At a recent lecture, Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt gave an unsettling explanation for Google+'s policy requiring real names. By one reporter's account, Schmidt said that "G+ was built 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."
In other words, Google is hoping to pick up where Facebook left off (and likely go much further), leveraging personal information volunteered by users into insane amounts of advertising money, and not a whole lot of privacy for anyone. Schmidt also had this to say:
"Online, through a combination of algorithms and editorial nudges, suggestions could be individually crafted to suit your interests and needs. The more you watch and share, the more chances the system has to learn, and the better its predictions get. Taken to the ultimate, it would be like the perfect TV channel: always exciting, always relevant — sometimes serendipitous — always worth your time."
While this information doesn't come as much of a surprise, it's still a little unsettling. "It begs the question of whom Google built this service for? You or them," wrote longtime media critic Fred Wilson. "And the answer to why you need to use your real name in the service is because they need you to."
This may not be too different from techniques already well established with other companies, but as someone who thus far has been pretty indifferent to Google+ (though obviously I signed up anyway — what am I, an animal?), this makes me even less eager to give the service a real shot. Excuse me while I go back to safely trolling Twitter.