Real Name Policy in Social Networks – Dangerous

Facebook Real Name PolicyMaybe you know about this – some social networks force you to use your real name in your profile. Facebook is one. If you aren’t using your real name, your account can get flagged (by Facebook automation or after getting reported), and then you can lose the account or at least get it locked. Google also used to have that policy, but after so much backlash from users, they dropped it.

First, Ridiculous

What does the policy serve?

“Make sure real people use Facebook”, Facebook says. “To reduce bots”, Facebook says.

Does, it, really?

As can be seen from support threads like this at Facebook and news like this about Facebook cracking down on fake profiles, it just doesn’t work.

All this time Facebook had this real name policy, and it didn’t prevent fake profiles, fake likes, even inflated Facebook advertising results.

So it just doesn’t work…

But Most importantly, Dangerous!

Yeah, its crazy dangerous. Even if you don’t immediately notice.

Imagine – you are directly identifiable and track-able as an individual through a social network, by anyone who may access your profile or even your random comments/posts/shares on your own profile, on other people’s profiles, on a page or discussion thread on the social network – a news channel’s, newspaper’s or website’s page – basically any publicly or network-wide accessible area on the network.

Take a second to consider any person that fits the below profile:

  • Anyone who has a beef with you because of anything you did in the past
  • Your current or future employers who may agree or disagree with your views/habits/lifestyle
  • Someone who wants to break into your house when you aren’t there
  • Some nutjob who didn’t like your posts/comments/shares
  • Those who disagree with your political view/religion/philosophy and may want to prosecute you
  • Local or state governments which may go after you for the same reason
  • Any dangerous crackpot

The random comment you dropped on “Serious Politics” Facebook fan page or a politically charged comment you made in some newspaper’s page can become a problem solely because you are easily identifiable with your real name.

Any people who are engaging in internet activism of any level is also in broad daylight with their real names for any local, state government or private interest to sue or prosecute.

Considering how engaging in internet activism, sharing news, signing petitions on matters related to each and every one of us have become a common reality these days, you can realize the reach of this problem. Even the selfie-addict teenage girls sign petitions these days.

There are people who got their houses broken into when they shared their vacation.

There are people who got fired from their jobs for their political views or lifestyle.

There are cases of people threatening each other over tidbits or serious stampedes on comment threads.

So, real name policy is quite dangerous. And ridiculous.

Then why are they insisting

Numerous reasons. Name your pick.

The fact that Facebook wants to push services like advertising to make money may be a factor. Hard to bill people through Facebook if they don’t use their real names.

They may be wanting to appease advertisers. Easier to sell your advertising if advertisers can tell who’s who and that real people are liking their page or clicking their ad.

They also want to sell data – oh, be sure that they want to. And they do. If you have your real name in your profile, much better for any advertiser or the user of that ‘big data’.

Governments. Government agencies ranging from NSA to FBI would be much more happier if you are easily track-able with your name in whatever backend Facebook apparently provides them to access your data – probably the one which Wikileaks told about here.

Name your pick. Or, rather say that its ALL of them.

For it probably is.

What to do then?

When Plus did not become popular, Google was smart enough to ditch the real name policy. So that means that it can be done – if Google can ditch it, Facebook and any other social network surely can.

Best would be to migrate into such a network – be it Plus, Diaspora, Ello or any other. But of course, you cant just jump ship and take all your friends. Or find them whichever network you move to.

So that’s a problem.

Possible to reduce your visibility in Facebook by using a version of your first name, or a nickname derived from your nickname. That’s within their terms.

But doesn’t help much since your surname is there as bright as the light of day for anyone to see.

Creating a secondary profile with a fake identity and engaging in sensitive stuff with that profile is an option, but its against Facebook terms.

Another option is to hammer it into the heads in Facebook so they can finally see the reason.

Update 12 Feb 2015:

In a hilarious move, Facebook keeps suspending Native Americans on grounds of using ‘fake’ names. Despite being an issue which is lingering since 2009 and there already being a petition by Native americans urging Facebook to allow them to use their proper Native American names, Facebook’s response is that they made many improvements recently, which also includes “enhancing the overall experience and expanding the options available for verifying an authentic name.”

It seems like Facebook is hell bent on enforcing totally absurd policies.


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