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I'm just another middle-aged, reasonably well-off, American white guy.

So why do I believe so strongly in the importance of letting people control who sees their real name, when you don't?

I was thinking about that this morning, because I know that if you'd asked me this question three years ago, I would have been strongly pro-privacy, but I would not have been as passionate about it as I am now. What's changed?

The difference is that in the past three years, I've spent a lot of time socializing with people who are private about their birth names. I've met them on Twitter, and I've met them in person. I've even driven across the country to meet up with friends whose birth name I didn't know until I was camped out on their couch. As a result, I've heard things that you just don't hear when people have to use their birth names in public.

When you create a social networking site that requires real names, you create an artificial bubble. What you see is just the nice things in people's lives, you don't see what's really happening. But when people have control over who knows their name, they still talk about cute cats and the latest iPhone and what kind of wine they drank last night, but they also talk about other things. They talk about dealing with their parent's Alzheimer's. They talk about how their daughter was missing for three days and got drugged and raped and the police refused to follow up. They talk about how they just lost their job and they're worried that they'll end up on the street. They talk about how their boss will fire them if he finds out they're gay. They talk about how they were sexually abused as a kid. They talk about what it's like to live in a country where bloggers get thrown in prison. People don't dare talk about those things with their birth names; not when Google is indexing everything they say.

When you avoid or ban people who protect their birth names, you create an artificial world, one that doesn't reflect what's going on in the real world. When you surround yourself only with people who are using their birth names, you get the impression that everything is fine out there. That this is America, and people don't discriminate, people aren't ending up on the street through no fault of their own, people aren't getting stalked to their doorsteps because someone learned their name, and people aren't being judged by their sexual orientation. You're surrounded by people who seem to be just like you, because the conversation has been reduced to what's acceptable at the work watercooler.

The sad thing is, if you're dealing with something difficult in your life, that bubble also makes you think you're alone. You think you're the only one, because nobody else is talking about how they're going to pay for their parents nursing care, or how hard it is to juggle work and family.

Of course, maybe you don't want to hear about other people's problems on Google+. There's nothing wrong with that. I don't particularly want to hear what kind of wine Robert Scoble had last night, so I don't circle him. If you don't want to hear about how Jane S is dealing with her son smoking pot, then you don't have to circle her. But that doesn't mean that Jane S shouldn't have a right to join Google+ and comment on your post about the latest merger, or give her opinion on the riots in London, or talk to friends who do want to talk about raising kids. Just because she protects her privacy more than you, doesn't mean her opinion isn't valuable. Furthermore, having people with different backgrounds in a discussion makes for a far more educational and interesting conversation.

Google's name policy is intended to create the illusion that we are all at a fancy restaurant; they've explicitly used that metaphor. Unfortunately, in doing so they have denied access to a lot of interesting people; to teachers, lawyers, doctors, activists and government employees; people who aren't allowed to use their real name to express their real opinions. And they've driven away a lot of people with a very legitimate need for privacy; the abused, the victims, the stalked, the discriminated against. That wasn't Google's intent, but they believe that losing ten or more percent of the population is a legitimate cost in their goal to create the illusion of normalcy.

I think people who say "I'm more comfortable talking to people who use their real names" or "they should find another social network" don't realize just what a broad swath of the population is being eliminated by this policy. They don't realize, because they've never had an honest and open conversation with anyone affected by it. They don't know that their co-worker is gay, or that their favorite barista got raped last month, or that their son's teacher is an atheist. They don't know that the person they are banning may be a neighbor or even a friend. They also don't realize how important online social networks are to people who don't have the freedom to talk to their peers in any other environment. Social networks aren't a "game", they aren't something you do outside of your "real" life. Social networks are a real place where real people meet, make friends, share ideas, create business relationships, and even end up getting married. And all of those things happen even if they initially meet without sharing their birth names. "Jane S" is just as real a person as "Jane Smith", and perhaps even more so.

Google certainly has a right to create a fancy restaurant with an illusion that everyone is telling the truth about who they are. But it's just that, an illusion. Many of us looked at Google as the one internet company that understood the importance of privacy. They stood up to China and left the market when forced to censor. They've fought the hackers who have attempted to keep Google from providing secure email to dissidents around the world. We thought that if Google was going to create a social network, they would create one that mirrored the real world. One where people had control over who saw their birth names and who didn't. A social network that upheld the basic freedoms we expect in a democratic society. Instead, they just created a more authoritarian version of Facebook.

