Revealing your identity online: anonymity no longer an option

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

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.

Google+

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?

3 Responses

  1. Aller Says:

    “Any thoughts on anonymity and social?”

    Yeah, don’t do it. Stop acting like a herd animal.

  2. Vatnos Says:

    The problem is that many people have social lives they may not want to mix with their family and career.

    Facebook, Quora, and other sites are operating on the “nobody should be ashamed of anything” philosophy. But you cannot force that on everyone all at once without causing a lot of people to simply bottle up parts of their lives they felt save revealing to certain friends, but maybe not employers or politically averse relatives.

    It’s like creating a new country but telling all of its members after they move there that lying–of any kind is illegal.

  3. Connie Says:

    I just got finshed watching “terms, conditions, and privacy on Netflix. I know the government can take steps to find mh real identity. Hopefully, they will never feel the need to. Other than that, I like to express my opinion without all my coworkers, family, acquaintances, etc. knowing everythkng I do. Way back before computers existed there were things I might chose to only tell certain friends, but not others. There might be things I would share with friends but not family and vice versa, and goodness knows, we were allowed to vent about work without repurcisions. I guess when people grow up in a “social media” society, they have never experienced anything else. I have, and I like the at least feeling of anonymity. This doesn’t mean I will lie, be mean or rude, it just means, I like not everyone knowing what I do.

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