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The audio of last Thursday’s media140+ panel discussion on Digital Anonymity is now online — and you have a choice of listening.

Panellists were (left to right in the photo) Jessica Hill from ABC Radio current affairs; me; lawyer David Stewart from Wrays; Karalee Evans, senior director & APAC digital strategist from PR firm Text 100; and moderator John Kerrison from Sky News Australia.

Note that I could have embedded playable audio directly into this web page, but why should I give Audioboo and CBS Interactive the ability to track visitors to my website, whether they play the audio or not?

Embedding may be convenient, but that convenience is paid for with the privacy of your website visitors.

[Photo: The media140+ panel discussion as photographed by Neerav Bhatt. Image turned to black and white by me, used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.]

The Media140 folks are running a panel discussion in Sydney this Thursday 24 November on Digital Anonymity: Do we have a right to anonymity online?

As Google and Facebook try by force to remove anonymity from the web, is privacy no longer seen as a fundamental right? Will it become a commodified product we will have to purchase? We take a look at the legal, social and media perspectives and ask the question is it really that important?

The moderator is John Kerrison from Sky News Business, and the panel includes Anne Hurley, the interim head of the Internet Industry Association Karalee Evans, senior director & APAC digital strategist, Text 100; Jessica Hill from ABC Radio current affairs; lawyer David Stewart from Wrays; and [coughs] me.

It’s at the Hotel Clarendon, 156 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills. 6.30pm for a 7pm start, $10m admission, and I’m told you’d better book.

Mr Kerrison seems to be taking it very seriously, with scenarios to discuss and all sorts of actual planning. We should be able to derail him pretty quickly, I should imagine.

[Update 22 November: Edited to reflect the change in line-up.]

Here’s my conversation with Richard Margetson on ABC 105.7 Darwin about the Facebook changes, broadcast on the afternoon of Tuesday 27 September 2011.

Again, this bounces off last week’s Crikey piece, Hey Facebook, we want to share, but this is ridiculous, but Mr Margetson was also aware that I’d just come from a lunchtime briefing with a bunch of information security people so he explored that angle too.


The audio is ©2011 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, presented here as always because the ABC doesn’t generally post these live interviews and it’s a decent plug for them.

As I mentioned on Monday, I was scheduled to do more radio spots this week about Facebook’s changes and what they meant for privacy. Here’s another of them, and there’ll be a third posted shortly.

For most of the presenters, the kick-off was my Crikey piece from last week, Hey Facebook, we want to share, but this is ridiculous — and I’ll have more to write about that before the weekend is finished.

This conversation with Nicole Dyer from ABC Gold Coast was broadcast on the morning of Monday 26 September 2011.


It’s interesting to hear how different presenters explore different aspects of the issue, I think. Earlier the same morning I spoke with Katya Quigley on ABC Mid North Coast NSW, and she was much more interested in the idea of being always-connected and whether that gave people enough down time, as it were.

Alas, that radio station isn’t streamed online so I couldn’t record it.

The audio is ©2011 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, presented here as always because the ABC doesn’t generally post these live interviews and it’s a decent plug for them.

So, there’s a reason Google is being so stubborn over this “real names” policy. Google+ isn’t a social network at all, despite the fact that it looks like one. It’s actually the core of an identity service.

I wrote about this for Crikey today, a piece that includes Google chair Eric Schmidt’s confirmation of that plan and some observations that suggest Google+ is failing to reach critical mass.

The continuing bad press over what’s been dubbed #nymwars won’t help. Yet I suspect that Google’s need and desire to prevent Facebook Connect becoming the planet’s default identity service will override most concerns.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Schmidt has always been the go-for-profits guy. Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page is reportedly aware of the problem, although an informative post by Stephen R van den Berg says it’s unclear whether he’s being properly informed about the criticism. That post was written a week ago, however, so I daresay Page has seen at least some of the news reports since. And the other co-founder, Sergey Brin, has been notably silent.

It feels like things have come a long way since my original expletive-filled rant.

Oh, and thank you to everyone who said they liked the Patch Monday podcast on this topic. That’s especially pleasant given my fears over the rushed recording.

