Anonymity Online – Should We Be Allowed Personal Privacy?

It’s an interesting time to be a commenter. In a move that was a year coming, Google Plus has become the mandatory system for commenting on YouTube. In order to post on any video, a user must create a Google Plus profile, which basically means using their real name. Google claims that this change will increase meaningful conversations on YouTube and help protect against harmful comments.

Send in the tanks. As you can imagine, the internet didn’t respond well to this. In addition to military graphics, nearly two hundred thousand users have signed a petition against the Google Plus move. Numerous articles have pointed out that the Google change-over hasn’t stopped the random or abusive comments, and some claim the randomness is even worse. Despite flame-attacks and user petitions, Google has only responded by thanking users for their feedback.

A Scanner Slightly? As an American citizen in the 21st century, I don’t particularly want my face and name posted all over the internet. But as a social media professional, I’ve seen this train coming down the tracks for a while. I also know that unless you’re making very strident security moves, someone can find your comments on the internet.

Ironically, the message board battles taking place over this event involve two parties—advocates for anonymity online and their counter-parts wanting security. As a 30 year-old man who’s spent half of his life on the internet, I strangely find myself siding with the security-minded. I’m simply tired of seeing pointless, homophobic, racist and unnecessarily malignant comments when all I want to do is watch Duran Duran’s Ultra Chrome, Latex and Steel Tour in 1997. I also know that the future of this connected world will involve my total presence, not just what I put down on my resume.

“You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” Scott McNealy said it more than a decade ago, and it’s even truer now. Advocates for internet privacy don’t seem to understand the Brave New World we’ve all bought into. In a world where we’re connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week via social media, something like anonymity online doesn’t make any sense. I also don’t think it’s fair to connect wanting to blast people on YouTube with being a privacy advocate. And I understand that some people have reasonable complaints against Google’s information gathering ways, but that’s not what I’m seeing on the internet.

But perhaps all of this angst is a bit pointless, one way or another. We’re moving to a system of real names and faces. I also think younger users understand that. They’ve never been on an internet where you pretended to be someone else, and perhaps that is for the best.

What are your thoughts about anonymity on the internet?