Who is harmed by a “real names” policy?

There’s been a lot of talk lately about pseudonymity and about online services that disallow it, instead requiring so-called “real names”. For example, previously on Geek Feminism:

Some time ago, I helped draft a list of groups of people who would be harmed by a policy banning pseudonymity and requiring “real names”. Unfortunately that document’s not available anywhere publicly online, so I thought it might be good to recreate it on the Geek Feminism wiki, and offer it as a general resource.

Here it is: Who is harmed by a “Real Names” policy?

Please help us fill in any categories of people you can think of who benefit from pseudonymity online, or who may experience real harm from a policy that bans it. You can edit the wiki directly if you like, or just drop a comment here on this post and we’ll try and include them.

And, of course, please bookmark the link and use it whenever anyone claims that only trolls or people with “something to hide” want to use pseudonyms online.

57 thoughts on “Who is harmed by a “real names” policy?

  1. cofax

    Who is harmed?

    Anyone who is in or has left an abusive relationship

    Social & political activists (esp. but not exclusively in oppressive regimes)

    GLBTQ folks

    People who want to talk openly about sexuality, religion, or politics without being asked about that at their next job interview

    People who engage in socially-disapproved of behaviors (fandom, role-playing, furries, remixers of corporate content)


  2. Marim

    I know someone who doesn’t use the Real ID functionality on WoW (or post on the forums) because they have governmental security clearance for their work, and they heard a story about someone whose clearance was revoked related to foreign spies targeting them for information when their real identity was learned on a WoW forum. No more clearance, no more job. I can’t find any article or citation related to this story, but the person I know believed in it enough to stay away from using the functionality (the good part, that could make it easier to play together with online friends) entirely because of the identity requirement.

  3. Kate A.

    It also affects trans people who have changed their legal name for a few reasons:

    Legal name changes generally have to be done in multiple government and non-governmental places (US-specific examples: state ID, passport, Social Security, IRS, government agencies such as Unemployment & licensing, banks, health care plans, employers, etc.) and updating email addresses and profiles in ways that do not match their current information can cause issues
    They may wish to maintain continuity of a long-standing public identity online without reducing searchability, causing confusing among contacts, or triggering derailing discussions in various fora. (This is similar to the issue with a marriage name change.)
    Changing an online identities associated name while keeping the same address, profile id, user name or url creates a trail in search engines and archives that can link previous and current names, potentially outing post-transition trans people involuntarily (this happens with reasonably high frequency) to social connections and potential/current employers.

  4. kadiera

    Potentially, children of any parent who talks about their children. While I dislike the fear-mongering aspect of saying so, I know people whose children have been stalked because of their parents’ writing about them, and people who have been reported to children’s services for publicly being a parent who holds controversial views. While there’s always the option of staying off line, parents deserve the ability to choose how open they are for their children’s sake.

    1. Marta

      Also, parents who engage in any of the above socially-disapproved-of behaviors. They are in danger of being thought unfit parents.

      1. Aine M.

        I know my mother worries about us, her two kids, because she gets death threats occasionally due to her job. She tries not to post pictures of us or talk about us too much on social networking sites (which she uses for work).

  5. TeaBQ

    Those who are underage could be harmed by a “real names” policy due to:

    1) Making it easier for those who prey on the young to find out information about them, such as where they live.

    2) Making it harder for them to get information about things their parents/friends/community would disapprove of (eg. abortion, LBGT, STDs, resources for kids in abusive homes, etc.)

    Beyond the underage, there are also those who may wish to connect with their peers but who would do so without names in the real world as well, such as members of Alcoholics Anonymos.

  6. Anna

    People with undisclosed disabilities. People with mental health conditions (or whatever terminology is preferred) that are considered dangerous.

    1. Mary

      I’ve added a section on that, and also a mention of the vulnerability of some disabled people to abuse and harassment. Let me know how it works for you.

  7. A. L.

    how-about a > self-employed civil-engineer (e.g. atheist, skeptical, geek, BQ-) woman in a “traditional male domain”, her livelyhood (= income, economic/survival) completely depending on her real-name and ergo IRL – and thus easily searchable/findable on the web (by prospective/potential sub-/contractor/s/employers etc. ) and e.g. FB/G+ – if she dared to participate, in which case she does not-at-all-participate-in-any (due to existing “patriarchal/societal structures” etc.)
    meh :(

  8. Debbie Notkin

    I’ve dropped the argument, but over on Google+, my acquaintance Ulrika O’Brien (there under her “real” name) is making the claim that social network owners ruling against pseudonymity is a first-world problem, like unto a hangnail (her analogy). You see, Google+ lets you hide your posts, so there’s no problem.

    If anyone else wants to drop in and argue with her, be my guest. It’s a public post.

    1. Marta

      Also, G+ lets you put just about anything you want in the “real name” field. But I think the debate is still a valid one.

      1. Mary

        They do, but if someone reports to them that you are using a pseudonym, or if your legal name doesn’t appear name-y to them (for example, it contains a number) they may seek evidence that you use that name, which means either copies of ID or testimonials from heaps of people that that’s your name.

        See our post The status of pseudonymity and privacy on Google+ for examples and links.

        1. BEG65

          YOu can’t actually add a number to the G+ name without tripping their review process.

          Another example: I actually was active for years under my real name in the early days of the ‘net (I’m talking late 80’s to mid 90’s) and I wound up with TWO stalkers at different times from different forums. I took several years off the ‘net and then re-started under pseudonyms, of which this one has been around the longest now.

  9. Joss

    I don’t really have anything to add…I just wanted to say thank you so much for posting about this and putting this list together.

  10. Ingrid Jakobsen

    You have a “People with long-standing online pseudonyms” category, and don’t mention that some people have just always been online under the same nym, say BBS, Usenet, livejournal, flickr, Facebook etc.

    Contrariwise, if G+ has a “nyms are okay if they’re established/can be documented” it may prevent newer generations of net users from establishing a consistent nym across all services.

  11. Alan Bell

    Is there any recommended approach to implementing a “no throwaway accounts” policy without causing the damage that a “real names” policy would appear to do? Is a “no throwaway accounts” policy a good thing or are real people harmed by that too?

    1. Beth

      I think some people can use them well, for example to come into a discussion about a controversial topic in which they have first-hand experience but they don’t want to tie that experience to their real-world name.
      On the other hand, they can also be abused. In general, I think they are best in spaces that are otherwise well-moderated.

      I mean, throw-away identities are used in the real world too: it’s the basis of AA, for example. It can be a powerful way for people to be willing to admit vulnerability and failure, without having to worry that they are dooming their future self. On the other hand, AA also has significant problems with sexual harassment.

      If you didn’t want to allow throw-away identities, I think a waiting period is the best possible way. Alternatively, you could allow throw-away identities as long as they are tied, invisibly, to a persistant identity, such that any serious harassment can be traced back by law enforcement. That would also work in some (sufficiently large) place with (opaque, so you couldn’t reverse engineer identities) reputation systems, where all reputation feeds back into a persistant identity.
      At that point, the problem is that establishing a single, central, identity for every person is a non-trivial problem, even in the real world. However, making such sub-accounts easy and making main accounts hard to get (say a month-long waiting period, or major hurdles to jump through) could mean that most people looking for anonymous accounts wouldn’t bother.

      For all my other complaints with the Slashdot moderation system, it does this reasonably well. You can always post anonymously, but getting your reputation up is valuable and relatively slow so few people maintain multiple identities. The problems left are with the community itself, which no system of names is going to fix.

