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Google+ has softened the blow of its "real name" policy, amid allegations of censorship and privacy violations.  (Source: Google+)

Users now have the option of adding searchable nicknames to a new profile section. However, users still don't have the option of hiding their real name from their Google+ acquaintances.  (Source: Mom It Forward)
New social network is still demanding real names, but is being a bit more gentle about punishments

Google Inc.'s (GOOG) new social network, Google+, seemed on the fast track to success, garnering generally positive reviews and earning 20+ million members within only a couple weeks of the launch of the "field test" of the network.  But over the last week and a half, the network has been rocked by allegations of censorship, after it began a campaign of purging users who had used nicknames.

I. New Policies, Friendlier Approach

Google's VP of Google+ Bradley Horowitz, has finally cleared the air, indicating that the controversial policy is under review.  He writes in a Google+ post, "[M]any... changes are coming. We’re flattered and appreciative of your support and interest. I assure you, teams of passionate individuals are pouring their talents and care into making this a great experience for you."

Mr. Horowtiz acknowledges that most customers using nicknames weren't using it in an abusive manner.  He writes, "We've noticed that many violations of the Google+ common name policy were in fact well-intentioned and inadvertent and for these users our process can be frustrating and disappointing. So we're currently making a number of improvements to this process - specifically regarding how we notify these users that they’re not in compliance with Google+ policies and how we communicate the remedies available to them."

The company is making some amends to make the process friendlier and rejections gentler.  Namely, it's going to be implementing checks that makes it harder to register with a nickname.  Presumably this would include a check for illegal punctuation characters (for example "Mick" is a valid last name, "Mick++" isn't).  As this was part of Google's rules, it's baffling why Google didn't include such a check in the first place -- particularly when it offers similar checks with registration for other services, like Gmail.

A new page has also been published on how users can alter their nicknames, names, etc. to avoid violations.  Mr. Horowitz says Google will now merely warn users when the violation is first discovered, rather than suspending their account.  He also promises to provide users with a clearer timeframe of exactly how long they have to fulfill each step in this review process.

Interestingly, Mr. Horowitz refutes widely publicized reports that Google+ suspensions/deletions led to deletions of affiliated user accounts on other services.  He writes:

Finally, I wanted to debunk a few myths I’ve seen circulating.

MYTH: Not abiding by the Google+ common name policy can lead to wholesale suspension of one’s entire Google account.

When an account is suspended for violating the Google+ common name standards, access to Gmail or other products that don’t require a Google+ profile are not removed. Please help get the word out: if your Google+ Profile is suspended for not using a common name, you won't be able to use Google services that require a Google+ Profile, but you'll still be able to use Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Blogger, and so on. (Of course there are other Google-wide policies (e.g. egregious spamming, illegal activity, etc) that do apply to all Google products, and violations of these policies could in fact lead to a Google-wide suspension.)

II. Should Google be Playing Name Police at All?

A compelling question is whether Google should really be forcing users to use their real names in the first place.  Using pseudonyms or handles is a well established tradition, both online and off, which dates back to mankind's earliest days.

In today's modern world, manufactured handles are often used by celebrities -- be they actors, musicians, or digital celebrities (like celebrated iPhone hackers "GeoHot" or "+MuscleNerd") -- in order to allow them to interact with fans, while maintaining color and, most importantly, privacy.  If a musician wants to create a page to talk to their fans, why should they have to make it under their real name?

Currently, Google's answer is to add a new section "other names", which you can add nicknames to, helping users find you.  However, what would virtually remove the problems altogether would be if Google simply allowed you to hide your real name, instead displaying one of these "other names".  That way Google would still have the added security of real names from a registration perspective, but would allow users freedom to express themselves and maintain privacy.

Google insists that it will only be punitive to abusive users, writing, "Of course whenever we review a profile, if we determine that the account is violating other policies like spam or abuse we’ll suspend the account immediately."

The new dialogue from Google is welcome, but the question remains why Google isn't allowing users to hide their real name, if its goal is to provide greater privacy than Facebook.  The company says it's open to suggestions, so hopefully that's something it considers going forward.


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Why Google cares if you use your real name
By Tony Swash on 7/27/2011 1:18:56 PM , Rating: 1
RE: Why Google cares if you use your real name
By nafhan on 7/27/11, Rating: -1
RE: Why Google cares if you use your real name
By Tony Swash on 7/27/2011 1:57:44 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
We need a "mark as spam" button in the comments section.


Genuinely interested in why you think the link was spam? It seemed pertinent and interesting so I thought I would share. What's the harm?


RE: Why Google cares if you use your real name
By Pirks on 7/27/2011 2:51:38 PM , Rating: 1
The harm is in these words from your link:

"There's a very simple business reason why Google cares if they have your real name. It means it's possible to cross-relate your account with your buying behavior with their partners, who might be banks, retailers, supermarkets, hospitals, airlines. To connect with your use of cell phones that might be running their mobile operating system. To provide identity in a commerce-ready way. And to give them information about what you do on the Internet, without obfuscation of pseudonyms. Simply put, a real name is worth more than a fake one. That's really what it's all about, money. That's why they want you to use their social network, and why they want you to not use Zuck's. Because they want the money."