It doesn't have to be this way. You can hit that "Send Feedback" button and tell Google that you don't want them to discriminate. You can tell them that you're happy to hear the opinions of people who don't have the freedom and security to use their birth names. You can tell Google that you want to hear from people who come from different backgrounds than you. You can tell Google that you don't really mind if that guy with the fabulous photos is called "John" or "JujuBoy". You can tell Google that you want a social network where people are free to talk about all of their lives, not just the parts they don't want in the paper tomorrow or in twenty years. Or you can decide that what you really want is a an artificial bubble where everyone talks about technology and cat pictures.

Personally, I prefer reality.

For more details on who is hurt by Google's policy, read "Who is harmed by a real names policy" ( or my long post here: (skip to "Who Needs a Pseudonym?"). If you have any other thoughts on why it's bad to let people control who sees their birth name, please read that post first, I probably discuss them.

For my thoughts on privilege, a word I always used to find personally insulting, read my post here: What I refer to as "being in a bubble" has a lot to do with the concept.

For some excellent personal statements on the importance of name privacy, see

If you're wondering where I came up with "ten or more percent of the population", that's what I believe is a conservative estimate, based on the number of people on Facebook who don't use their real names. Those people are disproportionately minorities and women. Read researcher Danah Boyd's article _"“Real Names” Policies Are an Abuse of Power" at I can't find the original reference to the percentage (can anyone give me a link?), but it was confirmed by my own check of a few Facebook groups I belong to.

Drawing by my daughter, Shadi Fotouhi. (Still too young to join Google+ :).

karthikeyaprasad parivallal's profile photoJingwei Liu's profile photoTerrilyn Beguhl's profile photoDana Scioli's profile photo
Beautifully reasoned and written. Thank you.
As usual, +Kee Hinckley, wonderfully insightful and well-written. I could not have done it better myself.
Xah Lee
i can't say i agree at all.

almost every point i see the opposite. People with real names speak up the problems. Anonymous do less. (I've been on the net since 1991. CompuServe, ApplLink, usenet etc)

started with Facebook, it changed the internet basically, where people actually started to put photos and real names online, not just on facebook but on blogs and elsewhere.

from my experience, it is when people with real identity and faces show more genuine emotion, reality.

also, it's been argued and stated so many times:

(1) google does not require you to match your name with ID. It simply doesn't want apparent fake names such as batman, catface, etc. I call it fantasy sames.

(2) google does not ban pseudonyms. You can use Jon White, Jane Brown, etc.

(3) google is not obliged to follow whatever rules you consider ethical as long as its' not trepassing law. e.g. it's a free service. US is a capitalistic free country. Don't like it? Don't use it. You are not entitled to dictate what google should do, but you can suggest, of course. There are no lack of competing social networking services. (hundreds of it. wikipedia has a full list)

(4) This point i've argued long. I think it is rather critical that google ban fantasy names, because, otherwise the service will become niche. e.g. orkut. (for this point, i've wrote here if anyone interested: )
Can't people who want to share sensitive stuff make the right circles and share to those only?

Also, there is no shortage of private spaces online. For some sensitive stuff in my family, I've created and use a private posterous group. If G+ existed back in March, I would have used G+ instead.
+Xah Lee Regarding points 1 and 2, I know multiple people who have been asked by Google to provide photocopies of government-issued IDs to verify the names they used for Google+. In some cases they have accepted LinkedIn accounts as "proof" of identity.
Google does not ban pseudonyms, but they do make using pseudonyms inherently difficult and fraught with risk of account suspension.
+Xah Lee I won't go into details on the opinions where we differ, as I said, read my longer post on that. And I agree (and said so in my post) with 3, but that doesn't mean I can't encourage Google to change. However you are incorrect with #1 and #2. Read Google's own policies here. Google has and continues to require a government ID when they think that a name is not real. I know a number of people who have had to provide one.
Dαn J
It's so nice to see so many supporting the very thing that makes literally everyone online vulnerable to those who love to hack peoples personal accounts, information, REAL NAMES, and Facial Recognition, This technology is so great we can now take a picture of someone walking down the street, and find out what their real names are. Know everything about them, and be completely open about literally everything in our lives. No matter who or what may be out there to hurt them. Yes, This is the very thing you want to support if you are the type who loves to hack data from from everyone personal lives. Let alone, Make it even easier to get that information to our bank accounts.

I sure those who have been raped or trying not to be murdered will love this as well.
+Dimitrios Diamantaras Posting sensitive or private information is only one facet of the larger Common Name argument.
As a specific example, my wife will not use her birth name online because she does not want to be located or harassed by certain individuals from her past. At the same time, G+ would be a wonderful way for her to interact with friends and family. The "common name" policy excludes her.

EDIT: Corrected "argument" with "example" in paragraph 2.
+Dimitrios Diamantaras Indeed they can't. Could you please read the referenced links? And – there's no guarantee of privacy if you have to provide your name, there's always a possibility of data leak – Google's own Gmail service was a victim of a nasty government-sponsored hack…
+Dimitrios Diamantaras Circles have a number of problems, but here are a couple.
1) They aren't public. There are many sensitive topics that should be discussed publicly. Racism, discrimination. And of course, the Green Revolution and the Arab Spring would not have been terribly useful to discuss in circles. Someone in the closet about their sexuality isn't going to get a lot of use out of circles, she needs to talk publicly just to find other people.
2) They provide privacy only to the sender. As someone replying, I have no idea who is in the circle (beyond a random 21 people). My ex-wife could be there. A kid from school trolling for gays to torment could be there. I have no way of knowing.
3) They don't hide my real name.
Dαn J
Kee, I know you might mean well. But Everything Online, is open for the World to see. Even everything on your phones.
Our bank made us make a code userid as well as a password and two-level authentication picture thingie. My name will not easily lead you to that account online.

I understand it is possible to disable comments and resharing. This makes it easier to target your postings to the circle you want. Of course, someone in that circle may reshare a screenshot.

As for government hacking, say of Gmail, well, my ISP knows a lot about me, including my real name, and a government may force it out of them, too.
Dαn J
Yes, Government already has it all. Why would we want to help out the criminals though?
+Dimitrios Diamantaras I was talking about a government-sponsored hack, not about a legitimate, if not always substantiated, request from your own government. Also, what your ISP knows is not exactly relevant to the issue discussed here, please refrain from non sequiturs in the future.
+Kee Hinckley I get your points. It remains the case that Google is not the only option for social networking, not by a far shot; people have alternatives for anonymous posting. I don't feel all that passionately about this, except that Google is right to set policies on their own sites as they see fit. I did learn from this thread, and I hope you succeed in persuading Google.
+Mirosław Baran Government-sponsored hacks can target ISPs, too. As for the alleged non sequitur, I don't see it as such. Once I am on the internet, my personal details are inevitably somewhere, unless I only use internet cafes and such, and in countries like China, I understand you have to produce ID to use such cafes. So I have already revealed a lot about myself just being an internet user.
Dαn J
Here's my point. If we convince people to give out all their personal information Including Real Names. This makes it so much easier for those that love to do bad things to people. As far as Gov. It's to late for that. They already have all that.
+Dan J I certainly agree with your first point. As for the second, yes, if the government where you live wants to find out who you really are, they probably can, although it may take them a while. I'm not quite as pessimistic about what info they currently have as you are.
Dαn J
Kee Hinckley, Those who know me already know my last name. lol It's not like its a big secret. lol
Dαn J
As far as the Gov, They had it right with the ISP. But more so that they are deeply involved with Facebook and the Facial Recognition software that it has. Also Google has this as well. All they need to find anyone is a picture. As well as any hacker that's out there. But, even now all we need is an Iphone. This works very well to find people on Facebook who you don't know and want to know.
With Google Picasa. It does the same thing. For now it's private unless we open it up to let everyone else see it.
A point I should have made in the article, although it's implied.