      1. Alan Bell

        Thanks for that. There are powerful arguments on both sides of this issue and I have not made up my mind entirely where I stand on the pseudonym issue. (yes, most of the arguments against do turn up on the bingo board – but that doesn’t automatically make them invalid) I do see a direct link between the quality of discussion and people being willing to put their name to their words. If G+ were to turn into 4chan I would not be a part of it because that anonymous trollpit scares me, same for YouTube comments. The slashdot system is perhaps a good compromise, as is the stack exchange reputation system. The Anonymous Coward of slashdot can simply be filtered out – on average they don’t add much value, but when they do it can be voted up to the point that I bother to look at it. There can be bad behavior in all situations, but when there are users who have thowaway accounts and no investment in their reputation are involved there is no point in calling out the bad behavior because that is feeding the trolls. They don’t care, there are no social sanctions, all that can be done is a moderator can block them so they change identity and come back. I do understand that there are totally valid reasons to publish content that you don’t want to be attributable – but you can do this using the rest of the internet. I am not sure I want it on a social network which is about connecting people, not connecting shadows. Circles are close to sub accounts in some situations, you can reveal stuff to certain groups without compromising your reputation to others. What they don’t allow you to do is publicly broadcast stuff that you wouldn’t say in public.

        1. Mary

          I’m becoming curious to see some actual research quality data on this, because there’s a lot of I do see a direct link between the quality of discussion and people being willing to put their name to their words being treated as the end of the discussion.

          Got data? A lot of people don’t. A lot of people see using their real name, to pick one demographic, as a good way to turn high or middling quality conversations into a load of “man it is hot to see some ladies here”/”welcome, it’s so brave of you to give [Linux/wargaming/scifi a go]”/”just wondering if you’d like a coffee”/”yeah well, ‘sif she’d know anything about this anyway”/”get out you [fatphobic/bodyphobic] [misogynist slur]”

          So I think at this point we ideally would turn to research: how do people perceive the quality of communities on the real name required/encouraged/discouraged/forbidden axis and is this perception linked with or overwhelmed by their minority/exceptional/marginalised status in that community? Because it’s fairly clear by now that many people who personally have better perceived experiences with real names will universalise based on their own experience, and possibly people who prefer pseudonyms likewise (although pro-pseuds-allowed people don’t to me seem to turn it into pro-no-real-names-allowed as much).

        2. Alan Bell

          I don’t have data, but would really like some. I was thinking along similar lines, in terms of a Gartner magic quadrant type chart and plotting different sites in terms of their naming policy from anonymous (4chan and ilk) to real names (linkedin, maybe G+ and facebook with less user acceptance of the policy) and on the vertical the amount of nastyness on the site – which I have no way to quantify objectively across sites, especially including non-text environments such as games and second life (where I recall being frustrated that I couldn’t use my real name). I hadn’t thought about surveying the perception of users, I would have thought that would distort things i.e. users of 4chan might really like it, those who don’t would exclude themselves from the survey by giving it a wide berth. It is about lived experience and what you use the internet for.
          In the absence of data, lets have a bit more anecdata. What sites encourage pseudonynms and are nice friendly places? Ravelry I know of but can’t observe as it is not available to read for non members (which might be significant in itself) and I am not going to join it just to go look. LiveJournal is variable (I found some of the parenting groups a bit dad-hostile but they were objectively constructive places). I really can’t think of any other places on the internet that are friendly, constructive and anonymous, but the internet is a big place and I avoid large swathes of it. What am I missing out on?

        3. Mary

          Dreamwidth is widely enjoyed by social justice advocates, especially those associated with fandom. Twitter is probably large enough that mileage varies considerably, but I haven’t found it less friendly than, say, open source development mailing lists (which have a strong norm of “real-life” names, but usually not an actual policy of same).

          Anecdata in the other direction: I have seldom encountered a more hostile environment than [trigger warning] LCA’s chat list (and Linux Australia’s linux-aus list, into which that discussion spilled over) in late January/early February this year, and as far as I know people were almost exclusively using the names their employers would recognise. (Whether those names are on their IDs I have no way of knowing.)

          (Note: the wiki selectively quotes because it’s documenting a particular incident, for a full understanding of what happened on that list I’d suggest reviewing the archives.)

        4. Beth

          I encounter enough hostility and impolite discussion in the real world, where people are standing in front of me (and once when I was interviewing them for a job) that I have trouble seeing the arguments on the “pro” side as being anything other than wishful thinking. There are loud assholes out there, and community response to loud assholes is more important in shutting them down than whether or not their names are attached to their statements.
          After all, Richard Dawkins and Scott Adams not only use their real names while trolling, they are famous enough with public enough appearances that they are guaranteed to meet some people they trolled in person later. (The letters to the editor in my local small-town newspaper as a teenager were another excellent example: the violent homophobia and Hillary Clinton-hatred expressed there would make Counter Strike players blush. I trolled them in turn, under my real name, by explaining the definition of “communism” in small words.)

          I think the tendency to imagine ideas of pseudonymity are new to the internet is a function of privilege; it’s been a long time since there was a revolution in this country where White men desired to obscure their identities. Another example of throw-away accounts in the real world: anonymous sources for news articles. Sometimes they are abused to obscure conflicts of interest, but other times they enable information to reach the public that would never otherwise make it out. The Federalist Papers were published under a pseudonym, for similar reasons. Pseudonyms have been used by authors, particularly female authors, for hundreds of years (Go Ask Alice is an example of this being used to lie about who authored a book, but that doesn’t mean they are all bad. Tiptree’s stories, for example, were A) awesome and B) gained the following they because she maintained a male identity.)

        5. Alan Bell

          I am coming round to the idea of pseudonyms :) I am still struggling with the conflict between “don’t feed the trolls” and “call out bad behavior” up to now the distinction to me was if someone has an identity (real name or persistent pseudonym) then they can be educated, if they have no identity they are a troll and don’t get fed. In fact, I don’t think the response to the newspaper letters was trolling them in return, but educating people who’s minds are available to be opened. Would you have bothered writing back if they didn’t use a name?
          I just had a quick flick through the 650 accounts I follow on twitter, because it hadn’t struck me as being an anonymous place, the vast majority use what I know are real names, or look a lot like real names – however I think there maybe 8 or so women who just go by their first name (most of these I know to be their real first name), there are maybe 3 personal accounts that don’t appear to have a recognizable name (one of which is @skud). I am not counting things that are clearly non-personal accounts for a business or organisation. Looking at the list of people who follow me, I think I am seeing a much higher proportion of people who use pseudonyms. This says more about me than it does about Twitter, it seems I may be fairly strongly biased against listening to what people who use pseudonyms have to say. Almost all of the people I follow could be divided up into politicians, journalists, political pundits and software consultants, which is also going to influence the use of names and shape my perception of the network and what people use it for.

    2. Anna


      That’s really interesting WRT your twitter because if I only followed people who used names that passed the sniff test I’d cut my following on Twitter down to less than 1/3. Most of the people I follow are activists, friends I know through the internet, and people who share interests in similar topics to me. The people I follow who use “real names” are typically professionals I’m following for info-dumps rather than for actual communication.

      I was kinda interested in your question about “real names” in newspaper letters. That, of course, is a pretty modern thing. (I’m an historian, I read 19th century newspapers.) For a long time newspaper letters came with pseuds, although in smaller communities they were usually thinly-veiled ones. I’m actually really uncomfortable with the “real names” requirement in getting a letter published in the newspaper because I’d like to write to a newspaper to highlight how inaccessible my university campus is, and do that without retribution.

      Which is, of course, again, why people want pseuds. I want to be able to write about things like how inaccessible my campus is without fear of how it will affect my funding, for example, and I’m certain that people whose politics do not align with mine would like to be able to write about something important to them for the same reason. I’m not ashamed of my opinions, but funding is a fickle thing, you know?

  12. pianycist

    Kinksters and people with mental illnesses who want to talk openly about those things. I would prefer that potential employers not know about my fetishes or my whole list of diagnoses (and I would also rather they not try to relate them to one another). This applies especially to anyone with a diagnosis of any misunderstood medical status, such as but not limited to bipolar-spectrum conditions, personality disorder diagnoses, autistic status, and Tourette’s syndrome. Pseudonymity is also important for any person who is an abuse or assault survivor who does not fall into the category of having had their abuser/assaulter found officially guilty, especially if the person is a survivor of sexual abuse from childhood.

