This just in from the Desk of the Minister In Charge of Conspiracy Theories: there may be a more sinister reason why Google wants to force us to use our real names: advertisers. We all understand what a gold mine a social network is for distilling trends and statistics, usage habits, likes and dislikes.
We all understand how marketers drool at the thought of getting access to this data. But how much will they pay if Google can actually tie usage statistics directly to named people? Think about it: suppose I am a mass marketer. I can buy a database of names and addresses and take my chances with a mass mailout.
But what if I could buy usage data from Google, complete with names of individuals, and then cross reference it with the addresses I now have on file? Suddenly, I have a database of pinpoint data. I know their likes and dislikes. I know their habits. I know what they've been doing these past few months. And I have their phone number and address.
The good news is that this is just a far fetched conspiracy theory. Google's privacy policies imply that they will not do this. However, there is a hot debate about the concept of online privacy. A year from now, two years from now, five years from now, the idea of online privacy may completely change. It may be considered normal to share your online activities. It may be considered an acceptable practice to profile users, and then allow marketers access to these profiles. If so, Google is well positioned to provide the most accurate user data available on the web.
None of it is happening now, as far as any of us know. But the world changes on a dime. There appears to be a long term method to this short term madness.