Google+ has been taking some heat for their “kafkaesque name policy.” People’s annoyance seems to me to miss a point.
An important element to keeping a secret is not letting anyone know you have one. If you are going to use a pseudonym, it follows that the best pseudonym would be a common male name other than your own. Choose a given name and a compatible surname: Jacob Miller, Alejandro Martinez, Mohammad Khan, whatever is suitable to the environment, and move on. You’ve been Mighty Thundarrr since you went online back in ’98? Take the opportunity to change, and get a fresh email address while you’re at it.
People will complain this makes it hard for others to find them. That’s largely the point for me. Why then would I use Google+? I most likely would not, and will not unless there’s some compelling reason, and the loss of privacy is balanced by some gain. If I did, I’d use my own name, or else some common name. I would not use Goofy Gonif or Bigbird777 and then complain that Google+ was repressing my freedom of expression when the enforce their terms of service.
Now I’m not particularly a defender of Google. Probably being a big corporation they’ve been heavy-handed, made foolish blunders, set up poor procedures, and let’s just say they’re rich hypocrites too. Is their policy short-sighted and unwise? Maybe. They aren’t paying me to do quality control for them. My point is, if you’re using a pseudonym they shouldn’t know it.
Finally, is it ethical to ignore a corporations stated terms of service? By having read this, you agree that it is, so we can dismiss that argument.
UPDATE 13 August 2011: See the ethics of self-naming.
UPDATE 24 August 2011:
“I hear that the not-so-good people at National Review are attacking me over something I said on my Google+ page. Except, I don’t have a Google+ page. …some people can’t find enough things to attack in what I actually say, so they’re busy creating fake quotes.” — Identity Theft, by Paul Krugman
I would never fake a quotation by Paul Krugman. Imagination simply cannot compete with the real thing.