Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten almost a dozen requests to join someone on Google +. It’s the new “hot” thing from Google, their venture into social networking. In the past, I’ve gotten a lot of requests to join, “friend,” network, or something on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, or whatever social network is the new hot thing. While flattering, the answer is “No.” You see, I had – and still have – no interest whatsoever in joining those sites for a very simple reason. I value my privacy, and their policies about that suck. I like being known as “Norbrook.” It’s been my handle on the Internet for almost 20 years, and the actual association of that name with me goes back over a decade from that. The policies on all those sites would force me to abandon that, and to be bluntly honest, I resent the hell out of it.
It’s not that my real name is a huge secret, because quite a few people know it. I have in the past posted under my real name, and on a few places I still do. If you were to search for “Norbrook” through various USENET archives, you wouldn’t find me, even though I was a serious participant on several newsgroups. I used my real name for that back then. What Norbrook (or some variation) was used for was IRC, bulletin and chat boards, and instant messaging. The reason for that was quite simple: It was relatively short and it was a “unique identifier,” which my name is not. Yes, I have one of those distressingly common real names. A while back, I did a Google search, and somewhere around the 19’th page of results found something that actually was mine.
So if my real name is not a “secret,” what’s my gripe about these social sites? The answer is that I can choose to tell someone now, but those sites don’t give me that option. It’s not just that, it’s also that there’s a lot of other information they blithely reveal to the world, unless you’re willing to spend several hours on locking it down, and even then, it’s not a guarantee that it’ll remain that way. It turns out that it’s not terribly secure even if you do lock it down. It’s a matter of “what do I want people to know.” In short, my choice. In joining these sites, you inadvertently give up quite a lot of that, and once it’s on the Internet, it’s there forever. Of course, the simpler way to deal with that is to not post it in the first place – and the simplest way is to not do it at all. Which is exactly the option I’ve chosen.
So while I appreciate the offers, and I am aware of the benefits, my answer to the invitations is still the same: “Thanks, but no thanks.”