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Vint Cerf: Google Shouldn't Require Real Names 113

Posted by Soulskill
from the statement-of-intent dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In an interview with Reuters, 'father of the internet' Vint Cerf spoke about Google's past push for requiring real names from their users — a stance they later backed down from after public outcry. Google+ and many other services work just fine with pseudonyms, Cert says, and it's better to let users pick the option that works best for them. 'Using real names is useful. But I don't think it should be forced on people, and I don't think we do.' That said, he also firmly believes some services do need true identities from both sides: 'Anonymity and pseudonymity are perfectly reasonable under some situations. But there are cases where in the transactions both parties really need to know who are we talking to. So what I'm looking for is not that we shut down anonymity, but rather that we offer an option when needed that can strongly authenticate who the parties are.' Still, the matter of pseudonyms on Google+ seems to be settled internally, at least for the moment. Cerf said, 'There was a debate on this subject and it was resolved. ... Our conclusion was that choice is important.'"
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Vint Cerf: Google Shouldn't Require Real Names

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:07PM (#43084551)

    If that even is his real name. I mean, "Vint"? Seriously?

    • by dintech (998802)
      Who cares, it's good news for you AC!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yes, the entire Coward family is quite happy. I just wish my parents had named me Bob or something else instead. My name with an initial makes me look like A Coward.

  • I mean, wasn't this already obvious?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      People would probably trust "the guy who invented the Internet" more than their Congressman. At least on this topic. Or maybe on any topic.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        But the article was not about Al Gore.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mjwalshe (1680392)
      unfortunately "adult supervision" at Google is some what lacking and I am afraid that the mix of hot housed Stanford grads and the infestation of MBA types made the common sense decision hard to make. This is in theory what Eric is supposed to do use real word experience to temper Larry and Sergeis lack of real world experience.

      I suspect that the Google culture that spawned issues like this is a factor in why Marissa left
  • by concealment (2447304) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:16PM (#43084665) Homepage Journal

    The value of anonymity is in the ability to express ideas that are not necessarily socially acceptable, but are contributions to our ongoing resolution of social questions.

    When Google starts trying to "civilize" the internet by requiring real names, it's forcing us to associate our free speech with our jobs, families and others who may face retaliation if our ideas are not socially acceptable.

    • by Synerg1y (2169962) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:23PM (#43084783)

      In scope, google is a private 3rd party service provider for email and a bunch of other stuff. What they require is not legally enforceable or really relevant. Short of having to submit physical documentation to create an account, how do they know the real name I gave is really me? Or a fake alias?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's because of shit like this that we have to care:

        http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903285704576562294116160896.html [wsj.com]

        While that specific legislation was fixed, at some point violating the terms of service for site will become a criminal offense.

      • The effect is quite a bit more subtle then that. You or I know better but the children of the world begin to believe everything they see posted under a "real name" and the effect is the subtle negative social acceptance of psuedonymity.

        Trust me, people at Vint Serfs level of the game of socio-politics have a lot of pressure on them to keep us all organized neatly and thinking exactly a certain way about things.

      • Short of having to submit physical documentation to create an account, how do they know the real name I gave is really me? Or a fake alias?

        A great question--the answer seems to be "They're Google and they're good at it."

        Seriously: Almost every web-site you visit uses their analytics which are now globally mated to your gmail/youtube accounts. Even if you keep your cookies and backtrail clean enough that Google can't identify you when you connect in a session, the first thing they'll do is try to set a cookie to start learning about this new product (i.e. you.) And the first time you slip-up and log into something that knows your "real" name (t

        • by Synerg1y (2169962)

          Nope, I sign in to google at 11 AM, my girlfriend signs into her bank account at 12 PM... not the same person. Those tracking cookies are for data mining, now if your google account starts getting bank advertisements, that's possible. But binding... TOS, or legal? Not even close to being plausible.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The value of anonymity is in the ability to express ideas that are not necessarily socially acceptable, but are contributions to our ongoing resolution of social questions

      That's only if said point of view gets equal access and there isn't some gate keeper keeping others out - see mod system here on Slashdot.

