New Online Norms
The notion of providing real names and addresses is not a new one, particular in the realm of public consultations. Indeed, verifying who you are is a hallmark of consultation processes. One first things you are asked to do at many open houses is to put on a name tag and introduce your self before speaking. Most focus group sessions start with a round table introduction where you introduce yourself and your interests. And perhaps most pertinently, municipalities require you to provide your name and residential address before being added to the speakers list at public hearings.
What is new is bringing these engagement norms online. The internet is not a second life anymore, it’s your first one. As Derek Powarek mentions in his argument “you don’t slip into a pseudonym when you use the phone, why should you be someone else online?
PlaceSpeak understands that our geo-verification requirement may exclude potentially valuable and legitimate viewpoints expressed by residents who prefer to remain anonymous for whatever reason (including fearing reprisal from neighbors, landlords or employers). That being said, we stand by this requirement because while we understand and appreciate the need for online anonymity or pseudonymous conversation on the Internet, there are other forums where residents can engage in anonymously or with a pseudonym. We strongly encourage that proponents view PlaceSpeak as only one component of a comprehensive public engagement strategy.
Privacy Remains Paramount
This does not mean that privacy is not important; quite the opposite. It is essential for individuals to control how their personal information is shared online. This is why PlaceSpeak provides preferences for users to control how their personal information, including residential addresses is shared on the site and who can see it. PlaceSpeak is not funded by advertising and will never sell or disclose personal information to third parties.
For more information on this topic check out our white paper, Why Verification? on Scribd.