Yeah, I have an interest in this.
As I mentioned last month I'm of the generation that grew up using handles for our online presence, so I have long experience using names-that-aren't-on-my-government-ID to identify myself. Heck, whole groups of people only knew me by those [8|10|16]-character-or-less handles. From what I've seen, it seems like it is my generation that is leading the nymwar fight.
For years I've carefully curated what I allow on the Internet that is associated with my real name. I knew w-a-y back in 2000 that what you say online (back then I was worried about Usenet posts) is on your permanent record and have treated my online interactions like that ever since. If you drop my legal name into your search engine of choice, one of the top hits will be my LinkedIn profile, which is just as it should be. Other hits will be some posts to mailing lists I made from work firstname.lastname email addresses, but those are OK as well since they're covering technical topics rather than something divisive like political opinions. Facebook will show up as well, but I'm only there to name-squat and keep in touch with certain FB-only people in my life. You can also learn about the other people with my name in this country, though it seems I've done the most internet-visible work in that regard.
I also have a variety of pseudonyms I've used on various social-network oriented sites over the years. You can get from those to here since I occasionally link to my blog posts on those services, but going the other direction is a lot harder. This is intentional. Much like network security, I do firewall certain aspects of my identity from general consumption. I am purposely including opinions and actions in the definition of "Identity", not just the facts that describe me. It is under those pseudonyms slash trusted-zones that I go into the details of my politics, hobbies, and extra-curricular activities.
You know, the kinds of things that can alienate future employers.
Identity firewalling is very much needed since American society as a whole isn't set up to handle:
- People who parroted their parent's political views while children.
- People who change their opinions from year to year.
- People who change their opinions from decade to decade. Or ever, in the case of Presidential candidates.
- People with unusual hobbies.
- People who are members of unpopular religious, ethnic, sexual, or technical minorities.
- People who have unusual personal relationships.
- People who talk about sex.
- People who have certain medical conditions.
- People who do stupid things between the ages of 15-18.
- People who do stupid things between the ages of 18-24.
- People who have been convicted of a crime (even while being stupid between 18-24).
- People who hold extreme views.
- People with unusual family circumstances.
- People who are Not From Around Here.
Speaking as someone who has been subjected to multiple background checks as a condition of employment for more than one job, I can tell you that the standards are a bit higher for someone like me. Anything in my background that suggests poor judgment can be used as a basis for passing over my application. This is why I curate my online identity as closely as I do, because it's hard to guess what online speech of right now will be considered suspect in 20 years.
There have been several news articles in recent years about employers requiring access to the "full profile" on Facebook as a condition of employment. This is done to better assess the character of incoming hires. I have full confidence that, "please add our HR processor to all of your Google Plus circles," will be a similar request in the future. The correct answer to these requests, in my opinion anyway, is "I'm sorry, but I won't work for a place that requires such information." However, if you've been unemployed for 18 months and are about to run out of Unemployment benefits, saying "go away" to a potential employer is not something you're inclined to do even on principle.
This is where maintaining multiple identities really comes into its own. By having that firewall, you can give your potential employer access to all of your G+ circles... for the identity you keep for public consumption. If you've done the separation right, you can survive this invasion of your privacy without having your privates groped quite so firmly. Such identity separation will need to happen until such time that employers and voters no longer care what you did or said 20 years ago.
Google has said that Circles are the best way to segregate your identity. I applaud them for that, since such mechanisms are quite useful. Everyone doesn't want to hear about my medical issues, just fellow sufferers and family. Twitter doesn't offer this kind of segregation, which is why some of the people I follow have more than one twitter account.
As I pointed out above, all it takes is one employer demanding to be added to all of your circles as a condition of employment and that careful segregation goes out the window. People need a stronger separation than just 'circles', a separate profile is that mechanism.
Google: if you fear using your real name, then don't use Google Plus.
To which I say bullshit. Humans are social critters, and all it takes is the right number of people saying, "Good bye Facebook, you can find me on G+", and eventually you have to be on G+ in order to have any social-networking contact with those people. That's a large part of why I'm on Facebook at all, otherwise I wouldn't be there. This will cause people who otherwise would follow this advice to go against their best interests. Maybe they'll use their real name, or initials. Or attempt a pseudonym and hope they don't get caught.
Google: If people don't know you by your real name, add your pseudonyms to your "Other Names" on your profile, people can still find you then. Google cites this as the solution to the, "The people on the Mythbusters forum know me as Cmdr. Keenly, but my knitting friends all know me as CaughtTheWumpus, how would they connect that to $RealName," problem.
Which is true. That mechanism is quite useful for consolidating all of your identity islands into a single googly one. I still maintain that this is a bad idea. Said employer will use that list of names as an index of places to further plunder for your 'character'.
If Google were a smaller player like Diaspora their real-name stance wouldn't mean much. However, since they are the company that drives 75% of the RSS traffic to this very blog, nearly all of the Instant Messaging traffic I personally have seen in the last 4 years, and wrote the operating system for my phone, the impact is somewhat different for them. I've had a good number of my online friends throw Facebook over the side in favor of G+, and enough of them have done so that I feel pressure to go to G+ just so I can follow them.
Because of this, Google's lack of support for firewalled identities is a significant issue. A very significant issue, and one that I'm watching closely.