‘Father of the Internet': Google should stop requesting real names

918avint cerf ‘Father of the Internet: Google should stop requesting real names

Vint Cerf, Google’s “Chief Internet Evangelist” and a manlargely considered as one of “the fathers of the Internet,” tellsReuters this week that he disagrees with how the company he worksfor is handling the growing number of personal profiles going up onthe Web.According to Cerf, a former DARPA scientist and a Stanfordassistant professor, Google and other big-name Internet companiesshould not make it mandatory for users to post on websites withtheir real names and faces. In some situations, says Cerf,anonymity is the only option.”Using real names is useful,” he says, “but I don’tthink it should be forced on people, and I don’t think wedo.”Some have argued otherwise, though, and point out recentattempts from Google by way of its Google+ social networkingservice and YouTube as example. On both fronts, customers areencouraged to use their real name and identity while interactingwith others. Speaking to Reuters, Cerf said inner-officediscussions about whether or not to make names mandatory did occur,and he’s satisfied with the outcome.”There was a debate on this subject and it was resolved,”he says. “Our conclusion was that choice is important.”Citing global-crackdowns on users of the Web, however, Cerf sayssituations continue to emerge where people around the world mayfear of being targeted for speaking out online. In an op-edpublished late last year on CNN.com, Cerf said that even attemptsby democratic nations to silence Web users are on the rise.”At Google, we see and feel the dangers of the government-ledNet crackdown,” Cerf wrote in December.Only one month earlier, Google admitted in sharing its bi-annualtransparency report that governments around the world weredemanding the Web service hand over information about users at analarming pace.“This is the sixth time we’ve released this data, and onetrend has become clear: Government surveillance is on therise,” Google acknowledged in November. According to thatreport, the US government filed more than 16,000 requests for userdata from Google on as many as 7,969 individual accounts betweenjust January and June of 2012. When they published theirend-of-the-year findings, Google reported that the United Statesled the world in requests. The corporation was mostly subpoenaedfor personal information, and claims to have honored those pleasaround 88 percent of the time.But when court orders can’t be obtained, it’s still easy to findout information about a person based solely on their Internet use.With Google and Facebook dominating Web traffic worldwide,requiring users to act as their real-life selves on the Web couldmean that governments will have an easier time than ever monitoringpeople.That isn’t to say, adds Cerf, that an anonymous-only Internet isthe way to go. “Anonymity and pseudonymity are perfectlyreasonable under some situations,” he tells Reuters, “butthere are cases where in the transactions both parties really needto know who are we talking to. So what I’m looking for is not thatwe shut down anonymity, but rather that we offer an option whenneeded that can strongly authenticate who the parties are.”Cerf’s frank remarks come in spite of insistence from criticsthat Google is only doing harm to the privacy of its customers. In2009, Google CEO Eric Schmidt defended his company’s policies toCNBC, saying, “If you have something that you don’t want anyoneto know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the firstplace.”

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‘Father of the Internet': Google should stop requesting real names

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