      Yes, it's nice to be an AC and say things that others are afraid to say under their own names or even under their own pseudonyms (karma and all), but then again, it's easy to be discounted when you don't look like you have skin in the game.

      I, as an AC, have been totally buried by a mod when posting things that have, let's say, made me quite a bit of money elsewhere - bu

    • by LordLucless (582312) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:53PM (#43085145)

      When Google starts trying to "civilize" the internet by requiring real names, it's forcing us to associate our free speech with our jobs, families and others who may face retaliation if our ideas are not socially acceptable.

      Google has no authority, and is not trying, to civilize "the internet". It's trying to apply those policies to its own services, and it has every right to do so. Doing so isn't "forcing" you to associate your name with your speech, unless you are somehow compelled to use Google's services. And in the arena where this applies (social networking) Google isn't even particularly dominant.

      The thing about the internet is that it's not some uniform monolith. There is plenty of space for both pseudonymous and real-name services - if you don't like a service that requires real names, use one that allows pseudonyms. You don't have to force every service on the internet to conform to your ideas as to how the internet should operate - doing so is far more of an attempt to "civilize the internet" than what Google's doing.

      • The thing about the internet is that it's not some uniform monolith. There is plenty of space for both pseudonymous and real-name services - if you don't like a service that requires real names, use one that allows pseudonyms. You don't have to force every service on the internet to conform to your ideas as to how the internet should operate - doing so is far more of an attempt to "civilize the internet" than what Google's doing.

        Exactly. Both real names and pseudonyms have their place, depending on the service. But Google+ isn't requiring real names, but rather "at least plausible sounding pseudonyms" That's merely hiding the fact that there are pseudonyms in use.

        I wouldn't trust a "real name" that has only been confirmed by a checkbox "yes, that' really my real name. Promise. With sugar on top" during sign-up.

      • by pantaril (1624521)

        if you don't like a service that requires real names, use one that allows pseudonyms

        Or, if you like to use the service that requires real names, use it with fake real name. There is no way they could enforce the rule if you are careful.

    • You mean like casting a ballot in an election? I agree. Profit and the extinction of a reasonable expectation for privacy are the only 2 reasons for requiring your legal name.
    • If you were posting buy/sell offers on eBray of CraigsHotList, I could see the value of easily tracking your ID. If you're using a free service and the provider just wants to enhance their own market value, not so much.
    • The value of anonymity is in the ability to express ideas that are not necessarily socially acceptable, but are contributions to our ongoing resolution of social questions.

      When Google starts trying to "civilize" the internet by requiring real names, it's forcing us to associate our free speech with our jobs, families and others who may face retaliation if our ideas are not socially acceptable.

      Anonymity is currently only by obfuscation beyond what joe public cares about. Technically it's feasible to find out who most (not all) of these Anonymous Cowards really are with enough digging. They just want to believe they are anonymous (for most purposes they are).

  • Perhaps, but (Score:4, Interesting)

    by arisvega (1414195) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:16PM (#43084669)
    .. but what Google gives out with one hand, it takes back with the other: nowadays increasingly one cannot open a google account without a valid cellphone numbr for verification- and do not forget all the profiling that happens regardless if one is logged in or not.
    • The other but in this is it is THEIR service. If they ask for a DNA sample to use their service shouldn't that be their choice? And shouldn't then we be free to choose to bend over and take it or go else where?
    • nowadays increasingly one cannot open a google account without a valid cellphone numbr for verification

      Really? I find this hard to believe. My Google account goes way back, so I don't claim to know for sure one way or the other, but I will say that while they've bugged me for my cell phone number a few times, I've never been unable to access any of their services without giving it. Being asked for the number and having to click through the "no, I really don't want to give you this information" box is not the same thing as "cannot open a Google account."

