Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) has been getting a lot of attention lately as a focal point - not only of top hedge funds that we track - of various debates over online privacy and the sharing of personal information with third parties - Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) is another major tech company that collects and stores massive amounts of personal data of users. And with stricter privacy rules being legislated in various countries and being discussed in the U.S. , a senior Google executive, called "the Father of the Internet" is saying that users should not be required to provide their real names when being on line.
This seems to go counter to what Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) seems to have been doing in updating and changing its policies for users. While Google isn't directly mandating that users use real names, the policies are written in such a way as to strongly encourage, if you will, users to use the various Google properties with their real names instead of screen names or pseudonyms. And Vint Cerf, who is deemed the "Father of the Internet" and a longtime senior executive at Google, says that the company - and others - should not move to requiring real names for the sense of privacy on the internet.
Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) is facing a lot of pressure from government entities around the world, which re currently on campaigns to tighten privacy rules on the Internet. Cerf spoke about the utility of identities online, but also respecting the desire for user privacy. "Using real names is useful," Cerf said. "But I don't think it should be forced on people, and I don't think we do. ... Anonymity and pseudonymity are perfectly reasonable under some situations," Cerf said. "But there are cases where in the transactions both parties really need to know who are we talking to. So what I'm looking for is not that we shut down anonymity, but rather that we offer an option when needed that can strongly authenticate who the parties are."
On the other side, another heavy data-collector facing privacy issues, Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB), seems to disagree with Cerf. Facebook spokesman Frederic Wolens said, "This real name culture leads to greater accountability and a safer and more trusted environment for our users, and we firmly believe that the use of authentic identity helps people get the most value out of the site."
What do you think? Is Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) forcing real identity on users? Should it? Can the Internet be open while still allowing some form of privacy? We'd like your thoughts in the comments section below.
DISCLOSURE: I own no positions in any stock mentioned.
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