At least Britain sort of got it half right. There, to make life easier for stores selling age-restricted items there’s a “Challenge 21″ programme, so anyone looking 21 or under is asked for ID, even if the products are restricted to over-18s. Tesco and other large chain stores championed a “Challenge 25″ programme just in case someone slipped through the net. Finally some idiot in the seaside resort of Blackpool came up with the idea of “Challenge 30″, which is roundly lambasted across Britain.
But at least these outlets demand high-integrity forms of ID such as driving licences. In the US you can show a picture of your dog pasted on the back of a chocolate biscuit and they’re likely to accept it.
That’s because no-one really knows why they are asking for ID in the first place, and no-one up the chain tells them – mainly because they don’t know either. Everyone just goes through the motions. There’s no way to verify the validity of ID, so everyone just plods along with the security theatre.
Cory Doctorow being brilliant in sprucing up the metaphor that personally identifiable data is like nuclear waste. While the metaphor isn’t new, Doctorow does a great job as only a novelist can.
Every gram - sorry, byte - of personal information these feckless data-packrats collect on us should be as carefully accounted for as our weapons-grade radioisotopes, because once the seals have cracked, there is no going back. Once the local sandwich shop’s CCTV has been violated, once the HMRC has dumped another 25 million records, once London Underground has hiccoughup up a month’s worth of travelcard data, there will be no containing it.
And what’s worse is that we, as a society, are asked to shoulder the cost of the long-term care of business and government’s personal data stockpiles. When a database melts down, we absorb the crime, the personal misery, the chaos and terror.
I don’t dislike Google. Many of the company’s products are incredibly delightful to use. I support a fair amount of the company’s public advocacy work, though not all of it (caveat: the same could be said of almost all organizations I’m sympathetic towards). That said, I think think that their policy regard real names and pseudonyms if fucking absurd. As noted by Ars:
On Monday, Google Product Vice President Bradley Horowitz wrote on Google+ that the company will roll out its name policy changes this week. One change is that anyone will be able to add nicknames in addition to their real names. The more significant change, however, is that Google will also let people use pseudonymsinstead of a real name, but there are caveats. Horowitz indicates that the pseudonym must be established and well-known in order to qualify for a Google+ profile.
“Starting today we’re updating our policies and processes to broaden support for established pseudonyms, from +trench coat to +Madonna,” Horowitz wrote. Google may flag the name that a person intends to use and ask for additional information to confirm the person’s identity, including “Scanned official documentation, such as a driver’s license” or “Proof of an established identity online with a meaningful following.” This would seem to raise privacy problems for those who need pseudonyms for safety reasons, but a post in Mashable says “Google will destroy all documentation you send them once the account verification process is complete.”
Seriously: your pseudonym has to be “established and well known”?! By who’s standards? If I have an offline pseudonym does that count? What if my pseudonym is ‘common’ and used by a lot of people - does that impact how well ‘established’ it is?
Google is actively trying to force people into their social network and they’re just being horrific to their end-users in the process. Demanding that people provide official documents to join a social network?! Ridiculous.
This is how you leverage a monopoly in one domain (search) to force yourself into other markets while strip-mining users’ privacy expectations. I’m so glad that Google is a ‘do no evil’ kind of company, and that they value users’ privacy.
The revamped Google account creation page adds some additional fields to the sign up form, including name and gender which are both necessary for creating a Google+ account. There’s also a new agreement — turned on by default — granting Google permission to “use my account information to personalize +1s on content and ads on non-Google websites.”
I would note that Facebook didn’t become successful by requiring people to sign up; it made the service cool and prestigious to drive early adoption. They also weren’t pushing people from one service into another, separate and unrelated, one. I can’t wait to see what the Europeans do to Google: it’s going to make the hell the Microsoft went through look like a brief, and sunny, walk in the anti-trust regulatory park.