    • by TobascoKid (82629)

      I'm not sure how difficult free pay as you go sims cards are to get in other countries, but they're easily available in the UK. Pop a "disposable" sim card into your phone, create a fake Google account and verify it with that number and then throw the sim card away.

      • Welcome to the ranks of

        HELP!!! I used a throwaway phone number and email to sign up to google and can't reset my lost password! I can't access my email and I will sue Google if I lose business! It is their fault that they didn't keep me from being stupid during signup!!!!!

        postings. Usually in all caps.

        in future, please at least add a warning to "clever" ideas that will backfire later.

    • ...increasingly one cannot open a google account without a valid cellphone numbr for verification...

      Google Voice & landline #s worked as of last week. Their system lets you choose whether to send an automated voice call or text message to the number you plug in, and either doesn't check or doesn't care whether the number really goes to a cellphone.

      (Not that they really need to take such steps beyond attempting to limit our ability to open new accounts; the contact lists of Android cellphone users & Gmail users alone are probably more than enough to identify our real names & numbers.)

    • ..one cannot open a google account without a valid cellphone numbr for verification

      It's not only for verification.

      Consider the big user base Google has and imagine how important a verified alternative mean of contact is for password recovery. Go to the GMail and count the legions of "Help I lost my password" posts who tried to be clever and use fake information during sign-up and now can't reset their password.

      And additional contact information is the way to go. The so called "security questions" are nothing more than a bad joke. No one knows my password (or so I hope), but hundreds of p

    • by swillden (191260)

      one cannot open a google account without a valid cellphone numbr for verification

      Not true. Google asks for a number, because Google has found that having a second method for identity verification dramatically reduces the number of accounts that get locked out by forgotten passwords, or that are successfully hijacked, but you don't have to provide it.

      Don't want to give a number? Don't.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Now that Google requires real names, my name is iujn4iutneroiugjoirgj. (Sometimes I use alternate nicknames such as oim5yo4590rejg09ojog5.)

  • Good to know (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I refused to sign up for Google+ all because of the required real name... I was afraid my Gmail account could possibly get canceled on me for not following their rules. Now I look forward to creating a G+ account and using a nickname that friends will know me by, but my boss and coworkers will not be able to search for =D

    • If you don't post any public posts, there will be nothing besides your name and profile pic your boss and coworkers will see.

      And you still can post stuff to your friends&family circles.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Google employee has declared that the most recent decision made by Google is the correct one.

    The Google employee does not accept that the previous Google policy was a mistake, however the methods Google used to force the previous Google policy on users where inefffective.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Google should be able to require people's real names, their cell phone numbers, their addresses, and scanned copies of their social security cards if they want to. I no longer care what they do.

  • by emptybody (12341) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:28PM (#43084849) Homepage Journal

    what -- thats my real last name ...

  • by MTO_B. (814477) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:30PM (#43084879) Homepage
    This is the reason I don't use Google+ I have active pages with more than a million users in facebook, opened an account for Google+ when it came out, but I freaked out when I read about them banning users for not using their real names, even losing all other associated google accounts (AdSense, especially). No way I am willing to use Google+ along with AdSense if I sense that in any way something as trivial as using whatever fake name I want can create problems with my account. And hence, another website, with millions of traffic and social followers, does not even promote G+. Just a grain of sand, but I'm sure I'm not the only one. OK, So now, they no longer require this "real name", but even so, your other accounts are not independent. Being banned for any reason (I really never should be, never had any problems in facebook for example, but you never know) would result in ban from gmail and AdSense. If not so, that's the impression I have, and reason I still keep away (even if they probably changed policies). I need to be really certain I will never have such things in danger before I even touch or activate G+ again.
    • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @07:47PM (#43085885)

      This is the reason I don't use Google+ I have active pages with more than a million users in facebook,..

      Wait... facebook?! The other massive site with the real name policy? The one showing people their friends profiles and asking "Is that their real name?"

      That is the site you prefer to use?

