Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Why I'm using fake identities to sign up

That is, from now on I will. It is not only getting harder to sign up, it is also getting harder to sign in, and out. Let me explain please as this story has a few sides to it.
But first, let me make my point: I'm going to use fake identities to sign up for new services. If I like the new service, I'll abandon the fake identity and sign up with a real one

Will that mean I'll be lying when accepting most ToS?

Let me answer that one later. For now, there are a few obstacles introduced over the last 1-3 years, when it comes to using new services

First, there is a threshold for even getting to sign up for a service - you need an invite most of these days for any ambitious service, and if not, well tough luck: you're just not sexy enough, and have to wait until mass adoption (or early adopter). So getting in anonymously?Not much of a chance

Second, it will offer you a sign in via a service you're already using, like Twitter and Facebook. So, signing up anonymously is basically impossible unless you create a fake account - which you're not very likely to do

Third, after Google+ "pulled a Facebook", new services are now more or less all demanding that you provide them with correct details and swear on your own grave that you have, and so on - exagerated as that may be, it is clear that there is an increasing demand out there to know what they get in there. When a service is free, the product is you - no need to tell that to anyone anymore

Fourth, it is becoming even technically harder to fake your details. When you sign up for reference.me, your user name is based on your sign-in via Facebook or Google+ - can't change that. I'm anxious to see what happens if there are identical user names on both networks, but that's trivial for now

Fifth, the Terms of Services are becoming longer, more illegible, and some of them are trying to trick you into believing that you are actually reading their Privacy Policy - like reference.me - but fact is that you are given an explicit reference to them, without seeing a link to them. Do you easily miss that? Yes, most do

Sixth, as it appears reference.me is also one of those services that reminds you of Hotel California  - just like SocialMediaToday and Klout - where you simply can only subscribe, and never unsubscribe.
Not that there's not a convenient button for it, or a three-click step program, no.
You can't unsubscribe period. Why is that?
Well of course so they can conveniently lie about user numbers without really lying about it - or something like that. If you have a user base of 100,000 people, that's a whole lot better than having one of 60,000 because 40,000 abandoned the service in a formal way. But I'm just speculating here; I'm sure companies that make it impossible for you to unsubcribe, can give you an answer as to their motivation for this

So, there you are. Subscribed to this crappy service that you now detest - it took you so long to sign up for it, and you didn't feel 100% OK about it in the first place but said "Ah what the heck" and you really didn't like having to hand over all that detailed information, but you did.
And now you want to undo that, you find out you can't. You can check out any time, but you can never leave - remember?

So, here's what I'm going to do in the future: fake. I'm going to fake my way through each and every new service, and use an entirely unreal and unused identity for that if I have to. But I'm certainly not going to use my real name, let alone real info. Whenever I sign up for a new service, I'm not even going to read their ToS - those are an insult to the user anyway, although there are some exceptions

When, after a certain time, I find out that I like the service, I'll sign up with my real details - but only if it lets me unsubscribe and delete my account entirely, which of course I can test nicely with my fake account. Then and only then, I'll consider myself having signed up for the service

Is this considered cheating? Well, by me it is. And I'm fairly sure that at least some others will consider it cheating too. But do I think this is absolutely necessary?
Yes I do. What do you think?

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