NNSquad - Network Neutrality Squad

NNSquad Home Page

NNSquad Mailing List Information


[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[ NNSquad ] Mr. Spock Explains the Google+ Anonymity Controversy and the "Nymwars"

    Mr. Spock Explains the Google+ Anonymity Controversy and the "Nymwars"


Mr. Spock, may I speak to you for a moment?

Of course, Captain.

Spock, what do you know about someone named "Google" in the 21st

Google.  Yes.  An interesting story.  As it happens, I am considered
to be the Federation's foremost authority on the subject.

Why doesn't that surprise me, Spock?  Well, at least it explains this
odd directive I've received from Starfleet Command.  They want you to
contact researchers on Rigel IV working on a retrospective history of
something called, uh, the "Nymwars" -- am I pronouncing that

Yes, Captain.  That is correct.  A fascinating period of Earth

I must be missing something here, Spock.  Wasn't Google a scientist
involved in early Earth computer technology?

Not exactly, Captain.  Google was a large firm begun in the very late
20th century, that became the primary basis of global and galactic
grid knowledge expansion from that time onward well into the early
22nd century.

This is like that InterOprahNet -- whatever it was called -- way back
then?  Vint Zuckergore developed that, right Spock?

Not exactly, Captain, but you have the, uh, basic idea.  The important
point is that technologies from that era, especially from Google,
still play an integral role throughout the Quadrant, except in the
Klingon and Romulan Empires, of course.

Is that why my command console occasionally says "I'm Feeling Lucky"
on the display?

That is correct, Captain.

If the Klingons and Romulans didn't use Google-based technology, what
did they use, Spock?

I do not have comprehensive data concerning that, Captain.  But I
believe that they obtained inferior technology from one of Google's
competitors at the time, a system that I believe was known as "Klang."


I am not completely certain about that, Captain.

Well, what does this all have to do with the Federation's sudden
interest in ancient "Nymwars" or whatever they're called?

Nymwars refers to controversies over personal identity, anonymity, and
pseudo-anonymity among users of the early computer social networking
communications systems, in particular a service called "Google+" that
was launched by Google in 2011, old-style dating.  Some persons became
concerned that if they were forced to identify themselves with their
actual, real names, it would tend to restrain communications in some
cases, and possibly subject some participants to punitive actions from
their employers, insurance underwriting organizations, and so on.

That sounds crazy, Spock.  Why were they so concerned about being
identified?  After all, every infant born in Federation territory has
its DNA recorded, irises and retinas scanned, and at least two dozen
other biometric parameters stored for their entire lives.  We've done
away with antique notions like poverty, privacy, and elections.
That's what makes the Federation great.

I understand all that, Captain.  But remember your human emotions.
Back then everyone was not routinely medicated with psychotropic drugs
as they are today.

Routinely medicated?  What are you talking about, Spock?

Never mind that, Captain.  May I continue about the Nymwars?


At the time, the groups pushing for some form of anonymity on Google+
broke down roughly into two categories.  One contingent claimed that
users were creating identities that looked real but actually were not,
and demanded total anonymity, claiming that Google had been
arbitrarily deleting identities they did not believe to be real, and
had been rather publicly uncommunicative about related policies in
this regard.

You mean as tight-lipped as an Aldebaran shellmouth?

I am glad you said it Captain, not I.  But the characterization really
would not have been particularly fair even then.  Google+ was an
extremely new and rapidly evolving service.  And these were viewed 
as -- and were -- very complex issues, which were further complicated by
domestic governments' nascent efforts to enforce government-verifiable
identity requirements on various aspects of computer and
communications network usage.  There was even disagreement about such
basic concepts as whether or not the use of "real" identities
suppressed open discussion, led to an increase in polite discussion,
or some combination of both.

You said there were two contingents, Spock.  What about the other one?

The other group felt that having their actual names on file privately
for Google+, so long as they were able to use pseudonyms in their
public communications, would provide a useful compromise position that
would help limit abusive behavior, but would also allow persons to
keep their various Google+ public communications "compartmented" from
the rest of their lives if they wished to do so, allowing them to
communicate openly on possibly sensitive or unpopular subjects that
they otherwise might feel uncomfortable discussing.

Who was right?

Neither side was completely without merit.  Personally, I view the
latter group -- who supported the compromise position of public
pseudonyms in concert with real names held privately -- to have had
the more logical viewpoint, Captain.

Who won, Spock?  What did Google end up doing about names in Google+?

That is definitely the most fascinating part of the story, Captain.
In late 2011, even after Google had announced specifically that they
would be supporting some form of pseudonyms for Google+, the "complete
anonymity" contingent remained emotionally adamant.  The other group
continued to push for compromise.  Finally, by very early 2012, Google
decided to ...

One moment, Spock.  Yes, Mr. Chekov.  Yes.  I'll be right up to the
bridge.  Mr. Spock, we'll have to continue this later.  Please be sure
to contact Starfleet about that research.

Of course, Captain.  And Captain ... are you feeling lucky?

I'm always feeling lucky, Mr. Spock.

 - - -

Lauren Weinstein (lauren@vortex.com): http://www.vortex.com/lauren 
Co-Founder: People For Internet Responsibility: http://www.pfir.org 
 - Network Neutrality Squad: http://www.nnsquad.org 
 - Global Coalition for Transparent Internet Performance: http://www.gctip.org
 - PRIVACY Forum: http://www.vortex.com 
Member: ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com 
Google+: http://vortex.com/g+lauren 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenweinstein 
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800 / Skype: vortex.com