      "Facebook is a community where people use their real identities. We require everyone to provide their real names, so you always know who you're connecting with."
      http://www.facebook.com/help/112146705538576/ [facebook.com]

      Being banned for any reason (I really never should be, never had any problems in facebook for example, but you never know)

      Yeah, you never know, i mean you are just violating their Real Name policy. I'm sure I can't think of a reason you would ever be banned. Nobody has ever been banned from facebook for being in violation of the real name policy there.

      I mean, they only banned famous (infamous?) author Salman Rushdie for registering as Salman Rushdie. Clearly that's not his real name so, they banned him, and when he complained they reinstated him as Ahmed Rushdie, since his passport says his first name is Ahmed. It took a bit of a media frenzy on the event for facebook to buckle and let him be Salman Rushdie on facebook.

      But hey, Google is the company that had a real name policy and banned people over it, and then caved and dropped it, while facebook is the company that HAS a real name policy, recently fought a court case in Germany to keep it, and bans people who violate it... and so therefore:

      You stuck with facebook, and will never touch G+ again.

      Yes, that makes perfect sense.

      • by antdude (79039)

        Facebook didn't like the fake name I had a few years ago after three weeks. :(

        • They've loosened up. It let me use æ (merged ae) & double a few letters in my surname and use a nickname as my real first name when I started & renamed my current account last year.

          • by antdude (79039)

            Interesting. In the past, they wouldn't let me reactivate my terminated account. :(

      • by LihTox (754597)

        I believe the OP is saying that they have a lot more to lose if Google decides to kill off their account due to inane policies, and I agree. If Facebook kills off my account, no big deal, I don't use it for much anyway. If Google killed off my account, I would lose Gmail, my presence on Youtube, search history, etc etc.

    • by swillden (191260)

      I freaked out when I read about them banning users for not using their real names, even losing all other associated google accounts (AdSense, especially).

      Which, of course, never happened. To anyone. As Google said at the time. The only impact of not using your real name was having your Google+ profile removed. It never affected any other Google services.

  • and that's why I don't have a Google+ account yet... but of course that kind of news doesn't generally make headlines. Was the initial policy a suggestion from a middle-manager?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      They didn't. They allow nicknames, but they do not usually allow psuedonyms (that is to say, if you do not want to reveal your real name to everyone in your circles, you cannot usually use Google+)—they flag your account for review and won't allow it unless you can prove you normally use that pseudonym and are well-known by it.

      • by seebs (15766)

        And "prove" is not defined. There is no documented standard of proof, and whatever it is, I apparently don't qualify. I am not sure there is an actual standard short of "famous enough to get significant news coverage".

      • I didn't know they changed their policy

        They didn't.

        The linked slashdot article from Oct 2011 says "Google+ To End Real Names Policy". WTF. Completely incorrect.

        Thanks for pointing out the true current situation.

  • Does this mean google is going to stop trying to get me to change my youtube username to my "real" name?
    I swear, I've told google to take a flying leap about it five times already. I'm getting hot under the collar just thinking about it.

    • by TobascoKid (82629)

      YouTube seems to have finally stopped asking me to start using my real name, but it did ask me why I didn't want to use my real name.

      • It takes a break for awhile then comes back from what I can tell. I was just asked the other day but it was months between that and the last time it nagged me.
  • by Misagon (1135) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @07:07PM (#43085361)

    I know of at least seven other people with the same first and last name as me. One of them has published scientific papers in the same field as I have. One works in the same industry as me. Yet another has a similar hobby as me. Yet another of them is a rapist.
    I know this, because people have confused me with them. I have received mail, both physical letters and emails that were intended for them.

    I'd rather use my handle than my real name, because then people will not confuse me with any of the other guys. My handle is practically unique.

    • by kermidge (2221646)

      I once lived in a metro area where there were five of us with the same first and last names, out of the 1900 or so that Wolfram Alpha says live in the U.S. I even met one face to face, by happenstance.

