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An Analysis of the Online Identity Battleground 6: Names Policies of Google and Facebook

This section outlines the way services like Google and Facebook currently go about handling user names and pseudonyms.

Updates to the Google+ names policy

Updates to the Google+ names policy

There’ve been some updates and changes to this policy of Google. The new policy: “You can change your name, but it’s limited to 3 times every two years,” I’m not sure why. “You can appeal (and one of the elements of the appeal, besides sending them the ID) if you can demonstrate that you have a significant following,” whatever that means.

Google's idea of 'pseydonyms'

Google’s idea of ‘pseydonyms’

They also have what’s called the Nicknames Policy, which I thought was interesting, because you may have heard that Google said that they were going to allow pseudonyms – some of you might have seen that. Well, this is what it looks like (see left-hand image). This is their idea of pseudonyms: you have your first name and last name, and then the nickname blank, and then it says: “Display name as.” And notice that the displayed name can either be your first or last name, first, nickname, last name, or first, last name and then your nickname.

When the entire point, to me, of using pseudonyms, or any kind of online ID, is to have the ability to separate contexts, this defeats the whole fucking point of that. So, just for you to think about.

Google patent #8271894

Google patent #8271894

By the way, Google cares about this so much, they’ve actually filed a patent for this as of September, 18 of last year (see right-hand image). You can see up there that there is the name, it’s like Sara Johnson, then the different nicknames, the personas you can have; at least they use the word “persona”.

Some peculiarities of getting a name on YouTube

Some peculiarities of getting a name on YouTube

You guys may have seen this if you tried to log into YouTube or something like that. This is where we’re going right now (left-hand image), and notice how it says: “Would you like to use your full name on YouTube?” or whatever service it is. And there’s the button down there that says: “I don’t want to use my full name.”

Don’t feel like using your real name on YouTube? Why not?

Don’t feel like using your real name on YouTube? Why not?

And look at this (see right-hand image). It comes up with this thing, it says: “Are you sure you don’t want to use your full name? Why not?” And you got these options: “My channel is for a show or a character,” “My channel is for a music artist or a group,” or “My channel is for personal use, but I cannot use my full name,” all these other things. Let’s see here, does this remind you guys of anything? There’s a lack of transparency, there’s procedures and policies that make absolutely no sense, and they seem to change around kind of sporadically.

Opting out

Opting out

Remind you guys of anything? (see left-hand image) TSA: “Opting out? Still let us know why,” – “It violates my constitutional rights,” “It violates my religious beliefs,” “I don’t want cancer,” my favorite, of course: “It simply does not fucking work.” I spent, like, an hour making that in Photoshop, because I thought it was funny. Apologies if it sucks.

Google’s method

Google’s method

This is what I call Google’s method: we saw earlier in the talk the suggested method for online ID; this is the way Google is doing it (see right-hand image). You have the real name, which you saw in the patent; and then you have the hierarchy. Hierarchy is very important here, the top level and the lower level pseudonyms.

By the way, does anybody know the etymology of the word “legitimate”? Comes from “legitimare”, which is Latin for “to make lawful.” It shares roots with the words “law”, “legal”, “legislate”, things like that. So if you think about the context of it, if you call something legitimate, what is it that you’re really saying? It’s for legal use, of course. The capstone on this: labels give someone else power over you. I believe there’s a great deal of power involved in all of this.

'Snitchgate'

‘Snitchgate’

By the way, Facebook is not innocent in this (see right-hand image). If you guys saw this, this was in September and it’s called “Snitchgate”. Basically, this pops up, and the text here says: “Please help us understand how people are using Facebook. Your response is anonymous,” blah-blah-blah. It says: “Is this your friend’s real name?” – “Yes, No, I don’t know this person,” blah-blah-blah. It’s asking people to snitch on their friends. Facebook took that down afterward; they claimed it was just a test thing. I’m like: what kind of institution is Facebook trying to create with this?

Instagram fiasco

Instagram fiasco

So, this just happened about two weeks ago (see left-hand image). Did anyone see this, the Instagram shit? Remember Instagram? It’s like the hipster photo website thing, where you download the app on your iPhone, it becomes a hipster and has vintage colors and things.

Impersonation Accounts guidelines

Impersonation Accounts guidelines

They got bought by Facebook for $1 billion, and just a couple of weeks ago they did this thing, where they were suspending users’ accounts under the terms of the Impersonation Policy. It actually says here: “In order to get their accounts back, they have to send in their government issued ID.”

How about SSL?!

How about SSL?!

One thing I want to share, by the way: this (see image above) is in the guidelines of Instagram’s Impersonation Accounts thing. It says they want two clear photographs of different angles on the government issued IDs, and there’s a nice little link there that says: “Submit the following information.” Ok, I’ll go ahead and click that and submit my ID – wait, there’s no SSL?! So, just insult and injury there (see left-hand image).

This is the state of things right now, this happened about two weeks ago, and if you want to keep using these services, this is why people need to speak up, basically, and say: “Here is what I think.” And if you disagree with me, that’s ok, because we want to have a public discourse about all of this.

Questions for thought

Questions for thought

Just a few more questions for a thought: who were Google and Facebook trying to “impress”? Who else might have access to this data? I have no fucking clue. And, of course, why would Chewbacca, an 8-foot-tall Wookie, want to live on Endor with a bunch of 2-foot-tall Ewoks? By the way, Chewbacca would have been suspended under Google’s Real Names Policy.

Read previous: An Analysis of the Online Identity Battleground 5: Can We Trust “Identity Providers”?

Read next: An Analysis of the Online Identity Battleground 7: Dissecting the Legislation

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