Eric Schmidt Admits Google+ Is an “Identity Service”

Published by: Mike Goldman on 30th Aug 2011 | View all blogs by Mike Goldman
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Eric Schmidt Admits Google+ Is an “Identity Service”

When Internet search giant Google launched its new social network, criticism started immediately of the Google+ requirement for users to use their real names.  Speculation has been rampant about what the company's goals might be, and now former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has let the cat out of the bag.  In an interview in Edinburgh, Scotland over the weekend, Schmidt revealed that the company is actually building Google+ as an “identity service” with which it can build future products.

The real name policy on Google+ has been criticized by some as a deterrent to politically charged commentary from individuals who wish to remain anonymous.  But Schmidt said in his interview that Google isn't interested in providing a place for that type of content.  In effect, Schmidt exclaimed, users who wish to remain anonymous should stay away from Google+.

Previously, Vic Gundrota, who runs Google+, has said that the rationale behind the real name policy is that using real names maintains a higher level of online behavior than sites that allow pseudonyms.  But Schmidt revealed, according to Andy Carvin, who conducted the interview, that Google needs users with real names to build the identity service platform it envisions.

It doesn't take a vivid imagination to ascertain that the policy is related to Google's biggest source of revenue, advertising.  Users signing up with their real names, ages, genders and other stats are obviously more valuable to advertisers than anonymous bloggers named Winnie the Pooh or Darth Vader.  But the practice of collecting user statistics to sell to users is certainly not new in social networking.  Facebook has employed similar tactics for years. 

When users sign on to other sites with their Facebook logins, data is sent to Facebook and that data is compiled for sale to advertisers.  Furthermore, Facebook's “like” button helps the company gather even more info about user preferences and tastes.  Google + is hoping to use its +1 button in the same manner.  So in essence, Google+ is being developed to give Google a horse in the identity gatekeeper race, where they have surrendered a sizable head start to companies like Facebook, Apple and Amazon.  What remains to be seen, however, is how consumers will respond to Schmidt's admission on what Google+ really is.

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