      There being sufficient room for confusion, and the challenge of differentiating who's who, especially on the off-chance that someone who once knew me by my given name might wish to find me, strikes me as a lousy way to go about things.

      In Real Life I've gone by an awarded nickname since '71 or '72. Online, I'

    • by http (589131)

      I'd rather use my handle than my real name, because then people will not confuse me with any of the other guys. My handle is practically unique

      I face the exact opposite problem. It's kinda tough locating things I've written on the net.

  • by guttentag (313541) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @07:22PM (#43085539) Journal
    There is only one reason Google+ and Facebook want real names: advertisers pay more when you know the names of the people you are delivering the ads to.

    Minority Report: "Hey John Anderton, you could use a Guiness right about now!"
  • by seebs (15766) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @07:25PM (#43085583) Homepage

    Take some time to go read what Yonatan Zunger has written about names. He appears to have a pretty good idea of how important it is to people to have their chosen names recognized. He talks about things like how the appeals process should "start a dialogue", and so on.

    What actually happens:

    I've appealed a couple of times. There is no process in any part of the appeal to permit me to submit even a single sentance of explanation for why I feel a given thing is or is not my name. All I can submit is scanned documents or web pages. Could those be things I wrote? We don't know, but if they've ever checked the one I tried submitting, I have no knowledge of it.

    When your appeal is denied, there is no explanation. There is not a single sentence in the boilerplate letter that goes out which says in what way their determination was reached, or what they thought of the evidence, or even whether they looked at the evidence. The appeal comes from a no-replies-accepted address. There is no identification of who it was who sent the message, there is nothing given to permit followups. Your sole option is to retry the appeal.

    If you appeal a second time, the appeal can be ignored for months. Not denied, not approved, just ignored completely. I eventually went and posted on one of their help forums asking for information. I was told by someone I think was claiming to be a Google employee that there was an absolute requirement that all names must have a first and last name. This is, of course, not actually true -- there are counterexamples. The policy says that names will usually be a first and last name, but stops short of requiring them. Except, of course, if you're just some random guy, in which case, it's a requirement.

    I go by "seebs". That is the name I am commonly known by in daily life. It is the name used to address me and to refer to me, by my coworkers, by my friends, by my spouse, by my lawyer. My mom doesn't use "seebs" all the time, but she does sometimes. If I'm in a mall, and I hear someone yelling the name on my driver's license, I'm unlikely to look, because usually that means someone else.

    The underlying issue is that they have some evidence that some people feel "uncomfortable" when they enter a social community and some people have handles which are not "real names". The Google policy, they claim, is not to require that the name be a real name, only that it look like a real name, because that makes some people less nervous. However, it is not at all obvious to me that this justifies the insulting, arrogant, and dismissive way that Google has handled the appeals process.

    The gap between what they actually do and what Mr. Zunger describes is disturbing, because he's nominally in charge. I don't know what's up. Are his blog posts not actually what he thinks? Are the employees unaware of the stated intent of policy? Does no one at Google have the technical know-how to allow an employee evaluating an appeal to send an email to the person whose name is under discussion? It seems like a simple email or two saying "I looked at this, and here's why I don't think this looks like good evidence that this is the name you're commonly known by" could go a fair way towards solving this.

    Of course, so could just accepting that the name I want to be known by is probably the only name you can use without being arrogant and insulting.

    The whole process makes it very clear that Google's employees are much more valuable than the prospective users of their social network. The overall impression I get is that they would much rather all the weird people just stayed off their network, so they could save valuable engineering and support time, and just not have to deal with us. I have in the past observed that the impression I get is that they would be happier if all the people with weird names, or who are unwilling to use their legal names (say, trans people who haven't done their name change yet), would just go away. Or die. Whatever, so long as the problem that a minority of p

    • That was rather a long rant to get to the heart of the matter.

      they would much rather all the weird^H^H^H^H^H people just stayed off their network, so they could save valuable engineering and support time, and just not have to deal with us.