  13. pianycist

    *forgot to add in my comment above*

    Someone already said LGBTQ people, but I wanted to talk specifically about the T, because it is a separate concern than wanting to be open online about sexual orientation.

    Pseudonymity is important for trans people who want to talk about trans-related things prior to name change and have an account under their chosen names rather than their legal names. I don’t have any social networking accounts under my legal name because my legal name belongs to a gender that isn’t mine. This is especially important for trans women because trans women (and any other trans people who were assigned male at birth) are disproportionately targeted among trans people for stalking and anti-trans violence.

  14. John

    Under “Those whose employment means they need to not be found online” perhaps (medical) doctors should be mentioned, particularly psychiatrists?

    1. codeman38

      Just added two items to the list:

      – People who work for intelligence agencies.
      – People who go by their middle name, but who are forced to use their rarely-used first name due to the design of the system.

      1. codeman38

        …erm, that was meant to be a top-level post. (Bug report: refreshing the page causes the hidden ‘in reply to’ field to stay filled in, though the form appears to be posting a top-level reply.)

  15. Jen

    Maybe slightly less serious than some others mentioned but still important I think: those who want to be able to express themselves more freely than they would be able to if their employer and colleagues were listening. This could be as simple as wanting to gripe about your boss or about the conditions at work, or wanting to post silly pictures of yourself that wouldn’t fit with your professional identity, or being able to share simple, everyday experiences like “Lol I was SO hungover at work today, I can’t believe my supervisor didn’t notice.”

  16. Heather

    Artists whose art might not be condoned by their regular employment (such as burlesque dancers, performance artists, or any art that isn’t “polite”) or who don’t want their fans to harass them in their day to day lives.

  17. aloneinthedark

    People found innocent of a crime. If the first thing that comes up when somebody googles your name is a news article about the crime you were accused of, it’s not often that people check the article to see if you were found not guilty, and even if they do, who’s to say they believe you.

    Also I would rly like to see Alan Bell’s question answered, what constitutes a GOOD naming scheme since it seems everybody and their mother has an idea of what constitutes a bad one? Is there a standard some place? I mean i’d have to confess assied from understanding the problem I have no idea how to designed my next application interface other than “first name, last name, middle name, nickname” and just make anything acceptable which a) is still exclusionary to some and b) dosen’t solve the problem at all.

  18. BEG65

    Seems to me this list creates the corollary question, especially if much of the issues surrounding ‘nyms are one of safety, of dealing with outing of ‘nyms. For example, is the company under any obligation to remove, on request, material from archival that connects a ‘nym with a person? What about ToS — should ‘outing’ someone else be grounds for account suspension? Etc.

  19. Tigger

    You don’t need to be in a special category of any type to be harmed by using your real name online. How many ‘facebook firings’ do we have to see before we realise that posting your unguarded thoughts attached to your real name on anything searchable is a huge liability that will never go away.

  20. moose

    It’s an excellent list, and thank you for putting it together.

    I’ve brought up many of these in discussions on G+ about their “no pseudonym” policy and the reaction I almost always get is, “But that’s just a minority fraction of people! Most of the people who do it are really just goofing around!”

    When I try to ascertain how they made such a determination, it’s because their best friend’s buddies’ dog’s petsitter’s mother’s hairdresser knows 5 people who do it.

    The problem with hard, cold facts is that they just can’t fix stupid.

  21. Jen

    I have a friend who recently got a new job and was told to delete his Facebook account as a condition of his employment. His choices now are to either create a pseudonymous account, or stop participating in Facebook altogether.

  22. azurelunatic

    People maintaining relationships that they value by agreeing (formally or informally) not to discuss a contentious topic with each other, for example family relationships where two people do not discuss religion or politics in the presence of the other.

