Google may not force people to use their real names now, but it hasn’t had the best track record with this stuff. When it launched Google+ back in 2011, the company made the hugely controversial decision to prevent people from using pseudonyms, a rule it was forced to relax some time afterward.
More recently, Google introduced Google+ login buttons, which people use to sign up for services using their Google+ accounts. Late last year, Google also tied users’ Google Play reviews to their Google+ accounts, preventing them from anonymously reviewing apps.
The two features seem like they targeting different things, but they both tie into one word: trust. By enforcing a system wherein everyone is using their real names, Google says it can more effectively assure users that they’re dealing with real, legitimate, trustworthy people (and websites).
Vint Cerf, a senior Google executive known as a “father of the Internet” thinks it is a bad idea:
When Google+ launched in 2011, its requirement that users display their real names alarmed activists who accused the Web giant of abandoning its “Don’t be evil” corporate mantra to pursue growing rival Facebook. The world’s most popular social network has been the most aggressive in enforcing its policy, with Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg once equating keeping multiple identities with “a lack of integrity.”
In one instance in 2011, Facebook suspended British author Salman Rushdie’s account and, after reviewing his passport, changed his Facebook identity to “Ahmed Rushdie.” The company relented after Rushdie played up the row on Twitter, but it has stood by its policy as a general matter.
“This real name culture leads to greater accountability and a safer and more trusted environment for our users, and we firmly believe that the use of authentic identity helps people get the most value out of the site,” Facebook spokesman Frederic Wolens said.
Due to its easy integration, many online messaging boards or third-party apps — like music-streaming service Vevo.com, for instance — increasingly require users to log in with their Facebook credentials. Last week, Google introduced a similar Google+ log-in service for third-party sites.
In response to public outcry, Google in 2012 began allowing nicknames and pseudonyms for a fraction of Google+’s 500 million users, and has since reiterated that it would encourage – but not require – Gmail and YouTube users to sign in with Google+.