Google has faced a fair amount of criticism for requiring users of its fledgling social networking site Google+ to use their real names, and the company is enduring fresh scrutiny after Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt implied that the strict identity requirements are there so can Google can profit off of personal information.
Schmidt was on a panel at the Edinburgh International TV Festival, and NPR reporter Andy Carvin asked about the real names only policy. According to Carvin's account -- posted, fittingly, on Google+ -- Schmidt's reply offered a glimpse of Google's plans to monetize the information shared on Google+.
He replied by saying that G+ was build primarily as an identity service, so fundamentally, it depends on people using their real names if they're going to build future products that leverage that information, Carvin wrote.
While the nature of those products is unclear, the implication is that Google would be selling information to, for example, sell advertising that is targeted to users' catalogued preferences.
Slightly Better Search Results, Or...
If we knew that it was a real person, then we could sort of hold them accountable, we could check them, we could give them things, we could you know bill them, you know we could have credit cards and so forth, Schmidt said. We can have slightly better search results if I know a little bit about who you are.
Schmidt made sure he used the phrase with your permission when he offered the explanation. It is a similar defense that he offered when people questioned the real names only policy by citing activists in repressive countries who must remain anonymous in order to protect themselves: if you don't want this information out there, don't use Google+.
Regarding people who are concerned about their safety, he said G+ is completely optional. No one is forcing you to use it, Carvin wrote. It's obvious for people at risk if they use their real names, they shouldn't use G+. Regarding countries like Iran and Syria, people there have no expectation of privacy anyway due to their government's own policies, which implies (to me, at least) that Schmidt thinks there's no point of even trying to have a service that allows pseudonyms.