When you say you don't want to talk to people who can't share their birth names, you may be banning your friends and co-workers from Google+.
Dαn J
Kee Hinckley , I'm trying to understand why that would be a problem? Some people may not want some friends or co-workers to join them.
Xah Lee
+Will Keaney +Kee Hinckley thank you for the arguments. Can you point me to some examples or specific article/blog that show people require some type of ID match to name, perhaps even just slightly? I'd be interested to know. I'm thinking, that might have been because they started with a apparent fantasy name first, got ban'd, thus it's more of a procedure to re-instate the fantasy name account. (several of my Second Life (SL) acquaintances got ban'd very early on but are back. But as far as i know none involved anything close to matching with a RL ID to get their account back. Most, afaik, just involve email or cellphone verification)

+Kee Hinckley there are really lots articles written on this topic, from random second life bloggers to well known human right activists to other net celebrities and social researchers. Any specific articles you wrote you'd like me or others to read first? The g+ policy page you pointed to, doesn't specifically imply they require matching ID. (of course, one can interpret it in many ways)

one last point/post i'd like to emphasize about the issue is, that i think if g+ really openly embrace any name, the service will quickly fail, become a niche social networking filled by most technologists, artists, programer, etc. And i think this is the most important reason that g+ must enforce the "no fantasy name/profile" rule, regardless all other considerations. Google knew this. If g+ fails, like its orkut did (fail here in the sense not encompassing and competitive to facebook), then, we really lost all interest to be on g+. The whole debate of g+ name will be moot. (after all, nobody complaints about the name policies of all lesser social network sites) Even for people who strongly believe in pseudonyms or online anonymity (which i'm such a person too), i think this reality of g+'s business survival is worth a thought.

thank you for your article and discussion.
You are such a source of inspiration. I was almost tired of fighting, ready to throw in the towel. But now I'm energized!
Dαn J
Xah Lee I'm curious how do fake names make a site fail? I talk to thousands of people world wide. Many will never use their real names and they all have very good reasons not to. Yet, Those sites never failed. Just wondering?
I disagree with 'oh you only see nice things that people are comfortable sharing with everyone'. Plenty of folks on facebook share all sorts of bad shit on there. Mental health, depression, family problems, all under real name. The difference is they don't share it with everyone. They share it with people they already trust. That is the model Google+ is going for and it doesn't present an 'everything is OK in the world picture' . Yes for public sharing that's less likely to be "My boss is such an asshole I can't believe what he said about women" but that's why the circles are there.

Of course it doesn''t cover every eventuality. Google have been clear they're not trying to with the 'maybe Google+ is not for you'. But I think it covers more eventualities than the pro-pseudonym crowd are willing to admit.
+Xah Lee I definitely think that Google agrees with you about names. However, Twitter, Flickr, LiveJournal and other sites seem to have done without the requirement. Some people have proposed allowing people to create accounts with pseudonyms if they were flagged as such, and maybe even allowing other people to block those. I have mixed feelings on that.

I'm not sure how you draw the line about "gamer" names. Names run the gamut from Second Life, to names people blog under (Pistachio, RainyDay, IdentityWoman, BugGrrl, The Bloggess), to nicknames (Vic). And then there are cultural differences. In India, Thailand, Burma people regularly go by nicknames, many of which may seem silly, (Golf). Some or all of those people in those categories may use those in real life and even in business. This isn't something where you can make up a rule and apply it fairly across the board, which is precisely why Google has been vague about their policies. It's also why people have been reported for violating the policy, gone through review, been approved, been reported again and been rejected the second time! Unfortunately, when the policy is vague, that means you don't know if you're going be ejected from the site at anytime. I have a friend, JB Segal, who only managed to survive review by pointing at a Facebook page. Do you really want to invest time and effort in a site which might eject you at any time? Rainyday was a Buzz users with 3000 followers. Google invited her early on to join Google+, and then rejected her later because her name violated policy. Not only did she have to lose Google+, but she also lost access to Buzz and all those friends she had built up.

I don't have a handy list of people who have had to produce government IDs, but there are many. Google is vague about when it's required (a customer support person at Google recently said that it was anytime the name didn't look "common", but then management said that was incorrect). They didn't say was was correct. I think that Skud (+K Robert, her common name was rejected) may have a set of links. You should also check out her wonderful site,, which I really should have included in my post.

