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Google Patents Privacy Your Rights Online

Google Bans Online Anonymity While Patenting It 188

Posted by Soulskill
from the best-of-both-worlds dept.
theodp writes "'It's important to use your common name,' Google explains in its Google+ ground rules, 'so that the people you want to connect with can find you.' Using a 'secondary online identity,' the search giant adds, is a big Google+ no-no. 'There are lots of places where you can be anonymous online,' Betanews' Joe Wilcox notes. 'Google+ isn't one of them.' Got it. But if online anonymity is so evil, then what's the deal with Google's newly-awarded patent for Social Computing Personas for Protecting Identity in Online Social Interactions? 'When users reveal their identities on the internet,' Google explained to the USPTO in its patent application, 'it leaves them more vulnerable to stalking, identity theft and harassment.' So what's Google's solution? Providing anonymity to social networking users via an 'alter ego' and/or 'anonymous identity.' So does Google now believe that there's a genuine 'risk of disclosing a user's real identity'? Or is this just a case of Google's left hand not knowing what its right hand is patenting?"
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Google Bans Online Anonymity While Patenting It

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  • by PointyToe (2733497) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @03:00PM (#41377713)
    This is Google aggressively patenting online anonymity technology and methods so that other social networks and websites cannot provide anonymity . This is MUCH MORE SERIOUS than left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. It's a patent that blocks others from using said technology. This is evil^2, and Google of course benefits from it because this makes it easier for Google to identify people with their real names, and target ads to them.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @03:03PM (#41377759)

    ...so long as they alone know who they really are so the data aggregated goes in the right buckets.

    Nothing's stopping Google+ from offering a secondary ID you can become, while Google still knows who you are.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @03:07PM (#41377827)

    New Account, Google Bashing... You forgot your Visual Studio plug.

    Anonymous account, Google defending...You forgot irony.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @03:09PM (#41377849)

    "There are lots of places where you can be anonymous online. Google+ isn't one of them."

    Yes, that's why I'm not on Google+ or Facebook.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @03:18PM (#41377957)

    This prevents nothing from anyone, really. It's only corporations who have to play in the little corner they painted themselves into.

    Meanwhile the hacker community, hobbyists and all the netizens boldly go where no man has gone before, regardless of what some lawyer says or thinks they're entitled to!

    The patent system has lost its meaning. It's no longer an incentive to create. The single inventor could never afford to patent something, or to defend it in court. The big ones can. Thus patents create artificial barriers of entry and stifle innovation.

    Furthermore, patents are now simply legal weapons used to cement monopolies and prevent innovation from disrupting established revenue streams from stagnated giants who output more Powerpoint fluff than actual progress.

  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @03:30PM (#41378119) Homepage Journal

    "In that case, Google, and anyone able to subpoena them, would know who the anonymous secondary identity is but third parties wouldn't be privy to the link between accounts."

    You don't know what public records are, do you?

    Look up the court case. Filings will be made as to proof of the owner of the 'anonymous' identity for purposes of proper serving of subpoenas and warrants for arrests.

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @03:44PM (#41378269) Homepage

    So does Google now believe that there's a genuine 'risk of disclosing a user's real identity'? Or is this just a case of Google's left hand not knowing what its right hand is patenting?

    Google does not believe. They do not believe in protecting anonymity, nor in advancing reliable identities. Google wants money and power. There was a time when it was reasonable to think that Google believed in things, that they wanted to do good, but those times are gone. Google wants to make money on anonymity because they want to make money, not because they believe free speech depends on anonymity. They want to make money on reliable identities because they want to make money, not because they believe identities should be reliable. They want to make money on being the only one who knows the real identities because they want to make money, not because they believe one company should be the sole authenticator.

    Most sufficiently large corporations have no beliefs. "I want as much stuff as I can get" is not a belief. Beliefs are things for which you are willing to make deep sacrifices. When a company sees that the patent system is broken and its public response is that they need to get more aggressive about patents, it is a clear statement that they lack motives outside of acquisitiveness and will-to-power. Avarice is not a belief, it is our default state when we choose not to elevate ourselves above the animals. Google does not believe.

