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Here is the full version of a conversation with Google's #Nymwars Enforcement Team that I excerpted earlier, reposted with Fizz' permission. (ETA: Fizz' handle is relsqui on Twitter and most other places.)

+Natalie Villalobos, +Frances Haugen, +Bradley Horowitz, +Vic Gundotra: is this really your idea of fostering a good community and providing customer service? Please remember that below, Brian is speaking officially on behalf of Google.

Under a pseudonym, for that extra touch of hypocrisy.



Subject: Re: [#894911861] Google Profile Name Review
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From: Google Profiles Support <profiles-support@google.com>
Date: Sat, Oct 22, 2011 at 11:47
To: Fizz

Hi,

Thank you for contacting us with regard to our review of the name you are trying to use in your Google Profile. After review of your appeal, we have determined that the name you want to use violates our Community Standards. You can review our name guidelines at http://www.google.com/support/+/bin/answer.py?answer=1228271

If you edit your name to comply with our policies in the future, please respond to this email so that we can re-review your profile.

Sincerely,
Brian
The Google Profiles Support Team


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From: Fizz
Date: Sat, Oct 22, 2011 at 18:59
To: Google Profiles Support <profiles-support@google.com>, Sai


Hi Brian,

Thanks for getting back to me. I can see why my listed name "Fizz" might not appear to be in compliance, but in fact it is the name I am most commonly known by--to my friends, family, instructors, classmates, and so forth. Putting anything else in the name field would make me more difficult to find for anyone who knows me; even if I found them first, they wouldn't recognize me under another name! As such, I'm hoping my profile can be restored with my correct name intact. How can I make this happen?

Thanks,
Fizz


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From: Google Profiles Support <profiles-support@google.com>
Date: Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 18:34
To: Fizz
Cc: Sai


Hi,

We are working on developing ways to support other forms of identity beyond common names, but we don't have anything to announce at this time. We do believe that supporting pseudonyms is a worthy ambition and is one the team is working towards.

Currently, most users choose to use their First and Last names in the common name field in order to avoid any future name violation issues. All pseudonyms or nick names can be placed in the other names field below the common name field. The Other Names field is searchable by other users to find people.

Sincerely,
Brian
The Google Profiles Support Team

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From: Sai
Date: Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 22:19
To: Google Profiles Support <profiles-support@google.com>
Cc: Fizz, +Frances Haugen, nymwars press office


Brian -

Not everyone has a "first" and "last" name; I for instance do not, and nor does Fizz.

Your team is being extremely rude in its insistence on telling people that the names they are actually known as every day, that in many cases are also on their government ID, somehow violate "community standards".

Your telling Fizz what "most users" do is a passive-aggressive way of telling her that her real name basically "sounds weird" to you, despite it being the name that she is known by to all of her friends — the standard which you espouse. Remember that this is not a conversation about suggestions, it's a conversation in the context of Google's enforced suspension of Fizz's account, where she has to placate you to be allowed to simply continue using her name.

You've made this error multiple times, and your enforcement of it is transparently hypocritical. You yourself, "Brian", are not using your full name — presumably for privacy reasons. And celebrities like will.i.am are being permitted to use single names that aren't their legal names, but are merely how they are known. Yet you don't allow Fizz to have the same basic right.

For more on why this is insulting, and why your response is completely inappropriate, please see my G+ post: https://plus.google.com/103112149634414554669/posts/dLZoT7LEJWU

For more on why you are gravely in error, see:
http://www.w3.org/International/questions/qa-personal-names
http://www.kalzumeus.com/2010/06/17/falsehoods-programmers-believe-about-names/

Your team owes Fizz an apology for insulting her (among many others), and needs to have better training about realizing that not everyone's name — the name that they are "commonly known as" — sounds like a typical Western "John Smith".

Sincerely, and disappointedly,
Sai

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From: Fizz
Date: Wed, Nov 23, 2011 at 18:26
To: Google Profiles Support <profiles-support@google.com>, Sai


Hi Brian,

I haven't heard anything from Google in a while. My profile says it is still "being reviewed"; is that the case? I notice that I can no longer see any posts on my own profile; have they been deleted? What is the next step in this process, and when should I expect it ot happen?

