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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Why does Google+ insist on having your real name?


A demonstrator wearing an "Anonymous" group mask attends an assembly against the "Euro Pact" and the handling of the economic crisis near Madrid"s ParliamentMany people are loath to reveal their identity
Google+ took only 24 days to reach 20 million users but their decision to delete accounts without real names attached has caused anger. So why do social networks insist on your real name?
Many people choose to conceal or alter their identity online.
Visit many forums and you'll see the likes of "Jboy72" and "NYgirl" outnumbering those giving their real names. But it's something social networks really don't like.
Over the past few days, Google has enforced its policy for requiring a real name on its new social network Google+ by suspending accounts.
The affected users were not happy at all. Blogger GrrlScientist, who prefers her real-life identity to remain private, thinks the decision to delete her account was "gormless".
"I've established an identity and a personality and an online and off-line world using this name," she says. "I look at it as the best part of myself so I'm not going to give it up now."
Screengrab of Google Plus

Many social networks require a full name before you can use their services

So why do the social networks want your real identity?
Google says it is addressing those with genuine complaints, but it maintains that to use the network effectively, users should be able to search for a friend or a family member as quickly and as easily as possible. And that, they say, means demanding real names.
Indeed, the guidelines are very similar to other social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn.
"By providing your common name, you will be assisting all people you know in finding and creating a connection with the right person online," a Google spokesman says.
Insisting on real names is supposed to combat spam. MySpace struggled with it in the past and Twitter "spambots" crop up from time to time.
And some see being made to use your real name as the antidote to the unpleasantness that happens on forums.
The theory goes that when people are using their real names online, they are more likely to act responsibly and engage honestly with the community.
"There is an issue of trolls," says Benjamin Cohen, Channel 4 News' technology correspondent.


    Facebook logo


    What the social networks say...

    • Facebook users must agree to provide their real names and giving any false personal information allows Facebook to stop providing all or part of the site
    • Google says: "To help fight spam and prevent fake profiles, use the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you. For example, if your full legal name is Charles Jones Jr but you normally use Chuck Jones or Junior Jones, either of those would be acceptable."


    "The authentication is important - it's a big problem on the internet and social networks make it more unlikely for someone to be pretending to be someone else."
    And certainly things can get heated when the mask of anonymity is granted to users. Messageboard community 4Chan has received significant attention for its posts, often featuring adult content, which offer absolute anonymity, though founder Chris Poole still believes that this is vital to allow honest opinions and is responsible for much of the popularity of the site.
    But choosing to use a pseudonym is not just about examples like GrrlScientist.
    Some users choose to hide their identity to avoid being found by people they would not like to be contacted by. Others live in countries where identification could have serious implications for those who have expressed political views or associated themselves with others who have.
    Many users in China, where access to Google+ itself is difficult because of restrictions by Chinese authorities on some websites, have called on Google to change its mind.
    Twitter user Newsinchina - known by the English name Richard Zhang - wrote in Chinese on Google+ before his profile was removed: "Please Google+, when you are deciding regulations, you must consider Chinese usage, especially from users in mainland China.
    "Be sure to consider the user's actual situation. Please do not force them to use a real-name system. Otherwise, I think that Google will be violating its principle of 'don't be evil'."
    Indeed, Google's motto of "Don't be evil" has featured in a number of posts, but some analysts think Google+ suspending accounts is more an oversight than anything else.
    "They're still in Beta [test] mode and perhaps been too strict in enforcing the rules," says Robin Grant, managing director of social media agency We Are Social.
    "They are most probably going to change it to allow human rights activists, for example, to hide their identity. They're not going to leave themselves open to that sort of criticism.
    "It's not a fully fleshed out product and they made a mistake but I don't think it's sinister."
    the Google logo at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, CaliforniaBut there has been a muttering in the blogosphere that the real reason the social networks want real names is that it makes them more money. A real name is more lucrative for advertisers.
    "The more Google knows about its audience, the better it can target adverts of interest and therefore make more money," says Nate Elliott, vice-president principal analyst at technology company Forrester Research.
    "That said, it's very unlikely that people would focus on the first name or last name fields to target people."
    "Of all the ways Google has to connect your profile with your other behaviour on Google, that's by far the least exact."
    Others agree that it is not the name that is vital, but demographics and interests information that holds the real key to revenue.
    "It's not really about being to sell someone's name but their intent - people's search and social behaviour," says Grant.
    "It doesn't matter if you know their name or not, it matters that there's a link between what they say they do and what they actually do."
    But whatever the reasons, there will be many who still press for the right to use a pseudonym.

