Schmidt Addresses Google+ Real Name Policy; Wants Your ID, Or Don't Use It

Analysis

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Google CEO Chairman poses during an interview in Buenos Aires
Google's chairman Eric Schmidt poses during an interview with Reuters at Google's headquarters in Buenos Aires.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt said Google+, the company's new social network that's come under scrutiny for its real names use policy, is for people to stand for something and who are willing to express themselves. Schmidt said if using a real name creates a danger, for people like those in in Iran or Syria for instance, they don't have to use Google+.

Schmidt said, ...in the Western world, what we decided to do was to take the position that we wanted people to be willing to be at least identified by some sort of a real name.

Google's CEO said the reason the company wants Google+ users to use real names, differing from Facebook, which allows users to employ fake names, is that Google+ is completely optional.

In fact, many many people want to get in, if you don't want to use it, you don't have to.

Google launched Google+ in June in a limited roll out. Since then, the social network has attracted more than 25 million users, making it the fastest growing site yet. Facebook has more than 750 million users, but Google+ is approaching it differently -- the network's real name policy is a prime example.

Schmidt addressed the issue during a question and answer session last week at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International TV Festival. The question about Google+'s real name policy was asked by Andy Garvin, a senior strategist at NPR, who was attending the festival but posed his question via Twitter.

How does Google justify its real names only policy on Google+ when it could put some people at grave risk? Garvin asked.

After Schmidt said Google+ was optional if users didn't feel that using a real name was in their best interest Garvin posed another, more pointed question: But you wouldn't use it in Iran or Syria would you? asked Garvin, referring safety issues users in those countries might face using the social network with real names.

Well Iran and Syria are -- let's come back to that because that's a more complicated question. But in the Western world, what we decided to do was to take the position that we wanted people to be willing to be at least identified by some sort of a real name.

Schmidt explained that in the Western world people should be identified by a real name. He said the real name debate goes on and on and on but that the company wants people to stand for something. He said he understands that, in the case of countries like Iran and Syria...it's a whole different ball of wax.

There are obviously people for which using their real name is not appropriate, and it's completely optional, and if you're one of those people don't do it, Schmidt said. Seems obvious.

Garvin released a transcript of the question and answer with Schmidt on his Google+ blog.

The essence of what Schmidt said is clear: If you don't want, or feel you shouldn't, reveal your real identity, Google+ isn't for you. Schmidt made it clear that Google+ won't be altering its policy based on complaints.

Garvin wrote on his blog that Schmidt implied that Google+ was built 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.

Real names are more valuable to advertisers is one reason Google likely wants real names used on its social network. With real names, advertisers can make direct attacks and attachments of other identifying information, including age, location, gender, and associations including family and in some cases, friends.

Some experts even think Google+ have have interest, like Apple and Amazon, in eventually becoming an effective bank.

Matthew Ingram writes in BusinessWeek that both Google and Apple seem interested in NFC technology (near-field communication), which turns mobile devices into electronic wallets; having a social network tied to an individual user's identity would come in handy. Ross Dawson says Google wants to build a reputation engine using Google+ as a platform.

Thus, Google has incentive to try and establish its new social network as unique, in requiring real names while Facebook does not. Since  The company's strategy seems clear, as Schmidt confirmed, in a roundabout way. Google plans on building Google+ as more than just a social network that connects people.

Google wants its payback too -- and that payback is the real information users provide, starting with their real names.

 

 

 

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