Google muzzles political dissidents with YouTube ID tweaks
It's about silo wars not real ones here at Google+
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." ®
not the only one
There's more locations to share your videos and i think google is skating on thin ice with this one. force users in a direction they'd rather not go and they will take their business elsewhere.
It's happened before and i don't really get why google would do this, surely they understand what could await them?
And this month Mathew, my real name is Aaron Aardavrk
Yes it really is, well at least it was when I cleared out my Google cookies and set up a new account. Since then my real name has reverted back to what it was before. Next month I think I'll be Barry Bignob for a few minutes.
Here in the UK your real name is what you chose it to be and you don't have to go through any hoops for it to be so. It may be illegal to drive if you don't update your driving license, and you should inform the taxman etc but you can call yourself anything you want at any moment.
Dear Natalie Aardvaark
Google (and its ilk) do not track just through cookies. They have a huge enough chunk of information on your browsing history, TCP/IP stack fingerprints from your machine which identify the OS (and even hardware), your IP addresses, etc. They have all of your posts, favourite idioms, favourite grammar mistakes and favourite spelling mistakes.
That would have been worthless for an "engineering company". However, google first and foremost is not an "engineering company", it is a "mathematical company" and more specifically one that breathes, eats and sh*ts Bayesian Statistics and conditional probability. In fact they do not even need to _KEEP_ that data on your. They can throw a seemingly random collection of junk into a number cruncher and interesting stuff comes out on the other side.
Trust me, there is a matrix of conditional probabilities somewhere deep inside which groups similar profiles for this exact reason. At this particular moment in time it is used mostly for benign purposes like minimizing the computation on what ad to shovel down your throat. However, in a few years as the natural evolution of "you are what you eat" takes place and advertising industry scumbags eat the company from within it will be used for other stuff as well. One day it _WILL_ be used to ensure that Natalie Aardvaark, Natalie HotGrits and Aaron Aardvaark are all fed the _SAME_ correct ads and their personal and private data is sold as _ONE_ person to the correct scumbag.