Thank you for the conversation.
+Roxanne Kay Thank you! I have to admit, I'd been feeling a bit down as well. But the question of, "Why do *I* feel so strongly about this?" hit me this morning, and the post has been begging to be written all day. I'm glad it helped.
Xah Lee
+Dan J i think that if a social network allow almost any name (minus offensive ones), then a significant number will be fantasy names... batman, morpheus, queen bee, princess coffee ...etc such as almost all the Second Life's millions of active account, or reminiscent of the internet before facebook (~2005). Associate with it is fantasy profiles. (cats, plants, random drawings) When mom and pop folks (who doesn't have any vague idea what social network means and barely know what copy & paste means) come to a site and see lots of these names and pics, they will not join. These type of folks include highly educated, e.g. math professors (which i know a few an am familiar with such community. Most of them view social network and web 2, blogs, as "something out there". "They don't have time for it". They don't or barely can be bothered to use Skype or the like) my 2 cents.
Dαn J
Yeah that's what I mean. I know several people with fake names on several sites all across the net. It's nothing a simple don't follow doesn't seem cure. lol As far as people joining? Don't think G plus has that problem. Either way it should not be a requirement. The internet should be a fun thing for those who need fun. A serious thing for those who only like to be serious.

What's even more important, is everyone should have the ability to be creative everywhere online. Take that away. Why would anyone ever want to see what Xah Lee had for lunch today and couldn't keep down?

Why is it so important to only be allowed Real Names? It really seems pretty useless and very dangerous for those that do support only Real Names. It's a Freedom we should enjoy if we choose. Personally. I use my name. But, I'm already all over the net. But, I know way to many that something like this would put them in harms way even to the point of death.

What you are saying here. Is they have no reason to enjoy Google Plus because they cannot use their real names?
+Helena Kalin I was working on posting that right as you did, but you beat me to it!

I think it is fair to note, while what counted as valid id is no less troubling, is that it was an "Impersonation" case, not a "Fake Profile" report that got the suspension.

But weren't GrrlScientist, Doc Pop, and Skud all asked for ID?
Wants to be able to hit the +1 button a million times for this one. Thank you for sharing this with us :-)
+Ryan Schultz Thank you very much for the feedback.

And thank you to everyone else who has commented and/or reshared. It means a lot to know that something you've written resonates with people.
+Kee Hinckley that was very well written and I hope it resonates far and wide but particularly at Google because this matters.
I never thought of it this way until reading this, but Google isn't trying to create a fancy restaurant, they're wanting to recreate 1950's America a la Leave it to Beaver. The world was never that simple, never that clean. But some people want to believe that the world was that way, and that it can be made that way again. That does great harm and disservice to those whose lives have been warped by a reality that doesn't contain Ward and June.
Thank for a really interesting and thought provoking post.
Kee, thank you for the thoughtful support on this subject. I am one of those people you describe.
+Kee Hinckley this is probably the most reasonable, well reasoned, eloquent and frankly, touching, post on this matter I've seen so far (including my own). Thank you for this.
+Jessica Land, I don't have time now to look for the info, but I think GrrlScientist had to send in her phone number to get her gmail unlocked. It's possible that GrrlScientist, Doc Pop, and Skud were asked for ID, though I think in their case, the issue was that they very much wanted to use their longtime nyms, because that's how they are commonly known. Skud was a former google employee, so they already know her legal name. It's weird that it took them so long to reinstate her. The didn't allow her to put Skud in any part of her name, not even in the middle within quotes, though they allowed +Limor "Ladyada" Fried to do so.
Let's just say I strangely focused on the bazaar idea of picking the model of a Fancy restaurant to represent peoples real life. Just think now for just a bit on all the prrequisets a person needs to have in order to manage such an event in Real Life. Now also think of all the gate keeping that restaurants for the elite have. So consider this how many people when given the opportunity to jump through those hoop would simply say ...No Thanks. Consider the reaction of people who were invited but not informed of all the dress codes and so on would feel upon being rejected. What would these people be telling friend? It seems to me that G+OO has managed to make the experience very near to that of what an average person would feel if the went to a very upscale restaurant.
+Marty Mueller, improperly dressed guests do not get rejected at the door; they let them in, then throw them out, and ban them from some of the other affiliated restaurants.
+Kee Hinckley - You bring lots of strong arguments for the use of fake names and I fully agree with you G+ must allow pseudonyms. However you should also listen to the other side and not just ignore the "nice people in the fancy restaurant". I repeat and expend on what was saying in the commentaries of one of your previous post on the same topic...

