EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

Summary: Facebook wants "anonymity to go away" and the EFF wants a case for pseudonyms. Can either be right, or is each proposal as flawed as the other?

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Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook's marketing director and sister of founder Mark Zuckerberg, is advocating real names to be used in the online world as a fix to the ongoing cyberbullying problem.

Yet, the privacy group and online human rights watchdog, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), wants users to be able to use pseudonyms instead of their real names.

(Image via Flickr)

Zuckerberg wants "anonymity to go away". Not only would it force many to behave better, she argues, it is too easy for many to hide behind the apparent anonymity of the web.

The EFF, on the other hand, want users to be able to freely use their online handles, and other names they choose to use online -- regardless of whether it bears the same name as their birth certificate.

Naturally, as a privacy group, the argument that governments and law enforcement will find it more difficult to collate private and personal information on users rings true.

Having said that, the EFF draw upon evidence from the Egyptian uprising and those more vulnerable to online assaults and harassment -- not limited to activists during the revolutions in the Arab Spring and those within the LGBT communities, which are often targeted by abusers.

Facebook, and recently seen in the ongoing name debacle over Google's names policy in its new social network, Google+, requires all users to display their real name.

But Google has taken this approach for some time, echoed by the then CEO Eric Schmidt, calling online anonymity "dangerous".

It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that the two leading social networks in the world today, Facebook and Google+, both want real names to be used on their sites, as all content on the site they are not only liable for, but equally responsible for to a greater or lesser extent.

Zuckerberg seemed to ignore the fact that cyberbullying continues on the site she works for, regardless of whether real names are used, and Google+ and any other social network will be the same.

Considering so much money is made from the personal details of ordinary users who take advantage of the free services from online advertisers, no wonder both Google and Facebook take this approach.

But arguably, the very notion of choosing one's own identity is laden with subjectivity. While I am known by the name I display here and many of my online handles reflect this, a birth name does not constitute one's identity.

If Facebook, and Google for that matter, want to promote a real name policy and enforce it as such -- though complain about issues of anonymity and criminality, perhaps it would be wise to focus on tackling the illegalities rather than the inconsequential nature of one's identity.

Topic: Social Enterprise

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51 comments
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  • Look no further than these talkbacks

    For the quality of comments perceived annonymity affords.<br><br>Make them accountable, use real names.
    Richard Flude
    • RE: EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

      @Richard Flude I see your point but at the same time having to use one's real name in talkbacks like these can open a can of worms. Let's say I use my real name rather than the pseudonym I use here and someone gets offended at something I say... which does happen on occasion. Let's say this person who got offended decided not to call me out here but - using my real name - managed to track me down, stalk me, and hurt my family or damage my property. Over a comment in an online forum. Over words.<br><br>I'll grant that it is an extreme example but there are some real nutjobs online, some of them savvy enough to be able to track down someone using their name. On Facebook I expect to have to use my real name and I expect others to use their real names because I want to find people I lost touch with and I want them to find me... to me that is the purpose of Facebook - reconnecting with people lost along the journey one's life takes.
      athynz
      • RE: EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

        @athynz

        The first paragraph was very well put.
        josh92
      • RE: EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

        @athynz Exactly, I agree with you. Although I'd imagine the response to that would be "Then don't say anything potentially offensive," but that's just circular reasoning. And on top of that it chills free speech.
        snoop0x7b
      • That Would Mean a Lot of Empty Comment Sections

        @snoop0x7b
        My response to people who say, "Then don't say anything potentially offensive," would be to point out that you would have to say nothing at all to accomplish that. I guess the comments at ZDNet would all be empty or nearly so if we decided to try and follow that advice.
        CFWhitman
      • RE: EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

        @athynz: Well said.

        If FB and G+ want me to register with my real name, how will they know I am telling the truth? Will they want all the numbers my government uses to identify me (National Insurance; Passport; National Health Service; Tax ID)?

        I live in a small city and there are eleven people who share the same first, middle and surname as myself. There are even more who share the same two initials and surname as myself. Of the first group, at least three have spent time in prison, one is still inside for some serious offences.

        I have thus far been fortunate and not been the subject of mistaken identity. I have even thought about changing my name.
        sip01
      • RE: EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

        @athynz Forums and Social Networks are not the same thing. The purpose of a social network is to connect YOU (not CutiePikachuGal9652) with your friends. And in those arenas where real names are being advocated (Facebook, Google+), you have the controls needed to keep your posts invisible to all but the people you want to see them.
        SenorAlejandro
      • RE: EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

        @SenorAlejandro <b><br><br>Forums and Social Networks are not the same thing. The purpose of a social network is to connect YOU (not CutiePikachuGal9652) with your friends. And in those arenas where real names are being advocated (Facebook, Google+), you have the controls needed to keep your posts invisible to all but the people you want to see them.</b><br><br>Actually they are sort of the same thing in broad strokes - what IS social networking? Interaction online between 2 or more people? Dude, we are somewhat interacting now so in a way they are much the same.<br><br>However I was responding to: <br><br><b>Look no further than these talkbacks For the quality of comments perceived annonymity affords.<br><br>Make them accountable, use real names.</b><br><br>In which Richard Flude seemed to be saying that ZDNet needs to use real names here. Also if you had bothered to read the second paragraph of my original post you'd have seen that I do in fact understand the reasoning behind the real names on both Facebook and Google+. Reading comprehension is a wonderful thing.

