Plus what?

6 Sep

So Google+ is this new shiny thing, that’s not really like Facebook or Twitter but has elements similar to both, and integrates into the Google Suite of products.

I got a beta invite, and after trying it out for awhile, I thought it was pretty cool. Cool enough that I wanted to use it with my blogging friends and gaming friends and other internetty types.

Problem? My usual email address contains my real name. (Which isn’t Anna, but might as well be, since there are a vastly larger number of people that know me as Anna than as my real name)

So after thinking about it for awhile, going back and forth, and weighing options, I decided to make a new email address specifically for G+, thinking that way I could be Anna on G+ and just forward everything from my regular email into the new one.

Justoneanna at gmail dot com was born, and I put all my friends through a profile switch on google chat, my primary chat program these days.

And then the ‘Nym wars started.

See, Google at the beginning wasn’t as … vocal… about their naming policy, which includes a clause that restricts use of pseudonyms. By “restricts”, it turns out they mean “will ban your account unless you change it to your real name and provide proof of ID that it’s your “real” name”.

If your real name doesn’t comply with what Google determines is an acceptable real name, sucks to be you (even if you’re a tech blogger who has given two conferences at Google’s headquarters). Of course, if you’re famous, like Lady Gaga, you get to keep your pseudonym. But little old me? My name isn’t really Anna.

Of course, my pseudonym is an acceptable, westernized name using the Latin alphabet and following a standard format. Which adds another monkey wrench into the system.

See, Google swears up and down that using “real names” is to prevent spam and trolling. To my eyes, that’s kind of not that useful. I can create an account under the name Christopher Harmon (a name I just made up out of my head), and spam away, never flagged by the Google Pseudonym Police, because my name appears to comply with the system.

Not to mention that the two creepy internet stalkers that have made my life miserable in the past did so under their real, legal names.

On the other hand, outing real names is notably unsafe for a lot of people. I don’t use my real name publicly on the internet because of said creepy stalkers. I also have the freedom of talking about my mental health issues without, say, a future boss coming across it.  And I’m not the only person who noticed that using my real name seemed to be a lot better for Google and their datamining than it did for me. There’s nothing that comes from people online knowing my real name that they can’t do with me as Anna.

A “real name” policy doesn’t just harm people who want to protect their real lives from inappropriate online intrusions. In fact, it harms a lot of people.

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One Response to “Plus what?”

  1. Verdus September 6, 2011 at 6:57 pm #

    They can swear up and down that it’s about preventing spam and trolls all they like. Some people might even believe it, poor sods. But it’s not and it never has been. You’ve already seen that people will gleefully make someone’s life miserable using their real name. People have been doing it for thousands of years, in fact. You’ve also seen that Google doesn’t exactly perform much in the way of due diligence on their own policy, just picking off the low hanging fruit as a warning to others. The simple fact is that making people use their real names is simply more profitable for Google because their advertisers, Google’s real customers, can make more money that way. And Google’s rather unlikely going to back away from a policy that makes them more money, not when their only real competitor does something similar.

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