Google+, Facebook and Online Identity: The Problem With “Real Names” (And Why It Matters To You)

google plus logoA long time ago, Lawrence Lessig wrote the book Code (1999). He argued, persuasively, that "code is law." And "code"? It's written, in the main, by profit-maximizing organizations. In 2003, Mark Zuckerburg launched the site that would become Facebook. You had to use a real email address and your real name. The site was, for all intents and purposes, a limited edition Match.com (which requires real names - "accurate" profile information). Content was not accessible via the public web; it was only accessible to those who had access (harvard.edu email addresses) to the site. Reams have been written about privacy and the poorly enforced "real names" policy as Facebook pushed its users from from the protections of a very closed garden to the public web -- a push mandated by the profit-maximization needs of a corporation. Flash forward to June 2011. Google launched Google+ and technology early adopters scrambled to secure a field trial invitation. As danah boyd writes:…continue reading →

Gunman Updates Facebook During Standoff; Media Framing Helps Incite Virtual Lynch Mob

In Ogden, Utah last weekend, a 36-year-old man updated his Facebook profile a dozen times throughout a 16-hour armed standoff with local police. Subsequently, Facebook turned into a lynch mob (not unlike Cook's Source) after national media reports on Wednesday stated (without sourcing) that Jason Valdez had held a woman hostage and had reported the event on his Facebook profile. The New York Daily News version of this story has 1,562 Facebook "likes". However, CNN had reported almost 24 hours earlier that "a woman was with Valdez in the motel room; police characterized her as a hostage but Valdez implied she was a willing companion." The photos Valdez posted to Facebook of himself and Veronica do not look like either are under duress. (Valdez has one arm loosely around her shoulder, like two people on a date, while the other operates his Android phone.) …continue reading →

Facebook Changes Privacy Settings. Again.

It's the never-ending story of Facebook. The New York Times technology blog, Bits, reports that Facebook has turned on facial recognition by default. By default, this privacy setting tells Facebook servers to search its database for images you (and others) have tagged as you, and then compare that image to any new image a friend uploads. If the servers think they have a match, they will suggest your friend "tag" you in the photo. As the security company Sophos notes:
Remember, Facebook does not give you any right to pre-approve tags. Instead the onus is on you to untag yourself in any photo a friend has tagged you in. After the fact.
If you don't want Facebook to suggest your name to friends when they upload photos of you, here's how to change that setting. …continue reading →