The Death of Online Anonymity

Online Anonymity is dying because you can’t remember your password.

Sure it is fading away with every photo shared, blog posted and social network joined. But it will die primarily because you can’t remember which of the 50 some odd logins you have goes with what password. Imagine for a moment, that you only needed one login and one password for the entire net. Sounds lovely doesn’t it… well both Google and Facebook are starting to be your one login for all things online. Here’s what happening:

Both Google & Facebook are preparing universal connect programs enabling you to sign in to various other online services using your existing username and password. Google’s is “Friend Connect”. Facebook is “Facebook Connect”.

Google quietly launched "Friend Connect" this week. You can add the service and its gadgets to your existing webpage or blog enabling you to interact with your visitors. It is so easy to use even I did it, click join above (shameless plug). Facebook has not yet released its Facebook Connect to the public and is currently in the hands of developers.

Both companies are competing to become your public face online. If either manages create widespread adoption it has various different implications.

So lets pause the ranting and hit the bullets, what does this mean:

For you:
1) One username, password and profile
2) You now have a public face online with no network controls (as there is no network)

For Google
1) Finally builds a successful online “social network” without the network
2) More Google users means more ad revenue

For Facebook
1) Collects more information about your online activity, all data fed back to Facebook.
2) More data means more ad revenue

There are all kinds of ways having a single public profile would change the dynamic of the web. Online users will have some control over how public their profiles are; they can choose to join website anonymously or not join at all. That said I am concerned without being able to control the network (i.e. friend requests) people will expose themselves to unforeseen issues through these new associations.

For the time being, we have some if limited control over what we share and with whom. But very few of us engage in a form of personal PR by actively managing and even censoring our profiles. If you have one universal profile linking to all (or many) others we will find ourselves outside of the safe walls of our network standing naked (metaphorically) for all to see on the net.

What are your thoughts?

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