      Or to put it as succinctly as possible: Google is absolutely terrible at customer support.

      This is known. They're really bad at it. They think it should be possible to automate away any need for phone monkeys. They're trying really really hard. And failing. The Googleplex still hasn't achieved sentience, so... Google is still bad at customer support. Heaven help you if you have an Adsense problem.

      (I wish Slashdot supported the <strike>

      • by seebs (15766)

        Yeah, but this goes beyond merely "really bad customer support" to "they have stated intentions which no one is even remotely trying to act on".

      • Or to put it as succinctly as possible: Google is absolutely terrible at customer support.

        Not quite. Google's customer support isn't bad, but reserved for customers. Paying customers.

  • Youtube constantly pesters me about using my real name. How many times do I have to say no?
  • So why am I still getting those annoying "give us your name" popups on YT?

  • Two days ago i got an email with a warning of a google+ account suspension for using a "fake" name. The fake name is the name of a local community organization. The google+ account was connected to a google apps for business account. Hence not a private account. Had to opt to delete the google+ profile. I guess facebook is the only option to complement our website to give out news and information to our community members.
    • *Yawn*

      It's stated everywhere across Google+ that profiles are for humans only and you may NOT create profiles for organisations, clubs, companies, bands and alike. Those should be represented by a Google+ PAGE, not a Google+ PROFILE.

      It's not rocket science. At least if you can recogize the difference between two words, even if they start woth the same letter.

      • by nyback (1069452)
        Google apps login is with the domain name [www.community.com]. Then logging in on gmail with our main email address for that domain [info@community.com]. Clicking on the google+ link in the top left corner it asks if you want to create a google+ profile. It will fill in the google+ name for you from the google apps email address [first name:info surname:community.com] Maybe its written somewhere that the google+ profile is not allowed as per googles suggestion, but its not mentioned in any text visible in t
      • by psydeshow (154300)

        It's stated everywhere across Google+ that profiles are for humans only and you may NOT create profiles for organisations, clubs, companies, bands and alike. Those should be represented by a Google+ PAGE, not a Google+ PROFILE.

        It's not rocket science. At least if you can recogize the difference between two words, even if they start woth the same letter.

        And that policy is bullshit, because that not always how the real world works. Shouldn't your mass-market social software try to appeal to the broadest range of use cases, rather than forcing a narrow view of the world?

        Organizations, people, and things--collectively: entities--should be able to create both pages and profiles as they see fit. An organization or thing has just as much right to an identity as a person does, if they choose to express their identity in that way. Sometimes an organization wants t

  • I am not for a real name policy, but I do want the problems with using real names to be solved if possible.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So what if he helped shape TCP/IP, he doesn't own the fucking internet, nor should he be treated as a go-to guy for moral issues surrounding how the internet operates. He's just an old hack who gets by on his claim to fame, whose really nothing more than a corporate/government bigwig.

  • Unfortunatly, we don't live in a free world.

    In this world there are governments (both ones own and others), that will happily use every little bit of information that one puts on the internet against one.

    Never mind that ones employment contract possibly says that they can fire you for saying anything negative about them on the internet, having the wrong political views, and so on.

    In an ideal world this would not be a problem, so once we have a "free world"... I'll be all for a "real name" name requirement.

  • Everytime I log in to YouTube I get pestered to use my real name with the only optout being to 'ask me again later'

    Now I can't review Android apps because
    I do not want to join google +, I've had enough, any recommendations for a good email provider for my secondary account (primary is family and trusted only)

    • I like yahoo, it's maybe not the greatest thing, or maybe it is, but at least it doesn't nag you and always works (always worked everytime every day in the last 12 years).
      One day the web interface changed to web 2.0 and I didn't like it.. But I got to keep the web 1.0 interface, just by visiting it with Lynx. It also has a very, very useful feature : a "notepad" which lets you paste or write text just for yourself, always accessible from everywhere. So I've put all my important numbers and identifiers/passw

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