        Anything else you want to try to call me out on?
        athynz
      • RE: EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

        @athynz I am fairly certain the mindless ifanboy vs. droid debate would di<a href="http://vb.maas1.com/">m</a>inish in the forums if people were to realise their names would be associa<a href="http://www.tran33m.com/vb/">t</a>ed with such puerile debates. But I can appreciate that a space needs to be there for those countries where freedom of expression does not exist and repression reigns.
        alasiri5
      • RE: EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

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    • RE: EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

      @Richard Flude

      "As unkindness has no remedy at law, let its avoidance be with you a point of honor." ?Hosea Ballou

      Just because it's unpleasant that people use pseudonyms and act unethically doesn't mean they shouldn't be allowed to do it.
      josh92
      • RE: EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

        @josh92

        I agree with you.

        There's a certain % of people who go bonkers when given anonymity, but I would argue that in general, the % of people who don't go bonkers when given anonymity is far greater. Most of us shouldn't be penalized because a few absolutely pathetic, vacuous fools can't handle anonymity without shedding their dignity.

        And then there are privacy concerns. I'm not one of these psychos who finds anonymity to be a license to be a giant d___ to everyone I meet. I just want to maintain my privacy from internet psychopaths.

        Anyway, I personally don't really care much for FB or G+. If I don't want to use my real name and they shut down my account, so be it. I won't lose any sleep.
        stooge51
    • RE: EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

      @Richard Flude - and what people do on their own time is their own time. Companies have no reason to be prejudicial and decide that what they see on FB represents people on the job. (I don't drink, slur without reason, et cetera, and not everybody who does does so 24/7. ) Or they can pay people more money to dictate how people should act 24/7. That would be fair, we could all use more money nowadays...
      HypnoToad72
      • I don't agree

        How people conduct themselves in private says a lot about their character. Character is very important quality we look for in employees.
        Richard Flude
      • RE: EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

        @Richard Flude [b]How people conduct themselves in private says a lot about their character. Character is very important quality we look for in employees.[/b]

        While I tend to agree with both statements what gives you, a company, a potential employer, the government, or an online forum or social networking site the right to dig through one's private life? There IS a reason why it is called a "private" life and how one conducts themselves outside of the job (i.e. when not in a uniform, not driving a company vehicle, not being paid by a company, and not on any sort of company business or representing the company in ANY way, shape or form) is THEIR business. Obviously there will be extenuating circumstances to that (i.e. someone is hurt/ raped/ murdered and one is a suspect) but my current employer and any potential employers can keep their noses out of my Facebook.

        I recall a case where employees were [i]required[/i] to allow their employer full access to their Facebook page - not just "friending" the employer but actually having to surrender one's password to one's own personal Facebook page or be terminated. I'd choose termination over being told that I HAVE TO give my employer my password to something that is in no way connected to my place of employment.

        I'm on Facebook and there IS a reason that I have not added my boss or any of my coworkers to my Facebook page... because I keep my work life and private life separate.
        athynz
      • RE: EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

        @HypnoToad72 <br><br>hi everyone.<br>me 2 .<br>faceboook ask me real name and midel name , i answered , then ask me Passport print .. and i uploaded that.<br>but my page is Locket Still.<br>please help me.
        this is my Screen shot:
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        aminrapture
    • RE: EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

      @Richard Flude

      I definitely agree on people being accountable for their accounts everytime they do something online. However, we must also consider giving them their right to privacy.


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      • RE: EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

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  • RE: EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

    Real names are worth gold when sold to advertisers and data miners. That's all that matters. I don't know of any existing proof that people behave better online when their real names are required. For that matter, real names can be tough to verify without government participation.

    And what is a "real name"? Terence, Terry and Terencio are all my name, used in various situations. Which one is the "required" one for Facebook or Google?
    terry flores
    • RE: EFF, Facebook argue over 'real name policies'

      @terry flores

      Yep, I think it's very suspect that Mark Zuckerberg claims that people act better when they are forced to act under their real name and that's why he forces that on Facebook, it's suspect because like you said he has a dog in the hunt, he has something to gain by making people use their real names.
      josh92