As the web has developed--with users anywhere able to post a blog, share photos with friends and family or "broadcast" events they witness online--the issue of identity has become increasingly important. "We've been thinking about the different ways people choose to identify themselves (or not) when they're using Google--in particular how identification can be helpful or even necessary for certain services, while optional or unnecessary for others. Attribution can be very important, but pseudonyms and anonymity are also an established part of many cultures -- for good reason," stated Alma Whitten, Director of Privacy, Product and Engineering.
Google services support three types of use:
- Unidentified is useful when you want to use the web without having your online activity tied to your identity, or even a pseudonym. "While we need to keep info like IP addresses and cookies to provide the service, we don't link that info to an individual account when you're logged out."
- Pseudonymous has enabled people to express themselves freely--they may be in physical danger, looking for help, or have a condition they don't want people to know about. People in these circumstances may need a consistent identity, but one that isn't linked to their offline self.
- Identified is useful when you want to share info with people. Some products such as Google Checkout rely on this type of identity assurance and require that you identify yourself to use the service.
"Equally as important as giving users the freedom to be who they want to be is ensuring they know exactly what mode they're in when using Google's services. So recently we updated the top navigation bar on many of our Google services to make this even clearer. In the upper right hand corner of these Google pages, you'll see an indicator of which account, if any, you're signed into.
We're also looking at other ways to make this more transparent for users. While some of our products will be better suited to just one or two of those modes, depending on what they're designed to do, we believe all three modes have a home at Google," Whitten said.
[tags]online identity,attribution,pseudonyms,anonymity,cookies,ip addresses[/tags]