They hurt a few Google cock suckers here like nafhan. Got it?


RE: Why Google cares if you use your real name
By Tony Swash on 7/27/2011 3:07:12 PM , Rating: 2
So it's not because he really think it's spam but because it contains ideas that he finds difficult or disturbing but which he doesn't want to, or can't, argue against so it's easier to use the word spam as a sort of dismissive smear word?

Have I got that right?


RE: Why Google cares if you use your real name
By Pirks on 7/27/2011 4:04:37 PM , Rating: 2
You are way too sophisticated and subtle for this tabloid forum. You belong to Ars, not to DT.


RE: Why Google cares if you use your real name
By SKiddywinks on 7/27/2011 11:01:39 PM , Rating: 2
His article was certainly not spam.

But he/you (not totally ruled out Pirks and Swash being the same person yet) had better keep the hell away from Ars.


By Pirks on 7/27/2011 11:10:15 PM , Rating: 2
Why?


By nafhan on 7/28/2011 11:56:49 AM , Rating: 2
That's absolutely not it. I spoke for myself below.


By nafhan on 7/28/2011 11:53:49 AM , Rating: 3
Your whole post was the words "Interesting analysis" followed by a link to a random website. That's why. Any time you see spam in a forum post that's generally the format it takes. There was no incidental text to describe why it was interesting or anything.


Real names as a differentiator
By nafhan on 7/27/2011 12:27:45 PM , Rating: 2
I think what Google is doing here is enforcing the use of real names to differentiate itself from FB and others. This could be a good thing when you are trying to ensure you are actually talking to a real person - making it similar to Linked In in some respects.

That said, this does not impede anonymous speech in any meaningful way as you can, for example:
-Choose to not use Google+ (FB, Twitter, et al still exist)
-Use Google+ with a "real sounding" yet fake name




RE: Real names as a differentiator
By Natch on 7/27/2011 2:15:39 PM , Rating: 2
As long as it's in good taste, what's the harm?

My friend's son is a junior (dad is the senior, of course). Their last name begins with the letter "P", so they've called him PJ (last name = P, Junior = J) practically his whole life. That's what he's known as, to most of his friends. What would be the harm of him opening a Google+ account as "PJ (his last name)"??

Also, I've had friends that have used their middle name as their first name. One lady I knew had the first name of Doris, middle name of Thelma.....but don't you call her Doris, unless you want to earn a dirty look! What's the harm?

However, if someone wants to call themselves "Big Balls McGraw", "Sofa King Smith", or "Dixie Wrecked", then the line should be drawn, as that's just in poor taste, to most people.

Seriously, Google took something that should have been simple, and complicated the hell out of it. Must have been an engineer's idea! ;)


RE: Real names as a differentiator
By Solandri on 7/27/2011 5:36:54 PM , Rating: 2
Once upon a time, everyone on the Internet used their real names. The net was a cooperative effort by schools, the military, and a few tech companies. All of them enforced the policy of your email address, login, etc. either containing or having a reference to your real name. There was no anonymity, there was no spam. Tricks which allowed you to hide your identity were viewed as bugs which had to be stomped out. Here, see for yourself what it used to be like:
http://groups.google.com/group/net.unix-wizards/br...

Then AOL (with up to 5 "handles" per account) joined USENET and everything went to hell. ;)


RE: Real names as a differentiator
By jhb116 on 7/27/2011 4:51:12 PM , Rating: 2
They are already different. I think the theory in the thread above, about cross reference for more money, is probably close to accurate.

What I'd like to know if what about those of us with common names like John Smith??? I would want to all of a suddent be John Smith666...or would I?


RE: Real names as a differentiator
By futrtrubl on 7/27/2011 6:53:40 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly, Google+ promotes itself on it's better privacy over the competition. It never said it would have anonymity. I think Jason has confused those concepts.


By Subzero0000 on 7/27/2011 9:22:35 PM , Rating: 2
huh? seriously?
You would have much less privacy without the anonymity.


By GrrlScientist on 7/27/2011 4:59:17 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Finally, Horowitz wrote, that it is a myth that Not abiding by the Google+ common name policy can lead to wholesale suspension of ones entire Google account.


this is AN ASTONISHINGLY GROSS INACCURACY. i cannot believe any sober person can say such things without winking and nodding to the people behind the curtain. i was locked out of ALL my google services, including gmail, until i coughed up my PERSONAL phone number (no public "pay phone" numbers allowed!) because i DARED to use the name i am "commonly known by" as my profile name. i STILL cannot access many of my other google services, such as reader, buzz, etc., and i've been told that my youtube account is also locked. (no, i haven't looked yet. this entire situation really depresses the hell out of me.)

i also had to have a smartphone (which i recently obtained) so i could receive a text message with google's code number i needed to regain access to my gmail account, which they were quite happy to hold hostage until i surrendered my phone number to get it.

further, i was forced to change my gmail password and cannot change it back to what it was (not a problem if you've got one password, but i've got seven regular passwords, and several dozen rotating passwords).

hello? Horowitz's (corporate) words and my real life experiences are NOT EVEN REMOTELY SIMILAR.




+1
By inperfectdarkness on 7/27/2011 10:20:52 AM , Rating: 1
props for the ting-tings reference. i love that group!




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