Fizz


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From: Google Profiles Support <profiles-support@google.com>
Date: Thu, Dec 8, 2011 at 18:15
To: Fizz
Cc: Sai


If you’re referred to by more than one name, only use the one that commonly identifies you, and place the rest in the “Other names” or “Nickname” section of your profile.

Violation examples: Timothy “TK” King, Jonathan Richards (JonnyBoy), PunkRockerSF

If you edit your name to comply with our policies in the future, please respond to this email so that we can re-review your profile.

Sincerely,
Brian
The Google Profiles Support Team


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From: Fizz
Date: Thu, Dec 8, 2011 at 19:23
To: Google Profiles Support <profiles-support@google.com>
Cc: Sai


Brian,

Can you specify the way in which my name violates your policy? I'm not commonly referred to by multiple names; I'm commonly referred to by one name, and it's the one currently on my G+ account. I have no wish to add another name or a nickname.

Fizz

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From: Sai
Date: Fri, Dec 9, 2011 at 02:50
To: Google Profiles Support <profiles-support@google.com>
Cc: Fizz


I've posted your response publicly: https://plus.google.com/u/0/103112149634414554669/posts/9WPMSnbtoyj

Cheers,
Sai


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From: Google Profiles Support <profiles-support@google.com>
Date: Sun, Dec 11, 2011 at 13:48
To: Fizz

Hi,

Google+ supports the use of mononyms with the provision of legal documentation as verification. If you’d like to use a mononym, you can submit your identifying documents here. If you're signing up for Google+, you can simply enter a “.” in the last name field and you'll be directed to our appeal form where you can provide the same documentation.

Sincerely,
Brian
The Google Profiles Support Team


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From: Fizz
Date: Sun, Dec 11, 2011 at 17:19
To: Google Profiles Support <profiles-support@google.com>, Sai


Hi Brian,

Thanks, that's the first I've heard of what I can actually do in order to get my profile restored. However, I'm concerned that you're now asking for evidence about my legal name, where Google's name policy says I may use my real name (the one I am normally called in real life). Under what circumstances do you require (let alone assume) that a user's real name be the same as their legal name?

Fizz

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From: Google Profiles Support <profiles-support@google.com>
Date: Wed, Dec 14, 2011 at 10:15
To: Fizz

Hi,

Thank you for your appeal. We are unable to approve this profile as it represents a pseudonym or non-user entity (e.g. business, organization, place, team, couple, fictional character, etc.). Google+ Profiles does not support pseudonyms. You can review our name guidelines at http://www.google.com/support/+/bin/answer.py?answer=1228271

Though Google+ Profiles do not support pseudonyms, Google+ Pages do. For more information about how to create a Google+ Page, please visit https://plus.google.com/pages/create

Sincerely,
Brian
The Google Profiles Support Team


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From: Fizz
Date: Wed, Dec 14, 2011 at 17:29
To: Google Profiles Support <profiles-support@google.com>, Sai, Ellen McManis


Wait, what? Now you're saying I'm fictional? Telling me you're incredulous about my unusual name is understandable, but telling me I am not real is actually insulting. If I wanted a fake account, I could trivially pass one off under a fake name that sounds normal. I have no incentive to still be here arguing with you, other than wanting to use on G+ the name I actually use and am known by.

I'm impressed. I was already angry that the policy as written, with which I am complying, is not what's being enforced; now I am also personally offended.

Will you give me the contact information of a supervisor I can continue this conversation with, please?

Fizz
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50 comments
 
Wow, thanks for sharing +Sai .
Long read, but worth it. The stubborn block-headedness, the double-standards (no one ever answers to the fact that exemptions are made for celebrities) and the hypocrisy are all frustrating... But the insulting nature of how google is choosing to follow through with this issue, especially when dealing with real people's real names - the names they use in their daily life - it's infuriating.
 
+lerato majikfaerie Quite. Especially when the actual anonymous-pseudonyms on G+ are "John Smith"s, not people with unusual names.
 
