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.

"This week I got an iPhone. This weekend I got four chargers so I can keep it charged everywhere I go and a land line so I can actually make phone calls." -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Most Popular Articles

Copyright 2018 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki