Vint Cerf, “father of the internet” and Google’s chief internet evangelist, is speaking out about Google’s decision to push users toward using their real names across services. In a recent interview with Reuters, the Google executive said the initiative to get users using their real names across profiles on various services such as Google+ and YouTube has “sparked intense debate” at the company:
Over the past year, the company has strongly encouraged users to merge their accounts on YouTube, Gmail and other Google properties into a single Google+ identity, the company’s social network offering that asks users to use the “common name” they are known by in the real world.
“Using real names is useful,” Cerf said. “But I don’t think it should be forced on people, and I don’t think we do.”
Vint said not using real names is “perfectly reasonable” in certain situations, especially in countries with governments seeking to ban anonymity:
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But Cerf recognized using real names could land social media users under oppressive regimes in “fatal trouble,” and Google will not enforce its policy in such instances. But in many other cases, user authentication should be promoted, he said.
“Anonymity and pseudonymity are perfectly reasonable under some situations,” Cerf said. “But there are cases where in the transactions both parties really need to know who are we talking to. So what I’m looking for is not that we shut down anonymity, but rather that we offer an option when needed that can strongly authenticate who the parties are.”
His thoughts on Facebook:
“I’m on Facebook and I found it less than useful,” said Cerf, who explained that he accepted every Facebook friend request when he first joined the service — only to quickly hit the maximum threshold of 5,000 friends.
“I complained to (Facebook Chief Operating Officer) Sheryl Sandberg that I thought that was a personal insult that they thought I had too many friends,” he said. “I think they changed it for me.”
You can read more from Vint’s interview with Reuters here.