Google Minus (Me)

August 1, 2011 by
Filed under: Internet Life and Humanity 

Sometimes solutions are just so glaringly obvious that we humans can’t see them. Another symptom of the “Human Condition” I suppose, but no matter from whence it springs, it’s almost enough to make you fall down laughing when you do spot the obvious. Well, most times at least. Sadly this is not one of those times.

For the past several weeks there’s been a rather obvious hubbub going on about Google’s new Social Network Google+ (pronounced Google Plus). It seems Google has made some rather hard-nosed decisions about what name you can use with their new service. I’ve been watching but not commenting on it … until now.

Will The Real Me Please Sign Up

Just in case you’ve been under a rock lately, I’ll condense the issues for you. Google started a new service that they want to be the Facebook Killer. They only want real people with real names to sign up. If you don’t use a real name and they find out, they close (or in their euphemistic parlance “suspend”) your account. Their definition of a “Real Name” has wavered some since the debut, but lately they’ve put a pretty fine point on it and instantly alienated a good portion of my peers. Basically it boils down to “a name of legal standing by which we can pursue legal action against you including but not limited to reporting you for terrorism, fraud, libel, pedophilia, counterfeiting and failure to pay your bills.”

Indemnify Me

What it really boils down to these days (and this is true for almost every industry around, not just Google) is they don’t want to be held accountable for the crazy-ass stuff their customers do. Let’s be honest here for a minute. We’ve all read or heard the stories about the heinous, evil, downright despicable things we humans are doing to each other using Social Networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, etc. I won’t repeat them here, you can do your own research. The simple fact is, people are using the Internet and Social Media to hurt each other in ways never before possible or conceivable. But hey, that’s what humans do best … hurt each other.

Because they are using sites created by, run by and financed by big companies, when something bad happens and the lawyers get involved, the first target they shoot at is the one with the most money. Little hint here folks, that ain’t the Soccer Mom from Oklahoma … it’s the big companies. Even though they had absolutely nothing to do with it, even though their ToS stated quite clearly “we aren’t responsible for the crazy-ass stuff you or anyone else does here” … and even though the conventional wisdom is it’s not their fault … it don’t fricken matter! Once those lawyers start shooting pepper shot at anyone with bucks, the Googles and Facebooks and MySpaces are gonna take some double-aught in the butt. So they’re taking action to prevent that.

I See You!

Their solution makes sense from a purely legalistic “Cover My Own Ass” perspective. If you put your real name right out front on your Google+ profile page and then you do something totally heinous and illegal, they don’t have to lift a pen to sign a check to a lawyer. Google just points at the page and says “that’s his name, go get him.” If it turns out that you used a pseudonym or some other form of fake name to sign up, they’re just as quick to resolve it. “That Darrius Gothly dude lied to us and broke our rules. We’re not at fault, we’re victims too.”

So by forcing the “Real You” to the forefront, what they are doing is minimizing their legal costs and liability, and rightly so too. Considering what it costs just to respond to the mountains of paperwork these ambulance chasing “Personal Liability” lawyers whip up, it’s no wonder they want an out. Since it’s their house and their rules, it’s gonna stay that way too.

Off With His Avatar Head!

But as right as they are to take this action, they are also falling in line with one of the more pernicious ills in society today … declaring everyone that uses their service as guilty before the fact. We see it everywhere around in today’s world. You look at the guy wearing a turban at the airport and you just KNOW he’s a terrorist. But even before you get in the airport, you yourself are assumed to be one, and subjected to tests to prove your innocence. “Nope, sorry. Everyone is a terrorist unless they prove otherwise.”

When it comes to such lawsuits that seek to pin blame (and fiscal responsibility) on big companies for something one of their customers did, it’s the same response. Every customer is a potential lawsuit just waiting to happen, so we’re going to protect ourselves against all of them! By damn we will NOT get raped by their lawyers again!

Curing A Societal Ill

Now we get to the part that disappoints me about Google. You see, from the get-go those guys bucked the “normal” trends. They did stuff not because the lawyers said it was right, or because the pundits gave their approval. Google did things because they made sense and they served their customers. That attitude made them the giant they are today. It made them different, made them trustworthy … and made them successful. Until now. Somewhere in recent history here, the lawyers got back in control and have taken Google down the same old path, pressing here and shoving there until they fit in the accepted mold and were “just like everyone else.” And that’s a shame .. really.

Google was curing some social ills. But not any more. Now they are not only allowing them to grow but taking actions to grow them even faster. They are actively participating in the “you’re all guilty as sin” battle cry of the litigious and allowing this societal ill to spread even into their own corporate halls. What a shame. Our champion has fallen.

Oh Yeah … The Solution!

I mentioned an obvious solution at the start. You’ve read this far so it’s time for your reward. All they need to do is require you to register your “Real Name” with the account, then bury that sucker under as much encryption and cyber-firewalls as they can … and let you hang any old name on the public side of the account as you want. Presto! They have their “Real Name” and we have our precious (and much needed) pseudonyms. They can still protect themselves from liability and false lawsuits, and we can stay private and carry on our Internet Lives as we’ve always done, using an alias.

1 … 2 … 3 … DUHHHH!!!

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