On some occasions (like purchasing something or starting a business), I want to be sure to not deal with some bogus person (that is someone I'm not 100% sure I can trust). For instance I was looking for "Eric Schmidt" and I found many entries on G+. Which one is really working at Google and which one is a fake name ? No idea. It is exactly the same with "Lady Gaga", there is no guarantee that the person behind that pseudonym is really the artist.

Thus let's imagine that in G+ you can create an account with your real name or with a pseudomym and you'll be known as "+xxx zzzz" (that's already the case). If you need to build some confidence in your name you could then provide enough credentials to Google to prove who you are and then you'll be known as "++xxx zzzz".

This is a similar process as using certificates with email. That "escrow system" could also be a good business for Google because they can asked to be paid for the service ! For individuals, that certification is not really critical but for companies it can be so.

So, from my point of view, the problem is not really about real name versus fake names but instead with standard accounts (with real name or pseudonyms) versus certified accounts that are easy to identify as such (with, as I suggest a ++ or other indicator).

With such a system, the "++nice guys" can stay in their "++fancy restaurant" but all the "+other people" can still use G+ to communicate about their '+real life" experiences.
+Olivier Moreau I absolutely agree that a "verified name" option should be provided. Twitter does it, and I would use it here for both of my accounts.

I'm not entirely sure what Twitter claims to be validating though.@GreatDismal is William Gibson, but which William Gibson. We don't have an public key system in the U.S., let alone globally. About the best I can think of is that Google would validate that the web sites you point to in your profile are in fact your web sites. That's easy for them to do, they already do this for Google Analytics. And they've begun rolling it out for authorship of articles—you'll see it in some Google searches.

And that latter case makes it even more imperative that Google support accounts that don't use birth names. As it stands, authorship attribution requires a Google Profile, and Google won't allow one for people who don't use their real names. Given the huge number of blogs which use pseudonyms, that's a huge hole.
+Kee Hinckley Well this is for the moment just a theoretical idea, the certification process is indeed tricky. We could imagine several levels :
+standard account
++certified by Google with basic information your provide (drivers licence or company registration)
+++certified by a solicitor or with a certificate like email

The important point for me is not to try to convince Google to just stop their stupid system but to suggest some more reasonable alternatives...
+Kee Hinckley Talk about Google shooting itself in the foot! I bet that authorship in search could be worth a whole lot more to Google than only having users with "common" names....but it will be worthless if only "real names" are supported.
+Jim Williams Indeed they are right now paying people to limit the use of G+ and not getting any money from it (or not direct money but maybe indirect support from marketing folks). With a certification service they would get paid for that service !
+Olivier Moreau Heheh....Yes. Rather than Kicking my Dharma Galaxy account off they could have gotten me to pay to have them certify that it is indeed my Second Life and Inworldz account. GIven that other than groceries I spend more in Lindens and Izzies than USD I'm pretty sure there are advertisers out there willing to pay at the other end for that too.
Olivier, I'm still not sure what is being certified. Is it useful to know that someone's name is "John Smith"? Or would they certify addresses too, and then the person could share with you a Google-certified virtual business card? (There is a company that provides just that service.)
+Kee Hinckley I just did a search on Jim Williams and found about 64 Google Profiles. It's not even very useful knowing that someone's name is Jim Williams. You'd have to have an uncommon name for it to be at all useful.
Thank you, Kee. This is really powerful. I was especially struck by "When you surround yourself only with people who are using their birth names, you get the impression that everything is fine out there. "
Just sent feedback with a link to this post followed by a "+1" in the comments, and with "Personally, I prefer reality." highlighted.
+Jim Williams You are fortunate to have such a common name under a policy such as this. If you wanted, you'd be able to set up a legitimate account following all the TOS rules that has no personal information public other than your name, and it's as good as a pseudonym.

