I’m not a fan of Facebook or Google Plus. However, Google’s new “real name” policy is really getting on my nerves. My Google Plus account is under the pseudonym of “MakerBlock,” so I might as well save them the trouble of suspending my accounts and just delete it now.
Eric Schmidt recently publicly stated Google Plus isn’t a social networking service, it’s an identity service. The justification for this position was that Google Plus would be better able to serve us by knowing who we really are as well as ranking downwards those people who really are evil. But, really, Google’s business is selling advertising to those people most likely to be interested based on their research of those people by studying, on a grand scale, every aspect of their lives. 12
I get that the person who logs into Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or Google Plus aren’t the real customers, that we’re just the product. This makes sense and, in some cases, seems a fair trade. It’s a funny line these businesses must walk, however. Cater too much to the advertisers, and you lose your audience. Cater too much to the audience, and perhaps you’ll lose advertisers. I understand, from a business perspective, wanting to know as much about your users as possible. But, after a certain point it just gets creepy.
No one was really offended by Facebook’s policies until relatively recently – a few data breaches here, a few account suspensions there. And then they stopped people from treating the data those people created (or consumed) as portable. People were fine with Google Plus until Google really started enforcing this position.
I suppose, for me, the fundamental issue may just be respect. I think Google and Facebook have lost respect for their users. While their business models clearly require observation of the user, it is the difference between watching animals on a wild life preserve versus watching animals in the zoo. When those policies start to close in around the user – and they can start to see the high walls and feel like they are being watched – that’s when people start to grumble and leave.