Monday, November 11, 2013

It's ad targeting, isn't it?

I see continued assumptions by people that the real names policies of Facebook and Google Plus have actual teeth.

I've posted before on whether real names are truly enforced on Facebook, and it looks like the answer there is no. My impression is that it's not working great on Plus, either, although there have been some famous botched efforts.

The rationale that it improves the level of discussion seems thin and inaccurate. There are too many legitimate reasons to participate in a forum but not to want it to pop up when your boss does a Google search on your name.

As far as I can tell, the main purpose of a real names policy is to appease advertisers. Advertisers feel, probably correctly, that more information about users will improve the accuracy of ad targeting. It's weird, though, because nobody seems to talk about it that way. It's analogous to the exhortations in a hotel room that it's good for the environment to avoid washing so many towels. Ummm, I'm pretty sure it's more about the money.