I think there are about half a dozen accounts called +some dude

I actually have legal documents proving my name is really majikfaerie, but technically it should be capitalised. And still: there have been cases of genuine accounts with peoples real and legal name used that have been closed simply for falling afoul of an automated system.
 
+lerato majikfaerie In the US, as with all nations with common law based on British common law, the name you go by is your legal name. Cf. the link in my profile about naming law.

Of course, getting bureaucracies to respect that…
 
Yep. I get you. I personally prefer my name to not be capitalised, but I don't care enough to try to make petty bureaucrats deal with that.
And while I personally have the security blanket of the name I use also being my legal name, everyone has the right to use their real name, just as I do. I'm still not immune - Lerato is actually a very common name... but only amongst Zulu and Sotho populations, at first glance, it may well appear to be some nonsense. majikfaerie, I did just make it up, but I went through the process to change my name legally by deed poll (back in the 90s) and that is my legal name on all my documents.
 
The first and last emails are essentially the same :-/

To me it sounds like after a few weeks the review people "forget" the whole preceding conversation and go back to automated response (if it's not, then Brian has successfully failed the Turing test).

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Where evil is defined by one loopy moral code...
 
It's possible that more than one google employee are accessing the same emails/ accounts/ files. Though this would be counter-intuitive, and I would have imagined that they'd either use an automated signature, or each individual would use their own name. Still, I've seen it happen before.
 
+lerato majikfaerie You're not alone in the nocaps; +danah boyd does too eg.

And "Sai" wasn't the name on my legal docs until less than a year ago. I guess Google really thinks that a random judge is a better source of authority for what my name "really" is than me & my friends.
 
It's ridiculous really. And there are loads of people across Africa with mononyms. Admittedly, they're generally living outside of cities and the largest influences of western culture, but you'd be surprised at how many of them are using the internet.
 
+Sam Stutter The idea of Turing testing one's support responses is really really appealing to me. I should figure out how to spread that as a meme.
 
Even better would be to write a scripted program for applying a Turing test to tech support.
 
as a network and systems administrator, the "feedback" and "responses" to the issue at hand are grossly offensive to my entire field. It's as if they're trying to make everything (worldwide) fit into the boxes in MS Active Directory and not even bothering to figure out a better way to manage identities. What happened to Google being a place where people ardently strove for innovation? I have half a mind to create several fake accounts to hassle the G+ people, except that then the review process for people inadvertently affected by the half-baked policies would take even longer.
 
+Heather Westbrook the danger with creating false accounts is to trivialise the situation where unusual names become even more associated with "imaginary characters".

The best course would be for me to have a sex change and alter my passport name to be something which "contains letters, numbers, doodles, sign language and squirrel noises" :)
 
Is there a set of Unicode characters for squirrel noises??
 
For anyone versed in the policy, what constitutes valid documentation of a 'real' name?
 
o.O
I'm not sure that's a valid answer to the question. But I appreciate the effort. :-)
 
"...is this really your idea of fostering a good community and providing customer service?"

Of course not. It's their idea of facilitating Big Brother's control over you via the knowledge-is-power paradigm.

"Putting anything else in the name field would make me more difficult to find for anyone who knows me..."

In other words, putting anything else in the name field would violate GOOGLE'S OWN TERMS OF SERVICE which require "the name you are most commonly known by," if I may suggest you give it to them straight by phrasing it that way in the future.
 
I'm pretty sure it has been put to them in that phrasing many times.
 
+Carl Houston Fizz used that phrasing pretty deliberately, as have I. I agree that it's something we should do, since what we're advocating is more in line with their stated "commonly known as to friends" policy than their own de facto enforcement.
 
Google have said they are working on a policy that will allow alternative names, I personally think you are being rather impatient and are wallowing in semantics. I would point out if they didn't have to deal with such trivia they might be able to get a policy in place that allows you to call yourself whatever you want.
 
For real people who have had their access to all Google products suspended for simply using their real name, as is in accordance to the Google TOS, this is hardly trivial.
 
+lerato majikfaerie That may be the case however you have to applaud the way we are not surrounded by fake/parody accounts, unlike any other social network. Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
 
+lerato majikfaerie I'm not aware of any cases of full cross-service suspension that were based on names. The only two examples I know of were for being underage, and for posting borderline child porn. If you know of an example based only on a name violation, please let me know.
 
