The direction Google Plus and other social media sites are headed definitely makes real or false names online an important question. Some of them have using ‘real’ names as terms of service. It’s unlikely they have a way to track down a lier, and it also overlooks the real reasons why one might need to avoid using a real name.
The pros are obvious and apply mainly to real world relationships. It is rather helpful when people who aren’t familiar with the internet but are close to you can just look you up online by your real name. Maybe they forgot to get your e-mail address or phone number. It might be someone socially. It’s especially helpful for business who are more likely to know your real name and want to hire you.
The bad guys might use fake names in order to trick, con or bully others online. Likely trolls due, posting online and intentionally stirring up trouble. They like to post on forums and fan pages, in comment sections. They don’t mean to stir a good conversation, they just stir trouble by bashing others and diminishing their chances of enjoyment on the internet. And they might not stay on the internet if they can track their victims down in their real world with their real names.
The problem is this is not a safe world. User names aren’t just set up for fun, or even mischief, they are self protection.
Therefore the rest of us use usernames in order to protect ourselves from online predators. If we get to know someone under a username, we can decide to risk a real name on our terms. In addition, others may have reason to hide their real name from their real life. Maybe they don’t want their employer to know what they post. It could be they are a whistle blower or maybe they just don’t share political views. They may not want certain others to know either. What if they have a jealous ex stalking them? What if they are a police officer and don’t want the criminals with a grudge to discover their location via the internet? What if they are just that kid that gets bullied at school and doesn’t need to come home to be bullied on the internet? True, it could happen anyway. But the very least one can do to protect oneself is use a ‘user name’ that your enemies (be they child or adult) don’t know.
This is the danger of Google Plus and even Facebook with their sudden changes and determination to make connecting easy. They do so at the cost of our privacy, without asking us or warning us. Suddenly, you find people you don’t mind gaming with and chatting with in Google Plus circles, know your email address. It was changed without any warning. If you’ve been using Youtube for years and log into your Gmail, suddenly you may find yourself accidentally commenting on videos with your real name, even though you logged in with your user name and have always commented using it.
It was aggravating when Facebook switched our ‘real’ email to ‘their’ ones without an announcement. That should’ve been our choice, even if our choice was to drop Facebook. And Twitter has become a developers nightmare. Suddenly to create an app to stream to you website, you need a mobile number. Never mind if you don’t want to give it to them, or even don’t have one. (Yes, there are those who still don’t have them. Not many, but they do exist.)
But all of these social media sites seemed to have failed to realize the danger of using real names without an opt out and demanding so much information. You have, essentially, piled all your eggs in one basket. No matter how good their security, all it takes is one hacker and now all your data is compromised because they combined it all (in some cases without any warning.)
For all of the disturbance one hears about the government intrusions, I for one find it just as alarming that these sites make it ridiculously easy for literally anyone to find us. I may find the government reasons suspect, I may think they go to far. But I tend to think they at least have the goal of keeping the peace. I may think their methods are wrong and they are violating our rights. But that is at least ‘a reason’. Whereas when the whole world can get access to that information, well, you may end up stalked by a deranged lunatic who has no reason outside their own twisted brain.
So I for one will keep using my user name. I may use my real name in places, but I’d prefer all those places not automatically have all my information and I’d prefer to decide how much information goes to those who comment on the same topics I have, or have the same interests (supposedly.)
So, what’s your take, which is more important? Ease of use at the risk of the wrong people knowing where and who you are, or a bit more privacy at the expense of being harder to use?
You really may have to choose….unless you want the social media sites to choose for you.