    Apple holding more cash than USA


    President Barack Obama with iPad US President Barack Obama is known to be an iPad owner, along with 28 million other people


    Apple now has more cash to spend than the United States government.
    Latest figures from the US Treasury Department show that the country has an operating cash balance of $73.7bn (£45.3bn).
    Apple's most recent financial results put its reserves at $76.4bn.
    The US House of Representatives is due to vote on a bill to raise the country's debt ceiling, allowing it to borrow more money to cover spending commitments.
    If it fails to extend the current limit of $14.3 trillion dollars, the federal government could find itself struggling to make payments, and risks the loss of its AAA credit rating.
    The United States is currently spending around $200bn more than it collects in revenue every month.
    Apple, on the other hand, is making money hand over fist, according to its financial results.
    In the three months ending 25 June, net income was 125% higher than a year earlier at $7.31bn.
    Spending spree
    With more than $75bn either sitting in the bank or in easily accessible assets, there has been enormous speculation about what the company will do with the money.
    "Apple keeps its cards close to its chest," said Daniel Ashdown, an analyst at Juniper Research.
    Industry watchers believe that it is building up a war chest to be used for strategic acquisitions of other businesses, and to secure technology patents.
    Bookstore Barnes and Noble and the online movie site Netflix have both been tipped as possible targets, said Mr Ashdown.
    The company may also have its eye on smaller firms that develop systems Apple might want to add to its devices, such as voice recognition.
    Apple dipped into some of its reserves recently when it teamed-up with Microsoft to buy a batch of patents from defunct Canadian firm Nortel.
    The bidding consortium shelled out $4.5bn for more than 6,000 patents.

    UK judges say they cannot free Afghanistan detainee




    High Court judges have refused to free a man in Afghanistan after the charity Reprieve sought his release under one of England's most ancient laws.
    Yunus Rahmatullah was seized by British soldiers in Iraq in 2004 as a suspected insurgent and then secretly taken by US forces to Bagram air base.
    His lawyers wanted a writ of habeas corpus, forcing the government to ask Washington to release Mr Rahmatullah.
    But the High Court ruled the UK had no control over the prisoner's fate.
    Yunus Rahmatullah

    Yunus Rahmatullah has been held for seven years without charge

    Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Silber dismissed Reprieve's application and refused to grant a writ of habeas corpus, a right in English law which dates back to the Magna Carta.
    Under habeas corpus, an accused person has to be either charged or released if they are detained for too long.
    But Lord Justice Laws said Rahmatullah, who is from Pakistan, was "in the hands of the Americans" and British ministers were not in a position to "direct (his) delivery".
    Admitted 'jihad'
    Mr Rahmatullah's case emerged in 2009 after ministers admitted two detainees, formerly held by British forces in Iraq, had been transferred by the Americans to Afghanistan, a process dubbed extraordinary rendition.
    The 28-year-old was seized by British forces in February 2004 during an operation against insurgents in Iraq.
    The soldiers handed him over to their US counterparts under a Memorandum of Understanding covering how prisoners would be managed. Within weeks he was at Bagram and was held incommunicado until his family were permitted to speak to him on the telephone last year.
    Mr Rahmatullah told US interrogators he was the victim of brainwashing and regretted ever joining the jihad in Iraq.
    In June 2010, a detention review board accepted his pleas and authorised his release, saying he posed "no enduring security threat" - but he remains in detention.
    Nathalie Lieven QC, for Mr Rahmatullah, told the High Court on Friday his client was being held in breach of international law and added: "It is UK forces which detained this man. It is the UK who have the power to get him back."
    But James Eadie QC, for the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence, said Mr Rahmatullah was "in the power, custody and control of the US" and he said it was not right for a British court to "opine" on the legality of an American detention and any such action could affect Britain's relationship with the US.
    Following the court's decision, Reprieve said it would appeal against the ruling.
    Its legal director Cori Crider said: "The court clearly understood the importance of habeas corpus and was troubled that a cleared man could be held for over seven years, but found against Mr Rahmatullah because the UK continues to hide the ball about its role in his detention and transfer to a black hole, as well as its power to get him out now."


