Here’s why we need a critical debate about Google’s Real Name policy: first, because it embodies a highly controversial theory of human behaviour, that the way to maximise civility is to abolish anonymity – even though everyone knows Muammar Gaddafi’s real name (though not how to spell it) and no one knows the name of the kind driver who slows to let you cross the road.
Second, because it embodies an equally controversial theory of identity: that our lives are best lived when we have a single identity that persists in all contexts over time, so your grandparents get the same experience of you that your lover does, your boss sees the same side of you that your toddler does.
Next, because social services exert pressure on non-users – when all your friends join G+, the pressure mounts on you to do the same.
And finally, because the policy Google espouses is likely to exact costs on its users long after they made their “use/don’t use” decision, and those consequences are not easy to discern in advance.
This last reason is the most important one. Google suggests that our internet use is a series of fair trades: I’ll give you the management of my identity if you give me easy social experiences and easy logins across multiple services.