Feeds

Google muzzles political dissidents with YouTube ID tweaks

It's about silo wars not real ones here at Google+

Website security in corporate America

As recently as February this year, Google allowed its users to sign up to its revenue-challenged video sharing website YouTube using a pseudonym.

In fact, Mountain View was so proud of that option that its director of privacy, product and engineering, Alma Whitten, penned a blog post in which she pointed out the importance of allowing individuals to provide content anonymously online.

"Using a pseudonym has been one of the great benefits of the internet, because it has enabled people to express themselves freely – they may be in physical danger, looking for help, or have a condition they don't want people to know about," she wrote in February on Google's public policy blog.

"People in these circumstances may need a consistent identity, but one that is not linked to their offline self. You can use pseudonyms to upload videos in YouTube or post to Blogger."

It's likely that Whitten was seeking to surf the Arab Spring wave. Indeed Google has made a big deal about the use of YouTube by activists across the Middle East as protests erupted across the region.

But, even before the arrival of Google+ – which is supposedly storming the interwebs according to, er, buzz from Ancestry.com founder Paul Allen – the company's policy about identity verification has ominously changed.

It's no longer possible for individuals to simply log on to YouTube with an anonymous username. The world's largest ad broker has clearly spotted a flaw in the site's business model and is now forcing users to sign in to the video-sharing site using an existing Google account such as that used for, say, Gmail.

This, of course, means Google is increasingly herding users of its products into one gated field.

However, up until very recently, it was possible for a Gmail account to be created that didn't require a real name to authenticate the individual was who they claimed to be.

That's a process that has long been in pace at Facebook. Indeed, Mark Zuckerberg's company even goes so far as to ask its users, whose accounts have been temporarily disabled for violating certain terms, to provide official photo ID to help get their stalking privileges reinstated.

And now, Google, with its latest attempt at social networking, is following suit.

As we pointed out last week, Google is telling people who have created private profiles in, say, the company's free email service Gmail, that their profile will be deleted after 31 July unless they switch it to public view first.

Furthermore, Google has an optional request for individuals to provide photo ID to reactivate disabled accounts. It also demands that real names are created from here on in.

What does this mean for the likes of political dissidents wanting to "freely express themselves" without fear of "physical danger" for exposing their real identity?

According to a post on the New World Notes blog that details one such case where a Google profile was suspended for using a pseudonym, the company's stance is as follows:

"Google Profiles are designed to be public pages on the web, which are used to help connect and find real people in the real world," said Google spokeswoman Katie Watson.

"By providing your common name, you will be assisting all people you know – friends, family members, classmates, co-workers, and other acquaintances – in finding and creating a connection with the the right person online."

But she declined to comment further on how Google differentiates between "common name" and "real name".

The Register put a number of queries to Google about the ID verification shift within its entire online estate now that Google+ has arrived, including requesting a statement about the changes to YouTube.

The company pointed us at this link that details its Google Profiles policy. Beyond that we were told: "At this stage, there is no further information to share." ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Critical Adobe Reader and Acrobat patches FINALLY make it out
Eight vulns healed, including XSS and DoS paths
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.