    Related Stories

    Doubts over authenticity of 'ancient Christian' books



    BBC News, Jerusalem

    In the cool living room of a stone-built house in Northern Israel I might just have held in my hands the keys to the ancient mysteries of Christianity.

    And then again, I might not have.
    Sample of three codices.
    The metal books, the Lead Codices, range in size and are covered in ancient lettering



    With the blinds shuttered against the glare of the midday sun my host, Hassan Saeda, lays out a collection of extraordinary books which he says are about 2,000 years old.
    Flowing of hair and neat of beard, he bears a distracting resemblance to an illustration of Christ from an old children's Bible. It lends the scene an air of extra gravity.


    The books - bindings, pages, covers and all - are made entirely of various metals.
    They are inscribed - or engraved, stamped or embossed - with various simple pictures and writing in a variety of languages including Greek and Old Hebrew.
    And they are astonishingly heavy. Some are no larger than a credit card but some are the size of large-format modern paperbacks. The largest that I handled probably weighed 4 or 5kg (about 10lbs).
    You can see why the publishing industry was eventually won over by the flexibility and portability of paper.

    Start Quote

    Hassan Saeda with metal books from his collection.
    I spent so much time and so much money to prove these are real. There are a lot of professors and one of them told me that I'm living in a fantasy”
    Hassan SaedaOwner of metal books
    Family heirloom?
    But that is where the supply of undisputable concrete fact about the collection - which some people refer to as the "Lead Codices" - more or less runs out.
    Mr Saeda, for example, says the books have been in his family for 120 years, after his grandfather discovered them in a cave.
    Other people who have met him to discuss the books say he found or bought them in Jordan within the last five years and smuggled them into Israel.
    Mr Saeda is sticking to the current version of his story in which he acknowledges that many experts who have seen the metal volumes consider them to be fakes.

    His faith is undimmed.
    "I spent so much time and so much money to prove these are real. There are a lot of professors and one of them told me that I'm living in a fantasy.
    Simulated image of the Second Temple in ancient Jerusalem

    The texts might tell the story of the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem - or not

    My answer to him was: 'I think you got old and your eyes don't see anything.' I took my book and went away. Many professors say it's a fake. Why? I don't know why. But this is a real book."
    Mysticism and magic swirl in the dark air as Mr Saeda enlarges on the possibilities he sees in the codices.
    They might contain the real story of the destruction of the Jewish Second Temple by the Romans, he says.
    Or they could fill the gaps in our knowledge of the early Christian movement. They might even hold the key to universal happiness.
    If they are real, that is.
    The 'True Cross'
    The Holy Land is one of the homes of archaeology. Indeed for years, one of the main purposes of the science was to search for tangible evidence that would prove the truth of the stories of the Bible.

    And there has always been money in it too.
    There are enough pieces of the "True Cross" in circulation to make a wooden aircraft carrier. And enough nails to put it together.
    Tourist in the Old City of Jerusalem market.

    Antiquarians warn shoppers to buy with caution because the market is flooded with fakes

    British taxpayers will wince at the thought that a king of England once paid 100,000 gold coins for the "real" crown of thorns from the New Testament.
    There are stories of not one but several foreskins of Jesus which have been recovered, sold and venerated and of the feathers of the wings of the Archangel Michael being preserved in Pennsylvania.
    For every seller, it seems there is a buyer.


    So I went to see Lenny Wolfe, an antiquarian who lives and trades in Jerusalem and who painted a gripping picture of a Middle East antiques market where the unwary and the inexpert tread at their peril.
    Factories in Syria knock out fake antiquities to order and every month brings new stories of caves in the remote valleys of Jordan where golden treasures are hidden that will change the way we see the world.


    Start Quote

    Lenny Wolfe (L) and Kevin Connolly
    The greater, the more sensational the story, the more the chances of it being real are miniscule ”
    Lenny WolfeIsraeli antiquarian


