Google intends to use personal information gleaned from Google+ to add value to other products, including advertising, sparking debate among privacy advocates.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company’s chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt said Google+ is requiring people use their real names when making profiles for its new social network because it considers Google+ a platform for future projects.
Privacy advocates have criticised Google for requiring people use their real names on the new social network, but Schmidt said Google won’t change the policies to accommodate those who don’t want to use their real names.
He said people who want to remain anonymous should not use Google+.
Google executives in recent months said having real names on the site allows the company to maintain a tone of behaviour preferable to anonymous forums.
Facebook also officially requires people to use their real names, but does not enforce that rule. Meanwhile, Google has been adamant about the real-name rule, and has removed profiles from Google+ if it believes the names are fabricated.
The real-name issue likely has an impact on Google’s advertising strategies. When a social networking site user adds his or her age, gender, location and other details to their accounts, advertisers can easily use those details to target people.
For example, Facebook capitalises on its site because it is set up to attract advertisers. When users click a “like” button, it helps set up a profile advertisers can target, which then brings Facebook revenue. Because millions of people use Facebook, this means a steady, ready-made audience for major advertisers.
The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company is the top seller of display ads in the U.S., is set to collect more than $2 billion from ads this year, and controls nearly 20 per cent of the U.S. market.
This year, the social network more than doubled its global ad revenue from last year, reaching over $4 billion in sales, according to a study by research firm eMarketer.
Google is likely competing against Facebook, and its real-name policy may be its way of guaranteeing demographic information for potential advertisers.
In addition to attracting advertising, Google+’s real-name policy may also benefit the company as e-commerce grows. Google is heavily marketing its e-wallet service,.
If it can tie in the e-wallet service with users on its social network, this connection may allow advertisers to target shoppers through their social networking identities as well as through their purchases.
The policy could, however, create even more worries for Google as investigations into privacy violations continue. Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission ruled Google violated people’s privacy, so the company agreed to create a privacy program for current and future products that protects users’ names, e-mail, contact information, location data, and the unique identifiers for their personal devices.
If the company insists on real names for its social network users, it will likely need to go out of its way to protect that information more stringently.