Google Plus and personal privacy

This post showed up on Google Plus on Saturday from journalist Andy Carvin, and I think it raises quite a few flags for anyone thinking about using Google products, including Google Plus.

Andy Carvin was at the Edinburgh International TV Festival and had an opportunity to ask Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google how Google can justify their policy of real names only on the Google Plus service when using real identities could put people at risk.

The responses below are copied from Andy’s post on Google Plus (here’s the original if you’re on G+). The comments are Carvin’s.

“He replied by saying that G+ was build 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.

Regarding people who are concerned about their safety, he said G+ is completely optional. No one is forcing you to use it. It’s obvious for people at risk if they use their real names, they shouldn’t use G+.

Regarding countries like Iran and Syria, people there have no expectation of privacy anyway due to their government’s own policies, which implies (to me, at least) that Schmidt thinks there’s no point of even trying to have a service that allows pseudonyms.

Unfortunately, the way the Q&A was conducted, I wasn’t in a position to ask him a followup on this particular point. He also said the internet would be better if we knew you were a real person rather than a dog or a fake person. Some people are just evil and we should be able to ID them and rank them downward. These aren’t exact quotes, but I did my best to paraphrase the gist of what he was saying.”


So, how do you feel about the issue of using your real name on Google Plus and your personal safety/privacy? In the case of an activist, a worker in a domestic violence shelter, public figure, or person who needs to have some level of privacy should they be using social media at all?

If Google Plus is indeed an identity network where is it going to go next? How do you feel about the potential of Google sharing cross referenced information about you based on your profile, the information harvested from the links and information you share with your Google Docs, Gmail, Adwords, Analytics and search information?

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  • In the event you really think social media is not a privacy issue, you might want to read this post from  oo. 

  • And another take on real names from  from @RichHarris:twitter

  • Sponsoredplus is a social marketing company focused on providing valuable google+ votes. Buying Plus Ones can drastically improve your search engine ranking. 

  • Igby

    I am (within the past year) trying to move on from a long 7 and a half year abusive relationship. I am still being stalked online through fake profiles. I get emails and messages on social sites from my ex, letting me know that he is continuing to stalk me. I feel I have no control. He isn’t giving me his name in the messages so I can’t take it to the police. It’s all through fake profiles. Even then I am scared he will find out which state I fled to and scarily enough possibly the city through legal paperwork or proceedings. Social sites scare me now. I have just deleted my Facebook account. I will be deleting Twitter when I log in next also. The issues I have with Google+ is the nearly forcing me to use it. I can’t go anywhere online without seeing a sign up through Facebook option. That bothers me because they find new loopholes to invade privacy online every day. But now my own Android phone scares me to use. I am forced to sync my phone to a Gmail account. Gmail and all other Google products are Google+ now. So where does that leave me? My phone is synced with Gmail…which is Google, which is Google+. My phone is forced with a Google+ app that I can’t delete. I make sure to never open it so it never syncs my information. I was even cautious enough to turn off auto-updates on apps so it doesn’t open it without my knowledge. Yet the PlayStore (which is also Google) updated. That reset all of the settings back to default all without my consent or knowledge. I found out because I received a text. I looked at my phone in time to see that 13 of the 16 factory apps that wanted to update were already updated and it was working on the 14th. I stopped it from continuing. I turned off my wifi which I usually leave on while at home because my web service is slow due to a reception issue. I keep it on to receive my emails and picture texts without freezing up my phone. I noticed a new app called Google Settings (which I deem as useless) was downloaded with the new PlayStore update. I am still learning more about the app. But apparently it is to convenience the syncing of information for Google+ users. Now that Google+ has been opened, due to it forcefully updating itself, and this new bloatware is there to sync my apps, location, etc. to Google+ what is next? I can factory reset to ensure that Google+ is not activated on my phone again. But even with the factory reset, it will update the PlayStore again, add this bloatware and attempt to update my Google+ factory app again. I can’t change the settings till I sign in to sync my Gmail. I can’t sync my Gmail to my phone without it syncing to Google+ and PlayStore. There is no real loophole for keeping Google+ out of my life as long as I am an Android user. There is only one cell phone provider where I am and it does not sell anything but a Windows phone and Androids. I am left with the option of shelling out a lot of cash to switch to a Windows phone simply because I do not wish to be a Google+ user? No here comes the real story on why I am strictly against Google+ for all who are not aware. I was curious about Google+ and signed up for it while I was trying to leave my abusive ex. It was a way where I thought (because my ex was not a Google+ user) to communicate to family and friends for help to get away. I was terrified when I noticed that Google+ was syncing my location and posting it on the Google+ site. I’m sure this was an oversight on my part during signup. But tracking my by GPS when I was trying to escape my abuser would’ve be a terrifying and possibly fatal mistake if I had not caught it. I immediately turned off my location on my phone and searched among the many settings, options, setup sections of my new account to turn this feature off. All I came up with was page after page of them asking to sync my photo album, my contacts list and anything else my phone featured with Google syncing. A complete and scary invasion of privacy feeling overwhelmed me. I quickly deleted the account which was easy to delete strangely enough considering the option to sync my location to the world was lost in the pages somewhere. Later, after leaving my ex, I found myself on YouTube where someone posted a question to my anonymous (by username) comment and in my reply I was asked to used Google+. I declined the offer, but found that it had posted my real name and set me up with a Google+ account without my consent. I was so livid. I deleted it and then was left with wondering if I had made a mistake and possible clicked on the thumbs up to Google+. I went through the process again and made sure to deny a Google+ account and found myself back again in my third Google+ account that I had to delete. Against my wishes, Google+ will always sneak its way in without my consent if I even wish to use their services. When is it going to stop? Everyone says to just ignore the site and leave it up. Ignore it when my exact location was put on blast for the world to see? It’s not an option for someone living with the fears of an abuse victim that is being stalked. We live in fear every day and the ignorance on that is costing abuse victims the right to live without fear. Everything we do is online anymore. Should we have to be scared of every smartphone, every computer, and every new piece of technology because we aren’t being considered? I see the ignorance on this topic everywhere. Hours ago I saw a post where someone says “privacy is only something that pedophiles need.” Victims are not considered at all. Only the criminals are seen as the ones hiding. But what about the children of those pedophiles they mentioned? They don’t get their privacy either? I guess they see it more fit to waves the past, present and future victims out there and catch the criminal in the act of the abuse. I must sarcastically thank the ignorant people for victimizing so many instead of preventing the crime. Once I have become a victim, then I can be helped? But I have to protection till then? The world needs to wake up. Where is the humanity?

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