    Mr Wolfe has seen the lead codices and decided not to invest. He is a philosopher as well as a trader, interested in the foibles which inspire people to seek out antiquities which may well be fake and to pin their hopes on them.
    Or, as he put it: "The greater, the more sensational the story, the more the chances of it being real are miniscule. I'm very interested in the behavioural or anthropological aspects of the antiquities trade."
    Mr Wolfe is writing a book, entitled Forgeries and Controversies in Biblical Archaeology. "There are enough controversies and forgeries to make this a lengthy tome," he says.
    Golden rule
    Joe Zias, an anthropologist who served for 25 years as a senior curator at the Israel Antiquities Authority, is equally sceptical.
    The golden rule in archaeology, he says, is simple - when you hear extraordinary claims, ask for extraordinary proof.
    Mr Zias says the world of archaeology has changed since Hollywood gave us first Indiana Jones and then the Da Vinci code.
    No longer is the archaeologist a nerdy toff with a shovel and a Shorter Oxford Dictionary of Latin. Suddenly he or she, is a swashbuckling figure solving the sinister mysteries of antiquity.
    They are still searching for the Holy Grail of course - except that now the Holy Grail is not just the find itself but a story of danger and adventure in the process of searching that secures you a deal for a book or a documentary.
    Conservationist holds up fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    Israel's 2000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls were found half a century ago in caves in the West Bank

    Joe Zias says the odds are always against any such finding turning out to change the way we look at ancient history as the Dead Sea Scrolls once did.
    He says he has seen many people bringing artefacts to his museum during his quarter-century as a curator, but the only genuine one was a fragment of Byzantine pottery found by a tourist on Mount Sinai.
    "It wasn't going back to the time of Moses, but in 25 years that's the only thing I ever saw that was authentic," he says.
    Now there are those who believe - just as Mr Saeda does - that the Lead Codices are genuine and that they hold important secrets about the ancient world.
    But the search for truth in the Holy Land has been littered with fakes and forgeries for hundreds of years and when great claims are made for a new discovery, the burden of proof lies with the finders. And the burden is a heavy one.

    Salford plane crash: Two men suffer burns


    Local resident Paul York describes the immediate aftermath of the crash
    Two men are critically ill in hospital with serious burns after their plane hit two houses in Salford.
    The pilot and passenger, one in his late 50s and the other aged 21, were taken to Wythenshawe Hospital, where the older man is "very critical".
    Their light aircraft crashed in Newlands Avenue, Peel Green, at about 12:20 BST on Friday.
    The plane, operated by Ravenair flying school, was on fire as it took off from Barton Aerodrome, the BBC understands.
    Some residents living near the crash site said such incidents were a constant worry.
    Lyn Browning, who witnessed the crash, said it was the nightmare she had been dreading.
    Emergency accommodation
    "Lots of us round here have problems because of the aircraft taking off and landing and the way they come over the flats," she said.
    "It's terrible, when you're driving on the A57 - nine times out of 10 you wonder whether they are going to land on your car."
    Local councillor and Salford Council deputy leader David Lancaster said: "We always listen when concerns have been raised."
    However, he added: "We've got to remember the airport was there before the residents. An independent report by inspectors will decide whether any precautions are needed."
    He said a number of families had spent the night in emergency accommodation.
    Emergency crews described how people nearby, including a man who had been in one of the homes hit by the plane, helped put out flames after the crash.
    The older man in the plane suffered 70% burns while the younger man had 60% burns.

    Mark Frimston, who lives in nearby flats, said the noise of the crash was "as if a bomb went off".
    He said that when he went outside he "could see the plane embedded into the side of a house".
    Another eyewitness, John Kavanagh, 56, said his "blood turned cold" as the explosion ripped through the area.
    He said: "It felt like everything shook - the houses and cars - and then smoke rose up high into the sky.
    "I thought it was a gas explosion.
    "The people that survived this have had a miracle escape."
    Partly demolished
    In a statement, Ravenair said: "Our primary concern is for the welfare of the two persons on board the aircraft and their family and friends.
    "We wish to express our gratitude and thanks to all of the emergency services and general public who assisted in the initial moments of the Two injured as plane hits homesaccident."

    Damage to house after plan crash













    The plane hit the upper floor of one of the houses

    The Liverpool-based company posted a note on its website in May saying it was winding up its operations at the airport on 31 July.
    It stated: "The decision was made as a result of a review of the commercial viability at the site due to costs and a reduction in business."
    A spokesperson for the aerodrome said: "A Piper PA38 Tomahawk single-engine light aircraft with two people on board took off from City Airport [Barton Aerodrome] at 12:19 BST today.
    "After take-off, the aircraft flew a short distance before coming down in Newlands Avenue, Salford."
    One of the properties hit by the plane suffered severe structural damage, and part of it was due to be demolished as crews work to make the scene safe.
    A spokesperson for the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said a team had been deployed to the crash site and an investigation was under way.

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