Skip to main content

Google should allow anonymous Internet use, says Vint Cerf

Vint Cerf, known as the "father of the Internet," is not convinced people should have to use their real names on the Internet.

Cerf, who serves as a chief Internet evangelist at Google, told Reuters that during the debate over the use of real names on the search giant's network, he supported the use of pseudonyms. Ultimately, Google decided to allow nicknames on services like Google+, which Cerf said "offers adequate 'choice' in how users choose to represent themselves."

"Anonymity and pseudonymity are perfectly reasonable under some situations," he told Reuters. "But there are cases where in the transactions both parties really need to know who we are talking to. So what I'm looking for is not that we shut down anonymity, but rather that we offer an option when needed that can strongly authenticate who the parties are."

A situation where anonymity is crucial, Cerf acknowledged, is for those living in countries where oppressive regimes monitor the Web for anti-government sentiment.

In January 2012, Google said it would allow pseudonyms on Google+. That came several months after Eric Schmidt said that Google+ was for "real names" only.

In recent months, Google has encouraged, and in some cases required, users to link their Google accounts across various products. In November, for example, the search giant started linking Google Play reviews to Google+ accounts.

Facebook, however, has stuck by its "real names" requirement. Last month, it won a battle in Germany when a court found that the social network cannot be forced to allow its members to use fake names.

Cerf, meanwhile, was at TED 2013 recently, during which he discussed using the Internet to communicate with animals and maybe even aliens.

"These interactions with other animals will teach us, ultimately, how we might interact with an alien from another world," Cerf said last week. "I can hardly wait."