Google has been enforcing that policy with much more vigor than Facebook historically has; and B) Google Plus is still new and technically still in beta, and Google has explicitly asked for feedback on it, so a lot of people think there's a better chance of getting Google to change their ways than Facebook.

      • Ah, misguided optimism!

        (When the whole raison d'etre of the product is very clearly "suck advertisers away from Facebook", what were the odds that it was somehow going to be less designed for the advertisers' convenience and pleasure?)

        • jwz says:

          "Let that be a lesson to you, son: never try."

          Thank you for your valuable insight.

          • Sorry, that came out a bit prissier than I meant it. I'm just pretty sure that Vic and Larry have called their shot here: as you said back up in the OP, if they wanted to actually allow nyms, they could have done that yesterday, with no effort at all. And if the fact that multiple engineers have quit google specifically over this wasn't going to sway their opinion, then I think it's a safe assumption that they're catering to a different audience entirely.

            (My only personal regret about this is that I quit too early to make this my official reason. On the upside, I now get to point and laugh a lot.)

  17. YellowPigs says:

    (Full disclosure: I'm one of the engineers Doctor Memory is referring to.)

    > Whatever Google is planning cannot be that, because they think it will take them months to implement.


    For those who are interested in what Vic and Sergey actually said rather than just reading EFF's report, see https://www.youtube.com/user/TechWebTV#p/u/13/WN36NHZ5IG4. Pseudonyms are specifically discussed from 18:38-20:12. There are a lot of other interesting bits that give some insight into the Google/G+ strategy, for instance, 7:10-10:24 and 26:48-27:25.

  18. M Henri Day says:

    «... they're still fully prepared to roll over on you to authoritarian governments ...» Do you know any other kind, Jamie ? Can you name a government to which you would think it safe or proper to be «rolled over» ? The adjective is superfluous....


  19. Alex says:

    I do wonder if Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google's VP of Android engineering, has had any trouble getting G+ to accept his name. After all, how many people have, like, a Japanese first name and a German surname? Got to be a pseud!

  20. Nick Lamb says:

    It's fascinating because Google said this (nyms yes, but not now) from the outset, very publicly, and the pro-nym people basically ignored it in favour of throwing toys from the pram in large numbers. Whereas when they said the same about corporates, the corporations mostly seem to have stopped short of toy throwing.

    Google+ isn't and can't be the place to be Deep Throat. If you want to genuinely hide your identity from powerful adversaries, Google are neither able to help you nor interested in trying.

    But the vast majority of potential nym users don't want that. They're people who have two or more social identities which they'd rather weren't smeared into one blob. They're not worried about the IRS finding out their real name, but they may not want Mum to realise they post reviews of porn movies as "Dick Blowhard" or they may want to retain links to old friends without revealing their name has changed to "Joshua Adams" after they fled an abusive marriage.

    Google (I think correctly) guesses that they also do NOT want what our host describes. Sean Plott doesn't want to have to log out of Google+, log back in as Day[9], post about something cool that happened at MLG, then log out again, log back in as Sean Plott, and so on. That's a complete hassle.

    To handle this better, G+ needs to be able to have a user who is both Sean Plott and Day[9] and handle all the resulting interactions in a way that more or less fits the user's model of what's happening. Done right this is a huge improvement. Done well enough it resolves all the legitimate pro-nym scenarios leaving only the "Google need to protect me from the Zionists" nutcases, the people who want anonymity so that they can be dickheads and not incur any consequences and of course the spammers.

    • cw says:

      "G+ needs to be able to have a user who is both Sean Plott and Day[9] "

      You haven't given any reasons for this, even specious ones.

      "Google need to protect me from the Zionists" nutcases, the people who want anonymity so that they can be dickheads and not incur any consequences and of course the spammers."

      Yawn. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_ridicule

      • Nick Lamb says:

        I haven't given any reasons... except in the post you're replying to, which you chose to snip out?

        Ridicule is an entirely appropriate response to calls for Google (a for-profit US corporation) to protect people from the government, or for people to not even be held responsible to their own peers, and to the idea that spam is a legitimate marketing strategy. These ideas are, in fact, ridiculous.

  21. Sybyl says:

    I always give one of my real names to google...each one of my multiple personalities has their own name and would horrified to use the wrong name!

  22. [...] what it is today is pretty damn good. (Especially now that they’ve (more or less) stopped machine-gunning themselves in the foot, by publicly backing down from their stupid and [...]

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