Is it bad practice to use your real name online?

  • On some accounts I use my real name on-line (Google+/Facebook/Wikipedia/personal blog), others (Q&A/Gaming) I use an alias.

    My question is: Security and privacy wise, what can people do with my real name? What are the dangers of using your real name on-line.

    Good question. I know things are different these days, but not too long ago it seemed the common wisdom was to *never* use your real name online except for conducting business.

    I don't believe it's the case now, but IIRC at the start G+ _required_ that you use your real name. (Which got George Takei temporarily banned when some Google moderator didn't believe it was actually him.)

    @BrianS Pretty sure it's gone. Google+ accounts are being forced onto users who still want to be able to comment on Youtube videos, and mine is still a screenname instead of my real name.

    For an interesting case of this, have a visit over at MathOverflow (you could start with the "wear pants" section of their help center).

    @Izkata The wording has been relaxed, but I wouldn't say it's gone. There's enough wiggle room in the terms that Google could suspend your account if they don't like the way your name sounds: http://support.google.com/plus/answer/1228271/?hl=en The most recent official change that I can find is January 2012 when Google broadened support for "established" pseudonyms (whatever that means).

    Google closed my husband's Google+ account for not believing it was in his own name just a couple of weeks ago. They graciously offered to maybe reinstate it if he'd scan his own passport and send them the scan. So I'd say that they are still closing accounts for not sounding or looking right to their very blinkered eyes.

    If it is a bad practice you also shouldn't use the same email address for every online service, it is much more distinct than your name. And *never* use your real birth date.

    What's the source for the "wear pants" usage in the MathOverflow FAQ? Naively, I expected "wear pants" to mean "stay anonymous", as opposed to "be naked". And Google is not helping very much here.

    OK, I find http://i.wearpants.org/blog/ but that still doesn't explain the usage. Idiomatic English is utterly confusing :(

  • This is actually an interesting new field in infosec - reputation management.

    • Employers, Law Enforcement and other government agencies, legal professionals, the press, criminals and others with an interest in your reputation will be observing all online activity associated with your real name.

    • These "interested parties" (snoops) are usually terrible at separating professional and personal life, so you could be made to suffer for unpopular opinions, political or religious convictions, associates or group affiliations they consider "unsavory", and any behavior that can be interpreted in the most uncharitable light. (Teachers have been forced to resign for drinking wine responsibly while vacationing in Europe. No, really.)

    • Conversely, you need an online presence, otherwise you will be made to suffer for a lack of things for the snoops to spy on - employers, especially (from Forbes):

    Key takeaway for hiring employers: The Facebook page is the first interview; if you don’t like a person there, you probably won’t like working with them. The bad news for employers, though, who are hoping to take the Facebook shortcut: “So many more profiles are restricted in what the public can access,” says Kluemper.

    • You must carefully balance your public and private personas. Give as little information as possible in your public persona, and be mindful that unknown entities who may be antagonistic toward you will look to use whatever you put online against you. For instance - you announce you're going to visit relatives for the weekend! Robbers and vandals may take notice (from Ars Technica:)

    39-year-old Candace Landreth and 44-year-old Robert Landreth Jr. allegedly used Facebook to see which of their friends were out of town. If a post indicated a Facebook friend wasn't home, the two broke into that friend's house and liberated some of their belongings.

    • Social media companies such as Facebook and Google have proven to be hostile to the notion of privacy, and continually change their terms of service and "privacy settings" without consent to share more and more of your information with others. You cannot rely on them to protect your public reputation from your personal life. From NBC:

    The Internet search giant is changing its terms of service starting Nov. 11. Your reviews of restaurants, shops and products, as well as songs and other content bought on the Google Play store could show up in ads that are displayed to your friends, connections and the broader public when they search on Google.

    The company calls that feature "shared endorsements.''

    • It is best to offer information of a more personal nature pseudonymously, and keep the pseudonym(s) carefully firewalled from your real identity. Avoid major social media services when participating online pseudonymously if at all possible.

    You present the 'reviews in ads' comment as a way that Google is sharing more and more without premission whereas those reviews were public from the beginning (only difference in which context they are shown).

    @DavidMulder- Context is *everything* - aggregation and presentation of undoubtedly personal information in a new, and possibly damaging way is pretty much par for the course. You really want your boss to know you bought the Insane Clown Posse boxed set when she pokes around online music services looking for gospell? Too bad, Google's going to tell her, anyway. Your reputation is now tarnished. *Even shopping accounts should have pseudonymous logins*

    @IanWarburton - From the article: "Payne said she was pressured to resign over the e-mail; the district said she volunteered." Unless you think she was wracked with guilt over drinking a glass of wine on vacation, it's unlikely she resigned willingly.

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