  • by Solandri (704621) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @03:45PM (#41378281)
    Once upon a time, when I first got on the Internet (late 1980s), there was no anonymity. Sysadmins voluntarily adhered to a policy where each user's online identity and their real identity were linked [rajivshah.com]. If someone ever found a way to break this link, it was considered a bug [google.com] which needed to be fixed. It was staunchly enforced by admins who believed the net would devolve into a morass of misbehavior if people were allowed to post anonymously.

    There were a few people running their own servers who bucked the trend, but it wasn't until AOL joined USENET [wikipedia.org] that pseudonyms became a fact of life on the Internet. AOL allowed each account to have up to 5 usernames, ostensibly for families sharing a single AOL account. Obviously these extra usernames were quickly taken up by people wishing to post things online anonymously, which was good for free speech. But not surprisingly, spam was invented shortly thereafter.

    All that's happening now is that the pendulum is starting to swing the away from anonymity as netizens struggle to figure out the best balance between real names and pseudonyms. The people at the pro-anonymity extreme won't like it, just like the people at the pro-real-name extreme didn't like it in the early 1990s. But as with most things the best balance is probably somewhere in between.
  • Re:Youtube (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hazah (807503) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @03:55PM (#41378445)
    You're not their customer.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:05PM (#41378595) Homepage Journal

    Thank you for pointing us in their general direction.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:12PM (#41378699) Homepage Journal

    ...so long as they alone know who they really are so the data aggregated goes in the right buckets.

    Nothing's stopping Google+ from offering a secondary ID you can become, while Google still knows who you are.

    Except for people like me who would leave if we had to interact with "MonkeyFucker-69" and the rest of their ilk. Some of us like the higher level of civility that results from real names.

    From my experience, anonymity has little to nothing to do with civility; I used to regularly post commentary on the website of my local (Gannett-owned) newspaper. Recently, they (as required by Gannett) went from an anonymous, PHPbb based system to linking comments to Facebook profiles - they, too, claimed that it would lead to "increased civility." however, this has been anything but the case. Sure, there are less vitriolic comments, but that's not because people are being less uncivil, but rather a side effect of the push for real names driving many, many of the regulars from the site, myself included.

    Adjusted for volume, the amount of hatefulness on said newspaper forum hasn't gone down one bit, and I would wager that acts of incivility have increased a fair amount. The only 'advantage' to people being forced to use their real names is that if they piss another person off, that person now knows who's house to firebomb.

    Not a feature I would tout.

  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:07PM (#41379487)

    >>>Some of us like the higher level of civility that results from real names.

    Unfortunately multiple studies have shown using Real names doesn't make conversations more civilized. It just invites more revenge scenarios from those who feel insulted & strike back in real life. So real names actually make things worse.

    Anonymity is also important for one's longterm sanity. Nothing sucks more than to have an employee dig-up an old postings from 1990-something and say, "Do you really feel Michael Jackson should have been castrated for his abuse of children? I'm sorry but we can't hire such a vocal person. You would be a liability for our company."

    A worse scenario is if the government comes after you because they think you might be a terrorist. "What did you mean when you posted in 1997 that you think Clinton should be shot for raping Monica Lewinsky?" - Remember a guy just recently spent 4 nights in jail for saying things far less damaging on non-anonymous facebook. Anonymity goes as far back as the Founders who posted anonymous flyers in order to avoid arrest by the UK Government. It protects you from blowback from those desirign revenge.

  • Re:Prior Art (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bug1 (96678) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:54PM (#41380113)

    Prior art: Yahoo lets you create a separate identity and avatar for commenting on news stories. This identity is separate from my real identity which is reserved for sending emails.

    Which their deep packet inspection is perfectly capable of monitoring.

    Its difficult to be anonymous to the the government, much harder to be anonymous to the corporation.

    But given those limits, the corporations could allow us to be anonymous to each other, but whats the point, its corporations and government that have all the power in society.

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