For Those Who Don’t Want To Believe

Excellent article from Jon Evans at TechCrunch about a month ago, relevant to the Nym Wars.

Cheap and/or ubiquitous cameras and facial recognition make surveillance ever more omnipresent; the dangers and uncertainties of other new technologies, like hobbyist UAVs, lead to calls for even greater scrutiny; and eventually online anonymity/pseudonymity will be the only kind there is. That isn’t entirely a bad thing. It’s because of crowdsourced surveillance that New York police lieutenant Anthony Bologna faces two investigations after apparently gratuitously pepper-spraying protestors. But it means the ability to remain pseudonymous online will only become more and more important in the years to come.

Do the services that connect people online seem to realize this? Sadly, the answer mostly ranges between “No” and “Hell, no.” Twitter is the only major social network that doesn’t have a real-names policy, and the only one with a history of going to bat for its users’ privacy. But while the online journalists in Mexico who dare to report on its brutal drug wars are beheaded after their real identities are connected to their online bylines, while Syrians are detained and interrogated because of their Facebook accounts, Vic Gundotra has idiotically compared Google Plus’s real-name policy to “wearing a shirt to a restaurant,” and both Eric Schmidt and Mark Zuckerberg’s sister Randi have called for real identities to be attached to all online activity.

Power and Identity

Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd argues in this article that ‘The people who most heavily rely on pseudonyms in online spaces are those who are most marginalized by systems of power.

I could point out that Google+ and Facebook are staffed by privileged men, so obviously these points wouldn’t have occurred to them, but I want to keep this blog more in the observer role of online identity…so I’ll just recommend you read Boyd’s article and think about what happens worldwide when people are forced to use one name for all spaces.  (One name to rule them all; one name to find them)