A couple of years ago I wrote a post on online identity and privacy giving some reasons for using an alias on this blog. I registered the domain under a proxy to preserve my anonymity and have since continued to be techandlife here. As far as I’m aware, no-one reading this blog (except for close family, and Google of course) knows my real identity. So in terms of blogging, it seems you can still preserve your anonymity online, if that’s what you want.
But things have moved on quite a lot in 2 years. With the explosion of ‘social’, seen particularly in the growth of Twitter and Facebook and now it seems Google+, it’s now pretty clear that you can’t be social and hide behind an alias. To be social you have to give a real photo of yourself and a real name, and judging by the popularity of Facebook for example, most people don’t seem to have a problem with that. In fact, it’s very clear that I’m really very much in the minority holding back on revealing my identity.
I would still argue that ‘online social’ is still in its infancy. We just don’t really know what the long term effects of our online presence will be. But there’s no question it’s hard to fight against it. Apart from Twitter and Facebook, here are a further three areas where anonymity is being shoved aside.
Quora is a pretty recent and very popular questions and answers site. I tried signing up under an alias but they would have none of it. I was blocked because the name associated with my account did not conform to Quora’s naming policy. Real names please.
Facebook photo tagging
Yes I know, if you’re registered with Facebook (under your real name), you can remove your name tag from photos where you’ve been tagged, if you want. But did you know that your photos can still be tagged even if you aren’t on Facebook. I know because it’s happened to me. Yes, I know the tag won’t link back to your page, because you don’t have one, but still anyone on Facebook can insert your name in any photo there. So how many people have been tagged in Facebook without even realising it – because they’re not on Facebook. And you can only remove the tags by signing up, then removing them.
To register for Google+, the latest social network, you have to have a Google profile, and that can’t be private any more. You have to reveal at least your name and gender.
So all roads seem to be pointing to zero anonymity now if you want to go fully ‘social’. And that seems to be right – social and anonymous just don’t fit together. People want to talk to real people. So that’s it. I’m going to embrace ‘social’ and start putting up my real name when required. What changed my mind? Well, just the seeming futility of continually pushing against it when everyone else seems happy with it… and also the arrival of Google+. I think I have to be there. Looks like it’s going to be a serious rival for Facebook and that’s got to be a good thing. We just have to blindly trust Google with our personal information and that’s okay… isn’t it?
But I’ll go cautiously. I think I know enough about online to be careful what I say and what I reveal.
Any thoughts on anonymity and social?