So, Google finally rolled out Google Plus to the masses (for expediency, I simply write it out as Google+). Of course I don't care. I won't use it unless I fall and hit my head so hard that my tastes, beliefs, and/or whomever I hang out with all change drastically. I have reasons to not only avoid it but intensely dislike it.
There are good reasons to avoid not just TechCrunch, but any website that makes you use your legal name to sign in, leave a comment, join a chat, or post a blog. Not only do such "real-name" policies leech privacy; they also get people playing Bingo with you that not using a real name is a sign of your cowardice or other insidious moral flaws while claiming that websites that want your real name are just trying to help you "connect".
They're not trying to help you connect: for the most part, they'll simply use your real name to force you to buy what they now give away for free. They'll also use your real name, as TechCrunch does, to monitor and censor whatever you say that doesn't match up with their overall sense of what they want you to say.
China has forced citizens to use real names to sign on to the Internet, view website content and post comments and blogs for a while (yet Google's real-names policy is even pissing off the Chinese). The purpose of this monitoring is to suppress political rebellion. Google is following in China's - and in the US, also Facebook's and TechCrunch's - steps in trying to make such behavior voluntary (you don't have to use the Internet or any particular website) but mandatory (you must use your really real real name if you do) but in the US, the stated reason for that is simply "to make money". All kinds of money. Lots and lots of money!
"Making money" might sound innocuous compared to "suppressing political rebellion", but many things dependent on user trust start off innocently enough only to turn sour as soon as a business's priorities change.
Any business intent on stripping your anonymity away does not have your best interests at heart. Making a voluntary system (one you don't have to use) but then adding mandatory rules about identifying yourself in order to use it is just trying to get you inured to the idea that your privacy doesn't matter and shouldn't exist, as though you have no right to it.
But for all the talk of how you have no privacy, you have as much as any business lets you have - no more, no less. People-identifying sites such as Spokeo, 123People, etc., will strip your privacy away with a variety of surefire methods and there's almost nothing you can do about it (but on Spokeo, you can finally opt out).
But when Google Plus tries to force you to give up your privacy, there is something you can do about it: don't use it. Don't give them what they want. Just don't.
I don't use Google+ - nor Facebook - for the fact that neither company respects my privacy. Every bit of data they collect they use to 1) gather statistics on "who" does potentially profitable types of "what" and 2) run personalized ads instantly or in the future targeted at you and/or groups of people just like you. Most information they gather is stored long-term, depending on what the law says on the storage and retrieval of it (or doesn't say - you can't break a law that doesn't exist, which allows most companies some leeway in regard to certain data).
Not only am I distrustful of Facebook and Google for forcing you to use your legal identity but I also don't trust that they will remain free of government interference, which will only further complicate our ability to remain private if we so choose. Australia has taken a huge step backward in this regard. The Chinese government, as we know, already runs most "private" Chinese websites themselves (even requiring they be licensed annually).
The US could follow suit at any time (and when they do, they'll use the always-handy "#terrorists" hashtag to scare everyone into shutting up about it). Sooner or later it might be the government which will not only own but also act upon every bit of personal information that websites like Facebook and Google now collect on you.
I don't believe user privacy should be respected because I'm worried what can be "revealed" about me, which probably isn't that much. For a recent job offer I got, I had to pass an FBI background check just to get to the next interview level - which I did. There's nothing too dark or ugly in my history to go on the offense about, but it's not about me. It's about society - the privacy of our husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, mothers, fathers, extended family, friends and neighbors. Privacy should always be respected - in most normal instances, anyhow - no matter what sort of live(s) we or they lead.
People are too willing to give up their privacy for nothing - the "privilege" of using Google+ or keeping in touch with those they know and care about on Facebook. People trust that any entity, from big-name websites to the government itself, will 1) store their information securely and discreetly, 2) never reveal anything personal to the public or an investigative agency without their permission and foreknowledge, and 3) never use their personal information "just" to make money. Wrong - on all counts.
Really. Wrong. The number of banking and major retail and blog websites that have been hacked for user's financial details and names and passwords has been staggering, and most websites aren't completely secure against hackers even if they've never been hacked.
On another level, Twitter was set to auto-post everyone's exact location with each Tweet until users put up a ruckus about it (before the geolocation "feature" was rolled out). Many other online apps do the same thing, though most now offer you the choice to keep your location private. And if you post a screenshot of Google, don't forget you'll be posting your location, too, unless you hide it somehow.
Not to mention that under the Patriot Act, the government can subpoena information from any website strictly by IP address - so if you sign in and/or post with your real name during each IP session, that makes the government's information harvesting that much easier.
Sites like Facebook and Google take no interest in your safety, privacy or personal opinion of them. They'll combine what you tell them with every search, blog post, comment, and purchase you make to get as much money and information out of you as possible - all at the expense of every privacy protection you want to put or keep in place. Worse, they could become incapacitated under future government interference, especially that done in the name of terrorism. Before that day comes, people need to become much more aware of the pitfalls of forced "sharing".