Google’s disaster of a “real names” policy was the subject of today’s Patch Monday podcast. How could it not be, after my own experiences and the attention that scored globally?

Australian developer Kirrily “Skud” Robert, a former Google employee currently resident in San Francisco, has been compiling Google’s name failures, so she was a natural guest for the podcast.

You can listen below. But it’s probably better for my stats if you listen at ZDNet Australia or subscribe to the RSS feed or subscribe in iTunes.

Please let me know what you think. Comments below. We accept audio comments too. Either Skype to stilgherrian or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733.

There’s been a few developments this week in my battle with Google over my name. More communication. And more media coverage.

On 18 August I responded to Google’s boilerplate email thusly:

Hi folks,

My full, legal name is a mononym, “Stilgherrian”. It has been so for 30 years. This name has been used consistently throughout that time on every official document, in every credit line in print, on radio and on television, in everyday use… everywhere.

Dare I say it, a Google Search will soon reveal that.

My only photo ID is my passport, and I am unwilling to send a copy because I have security concerns.

I can’t edit my name in Google Profiles to match my “real” name, because it won’t let me leave the surname field blank.

How do we fix this?



Google’s reply arrived on 20 August.

Read the rest of this entry »

My expletive-ridden blog post about Google’s fucked-up “real names” policy and their brain-dead implementation has gone global.

While my editor at Crikey commissioned an article, To Google, we are data fodder, and I am an unperson, the story was picked up by an American political blog and linked to by The Wall Street Journal.

The post has been viewed at least 6000 times, probably many more. So far.

I’ve just written a lengthy response to the 127 comments so far. I do think that people who say “It’s only a beta” and “It’s just a bug” and “Well it is a free service” and “What do you expect with a weird name?” have entirely missed the point.

That, too, will probably offend people.

And now my work here is done.

Please add your comments on the original post.

[Photo: Logo from Google Developer Day 2007 by meneame comunicacions, sl, used under a Creative Commons BY-SA license.]

[Stilgherrian writes: Oh dear. This post has generated a lot of interest. Thank you for that interest. But if you're visiting for the first time, I strongly suggest you also read my lengthy response to commenters and the fair warning before posting your own comment.]

I knew this would happen sooner or later. Google, a data mining company in the United States, has the ignorant arrogance to tell me, a citizen of Australia, that my name — my legal name — doesn’t fit their scheme for how names “should” work. Well fuck you, arseholes!

What’s worse, this is how they tell you.

They suspend your profile, tell you your name is wrong, and tell you to change it.

Your profile has been suspended.

It appears that the name you entered doesn’t comply with our Names Policy.

The Names Policy requires that you use the name that you are commonly referred to in real life in your profile. Nicknames, maiden names, and so on, should be entered in the Other Names section of the profile. Profiles are currently limited to individuals; we will be launching a profile for businesses and other entities later this year.

Your profile will be suspended until you do edit your name to comply with the Names Policy: you will not be able to make full use Google services that require an active profile, such as Google+, Buzz, Reader and Picasa. This will not prevent you from using other Google services, like Gmail.

We understand that Google+ and it’s [sic] Names Policy may not be for everyone at this time. We would hate to see you go, but if you choose to leave, make a copy of your Google+ data first. Then, click here to leave Google+.

Listen, Googlecunts. This name precisely fits your Names Policy.

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LinkedIn has responded to criticism over their opting-in of everyone to their “social advertising” program with a self-serving blog post. I’m less than impressed.

I wrote two articles yesterday. For Crikey, Sorry too hard a word for LinkedIn over privacy faux pas, in which I describe LinkedIn’s response as bullshit. And for CSO Online, Five lessons from LinkedIn’s opt-out stupidity, which reminds people to keep an eye on social networking services for unannounced changes to the rules of engagement.

Paul Ducklin from security vendor Sophos gives them an easier time, praising them for a quick response. He’s nicer than I am.

In the cold, clear light of Saturday morning, what depresses me most about this whole episode is not that a supposedly-professional service would pull a trick like this and, when caught out, just smear PR bull over the top. It’s that they’ll probably get away with it, and imagine they handled it well.

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