There was a guy with a common name who had his account set up just like that who was arguing stridently in favor of the Real Name policy, and he simply couldn't see how it arbitrarily favored him over me (or any person with an uncommon name) in terms of providing tools to secure our privacy.

edit: I see that you have your account set up as I described. Good on you! Now you have plausible deniability should anyone ascribe the words of +Jim Williams to you. :)
+Kee Hinckley - The trust in a name (certification of an account) is a rather subjective process. Some people might naively just trust real names (according to their culture of course, not foreign names). For others it will take the government certified name (passport please), the current address and a RSA certificate !

The simplest is to look at the state of the art. Do you have the link to the company that provides the service of certified virtual business card? The eBay system of peer to peer certification (evaluation) can also be considered.

Again the point for now is just to make it quite clear that you can't really trust someone because his name sounds OK ! Just check +Jim Williams , his name sounds very correct but it's fairly obvious he is not a real person but just a smart cat ;-)
+Gabe Small They closed my account under my real name, Dharma Galaxy. You can find me in Inworldz and sometimes in Second Life. "Jim Williams" is just an historical artifact. Lucky for me I'm old, disabled, and don't give a damn, so it doesn't matter what I say under this name.

+Olivier Moreau Jack (the cat) is semi-feral and is my failed foster. When I announced I was keeping him everyone was ecstatic. "We'd never be able to get him adopted out." After three years he will occasionally come into the same room as my wife.
This is so very well said, and so clearly straight from your heart - thank you so much for writing it.
California just passed SB636, which bans companies from forcing abuse and stalking survivors in CA to post their "real" names. Google just lost.
And since there's no practical legal way to force users to prove they are abuse or stalking survivors before using a pseudonym, it effectively applies to all users.

Question though: Does it apply to users who are CA residents, companies based in CA, or companies who do business in CA?
It still applies, because Google makes money from advertising with your name. "This bill would, for purposes of the program for victims of domestic violence or stalking, prohibit a person, business, or association from knowingly and intentionally publicly posting or displaying on the Internet, or soliciting, selling, or trading on the Internet, specified personal information of a program participant or other persons residing at the same address".

They COULD just force people to close their accounts completely if they wanted, but who here really thinks that Google wants that negative press that would come along with banning all CA domestic abuse and stalking survivors from Google+?
"a program participant"

So they are specific people enrolled in a program. If they're flagged for ToS violation, Google can just ask them for proof of program participation on appeal and then waive the Real Name requirement.

I don't think it's a policy-killer, unfortunately.
I think you greatly underestimate the number of Californians (and Google employees) who will quickly sign up under this program.
The program requires an application, though.

"Existing law authorizes victims of domestic violence or stalking and reproductive health care providers, employees, and volunteers, as defined, to complete an application to be approved by the Secretary of State for the purposes of enabling state and local agencies to respond to requests for public records without disclosing a program participant's residence address contained in any public record. Existing law prohibits the Secretary of State from making a program participant's address publicly available, except in specified circumstances, including when the participant's program certification has been canceled."

They're extending this existing program to be applicable to private businesses. It's not available to just anyone.
+Rugger Ducky Do the forms exist yet to apply for the program? I'd love to see a post describing how to apply.
The Secretary of State office should have them up shortly. As soon as Gov. Brown signs it into law, it goes into effect, so they'll need to be getting those forms made pretty quickly.
+Gabe Small Still. Every little bit helps. If we document how a few people in California can appeal Google's decision, people will ask Google why they don't voluntarily extend those protections to others. I'll take anything I can get.
Exactly. I truly do think they'll look at this and reevaluate the policy, because it is both the ethical and legal thing to do.
I looked more into it, the forms actually already exist, this is expanding the CA "Safe at Home" program to include the Internet. Info about "Safe at Home" can be found here:
This whole kerfuffle has made me much less optimistic that they will make a change just because it's ethical. I do believe they'll change it if it continues to be an embarrassing albatross, though. I agree that it might help in that regard.
+Rugger Ducky Posted. If you don't want your name in there, please let me know ASAP and I'll remove it. Thanks!
Be who you are, has always been dangerous. A world that still does not accept differences, and whose circles of power, would enjoy that most people were more bees or sheep. Appearances, in this case pseudonyms, allow people to express themselves without fear of discrimination or punishment. Our world is not pink. And the Internet is a powerful tool to convey ideas ... which, makes it even more dangerous, as each participant is not recognized. Very interesting your posting. Do put into words what many think about it.
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