    LGBT people who do live in regions that have anti-discrimination policies, but who would experience discrimination anyway regardless of the law, or a hostile work environment, “unrelated” retaliatory incidents, constructive dismissal — especially those who do not have the resources to defend themselves.

    People who wish to interact with a small set of selected friends without having to defend their right to a private space to do this in from well-meaning family and other friends. (Consider the introvert.) Dealing with (ignoring, declining, frantically locking things down and then accepting) a friend request from a close family member (mother, father, sibling) can be awkward.

    People with co-workers and/or bosses who don’t share the same ideas about appropriate boundaries for socialization outside of work. Not accepting a boss’s Facebook friend request could be hazardous to one’s career, even though it shouldn’t be.

    People who have multiple identities living in the same body, in some cases with separate names, self-images, interests, and friends. A human containing multiple identities may be unlikely to also possess multiple legally recognized names, but many of the identities may be persistent and distinct.

    People who might not use a pseudonym under other circumstances, but who are either themselves put at risk by their association with another party, or who would make another party who would be at risk if identified, identifiable. Examples: A mental health worker who works with people convicted of violent crimes; unless their friends remain pseudonymous when commenting, they may be at risk from any of the health worker’s patients who want revenge for any real or imagined problem. An internet business owner who has refused to submit to the demands of blackmailers; in addition to blackmailing the owner, the employees may be at risk. The doting mother of a pseudonymous erotica curator, who cannot refer to the curator as “my darling child” as her legal name. The best friend of a well-known writer who also maintains an unconnected pseudonym, who cannot be seen to also be best friends with the pseudonym lest someone make the connection. Et cetera.

  23. Meg

    Also, anyone who’s ideas are ignored or discounted because of their identity. I started participating in online discussions at 13, and some of the people I was talking with knew me in real life. In the meat world they didn’t give one whit what I said, but online I could participate as an equal in discussions I was otherwise only allowed to watch. I will note I never lied about who I was, I simply wouldn’t mention my age (or gender).

    While I feel a little bad, because this only works because of “default” being “middle aged white man”, it was also what let me engage in real work that mattered when I was in high school. I go out of my way to compensate now by listening to teenagers and taking them seriously, but most people don’t seem to and until that becomes the norm the ability to hide who you are is the only way for young people to participate as equals.

    It also allowed me to make mistakes, fail quickly, have misconceptions corrected, refine my ideas, when in real life I was so humiliated by failure (because, in my mind, it justified everyone totally ignoring me) that I would never speak unless I was absolutely certain I was correct and people would agree with me. This is a very gendered dynamic, so I suspect it particularly hits young women hard. I am now able to engage in constructive dialog online and offline, acknowledging my potential to be wrong as what makes it interesting, but only because I was first able to fail in a space where the consequences weren’t devastating and self-annihilating the way they were when what I said was attached to my real-world identity.

  24. Dorothea

    I am really impressed with all the thoughtful responses here. Bravi bravissimi.

    I’m having trouble expressing this, so perhaps someone can help me: My sense is that communities are harmed, particularly with respect to diversity of many sorts, when potential participants are deterred from participation (for any of the above reasons) because of a real-name policy.

  25. Jenett

    Commenting here under the long-standing pseudonym :) One other category is people who have concerns about what other people might share, forgetting their preferences for privacy.

    As someone who just a) spent 18 months dealing with some pretty major health foo and b) a year job hunting, I could have been particularly put at a disadvantage by a well-meaning but careless friend saying “How’s the health stuff doing? Are you comfortable making it through more than a few hours without a nap again?” if it were connected with my real name and a potential employer did a search. (Which is pretty common in my line of work: I’m a librarian.)

    Likewise my religion, where I am active as a teacher and community leader, but what I write in that context is mostly intended for people already in the religion (or at least amiably considering it), not written for, say, someone casually searching on me to find other information to stumble across.

    I handle this by having a professional-world online identity where I connect with work colleagues, make work-appropriate posts, etc. (and only add personal friends who I a) trust not to share information that would be problematic for me and b) are interested in the professional-subject content, which isn’t everyone.) I have a personal account for everything else.

    As is true for a number of other people I know, I actually have a longer online history under the persistent pseudonym, have published (paid) writing under it, and everyone calls me by that name except the people I work with and my family of origin and high school friends.

  26. mp

    Clearly there are a lot of people harmed or excluded. I don’t know if having fifty categories rather than five helps anything.

    I’d like to know, or at least hear guesses about, why Google thought a policy of “must sound like a real name” was a good idea. They’re not grossly stupid, they’re not collectively grossly chauvinist, they have experience of abuse of all kinds, they intend this to be widely used. Why would they think a real names policy is good, and what would be a better way to get there?

    I’m guessing the answer is that they want the kind of feeling that comes from people meeting under the kind of names they use in real life, and they want people to be able to look up others they met in real life.

    1. Mary

      I can’t speak for Skud, but one possible reason is the tendency to dismiss the other. Some people dismiss the concerns of women, some of queer people, some of people who write fanfic, some of people who want to complain about their co-workers online, etc. One of the major uses of having such a huge list, to me, is that it makes it almost impossible not to find some category of people one cares about in there.

      1. Mary

        It might help as a specification-checker too. Some but not all of those problems are solved by allowing optional pseudonyms, others require special attention. A really simple example is “sure, you can put in any Unicode character in the given and family name fields”: the existence of the two-names-with-those-designations presumption is still a problem.

        Checking that list and envisaging which of those groups you wish to be somewhat safe/welcome using your system and which you don’t, and which you can’t guarantee safety to would be a lot of work, but a useful exercise when developing this kind of software, and not limited to people’s choice of identifier either.

    2. Dorothea

      I suspect deep down in my wizened soul that it isn’t Facebook they’re after, at least to begin with — it’s LinkedIn. Which is a real-name, employer-friendly, buttoned-down, easy-to-manage social-media site.

      I really wonder who needs a second LinkedIn, though. I sure don’t. I barely pay attention to the existing one.

  27. Lazy Man and Money

    I’m hurt by the “real names” idea in Google+.

    I’m a personal finance blogger who occasionally gives intimate details about my net worth and income – things that most people probably don’t want their employers to know. It’s quite common for personal finance bloggers to go anonymous for this very reason. It allows us the freedom to open ourselves up in ways we couldn’t otherwise.

    I’ve been blogging for 5 years under the name Lazy Man and have built that identity. People know me by that name, they don’t know me as Corey Whitlaw.

    It’s bad for readers to interact with me as Corey Whitlaw in Google+. However, it gets worse. Because the change of the name in Google+ impacts all Google accounts, I now have to deal with the ordeal of sending email to people as Corey Whitlaw… something no one in my previous 5 years of email recognizes.

    It’s ironic that Google is forcing me to take an action that is bad for readers.

  28. BEG65

    I can’t see G+ being a place where one could have a completely anonymous presence. But the thing that puzzles me, if they were OK with making one’s gender private, then why on earth couldn’t the name be optionally private as well? After all, in many cases one’s name will out one’s gender (unless you put in another name and then etc etc etc with the suspension). This really doesn’t seem to be that difficult a solution for them to put in (in terms of granting privacy/pseudonymity). The broader issue of what a name is across different cultures is an entirely different one in terms of finding a good solution.

    If you read the various comments on the various discussions going on at G+ and elsewhere, it’s clear that a sizeable contingent of mostly privileged people simply discount most of the objections (there’s a certain number of people who listen to the debate & change their mind about pseudonymity). The prevailing assumption seems to be that if you don’t post under your own name, you’re a troll etc. I can think of many people who are trolls & harrass using their own names and it would be very interesting to somehow study that to see how far off this assumption is, but basically that’s where they’re coming from. To me, it’s very similar to that sort of mindset that says “If you have nothing to hide, why do you object to [something that invades your privacy]?” and then before you know it you’ve got a police state…

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