It’s been a few weeks, and the debate about Google+’s names policy hasn’t abated. A friend of mine pointed me to this link:
So why the change of heart? Have Google’s principles on Internet freedom changed?
Well maybe, we got a first clue this week when Andy Carvin of NPR reported Eric Schmidt rather ominous words that Google+ is an “identity service.” Really? For who? Why? How? Isn’t Google+ a social network?
We get more clues to the possible true nature of the G+ “Project” when we read Carvin’s full transcript of the interview with Eric Schmidt.
“And the notion of strong identity was never invented in the Internet. Many people worked on it – I worked on it as a scientist 20 years ago, and it’s a hard problem. So if we knew that it was a real person, then we could sort of hold them accountable, we could check them, we could give them things, we could you know bill them, you know we could have credit cards and so forth and so on, there are all sorts of reasons.”
Google’s ambitions for Google+ appear to go far beyond social signals, marketing, and their efforts to make a better product. Dig a little further and you’ll find something called the “National Strategy For Trusted Identities In Cyberspace” (NSTIC).
The article suggests that Google’s plans are far grander than we imagined:
Maybe we have a new wrinkle in the reason behind the real ID movement, not the betterment of services for Google, but the government initiative into a real online ID system. One where as Eric Schmidt says. “if we knew that it was a real person, then we could sort of hold them accountable, we could check them.” But wait let’s not jump the gun, let’s read some more of the document, or “strategy” as outlined.
“The Federal Government commits to collaborate with the private sector; state, local, tribal, and territorial governments; and international governments–and to provide the support and action necessary to make the Identity Ecosystem a reality. With a concerted, cooperative effort from all of these parties, individuals will realize the benefits of the Identity Ecosystem through the conduct of their daily transactions in cyberspace”
But what exactly is the Identity Ecosystem? It seems the system has goals that, to me, sound similar to the G+ project, but you be the judge.
We have Schmidt saying, “So the solution of course that we’ve come up with is called Google+, which is in essentially early beta, and it looks like it’s doing very well so far. It essentially provides an identity service.”
The article also address one of the key arguments used to dismiss criticism of Google’s policy: the idea that if you don’t like Google’s rules, you’re free to go elsewhere.
As for G+ being voluntary, maybe, maybe that is what they say, but is that reality?
Schmidt was also quoted saying those who don’t have the service could experience downgrading of their Google products and services. So let’s say you’re an avid Gmail user or you have an Android phone, and somewhere down the road your service is “downgraded” for not having a proper verified G+ account.
It’s easy for Schmidt to say now that you don’t “have” to have it, but is that really a fair assessment? What if you do business? Are you really not going to have your site on Google? Not use AdWords or Analytics?