+Sai . The only accounts that have been deleted based on names are fake celebrities and suchlike.
 
+Steven G I have to ask whether you think these points are new? We've been through this territory for months. Yes - Google has said that they're working on it. But they have produced no results and, at best, mixed signals that they understand this to be an issue. The problem here is that there is a written policy and then a policy as enforced - and they don't match. This is a really easy problem to solve. Allow people to go by their chosen name. End of problem.

[...you have to applaud the way we are not surrounded by fake/parody accounts, unlike any other social network. Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.]

I've seen that movie too. The follow-up is that the needs of one outweigh the needs of many. I'm all for plonking accounts that are being deceptive or abusive. But that's based on behavior, not on name. I really couldn't care what people call themselves... just as I don't care that you call yourself "Steven G" and have a napster-looking thing as your profile picture. Call yourself +will.i.am . if you want. (Did I mention above that there's a double standard?)

[The only accounts that have been deleted based on names are fake celebrities and suchlike.]

Plenty of accounts belonging to active individuals have gone dark. Whether it is complete account removal or not is in the mists of rumor. Unfortunately, people aren't always good at figuring out what's going on in the technical side. And Google isn't too helpful either. None the less, Google is suspending G+ profiles of people who are or have been productive contributors to the community. The interesting thing is that they haven't been as aggressive of late as they were a couple months ago.
 
You mean they haven't been so aggressive since they announced (in November) that they would relax the name policy and introduce a replacement that allows for pseudonymous name registration? Well, ummm, that.. makes.. sense.. I guess it's just a case of waiting for the lawyers to draw up a policy that ensures google don't fall victim to nefarious misuse of an open ended name policies. I do hope they do a better job than Facebook (they took three years to draw one up and it has more holes than a fishing net)

ps: I have more than one profile picture, and my full details (name, age, address) are registered with google. I only choose to share my first name with you, because I don't know you.
 
+Steven G actually - the announcement came well before November. We've been waiting on "soon" promises for months now. But for every half-hinted promise that something will be worked out, there's a couple other snarky comments from Google management that indicate that the problem has not been accepted much less taken seriously.

I find it very hard to believe this is a legal issue. They have no problems arbitrarily suspending accounts. They even infamously suspended the real account of +William Shatner. Meanwhile, if you do a search you'll find more than one Paul Hosking. Again - it isn't about naming. It's about behavior which is what Google should have been dealing with from day 1. It's easy to solve this. Get out of the name policing business and pay attention to what's really important - behavior and interaction within the community.

I fully support you sharing only your first name with me. Good idea. And, as I noted, I don't care if you really are called Steven. You can label yourself any way you want (but do people really know you as "Steven G"?). And you're fooling yourself if you can believe, at face value, anything about my profile is legitimate. It is. But you shouldn't trust that it is. The perception that Google is fostering is a nicely crafted fiction.
 
Perhaps you should alert Google and tell them you have it all worked out. I'm sure that if you have an easy solution they will stop paying their lawyers to write policy and bow to your greater knowledge on the matter.

Good luck.
 
+Steven G the first step to change is wanting to change. It has been painfully obvious that not only does Google not want to change, but key management is dead-set on the "real names" concept and associated transparency culture.

Good luck indeed.
 
Everybody has to realize that we all have to compromise in one way or another. I feel that too many people become strangely attached to their digital accounts these days.

It may be the case that they knew a day would come where anonymous names would have to be allowed but in order to keep as much virtual clutter of our streams as possible they employed the strict regime that was in place in the beginning. If that is the case it has worked, I see very few "Justin Beiberphiles". On Twitter that is not the case. Lets not even mention Facebook.

I think if the name policy had be as lax as you hope it will be then we would have a lot more of that kind of crap to contend with.
 
+Steven G I'm not really sure we have to compromise nor that being attached to an online account is all that strange. Nor being attached to one's choice of name for that matter. We put a lot of time and effort behind our online presence. That induces attachment. The ones that don't put much value behind that are the ones creating throw-away accounts.

Would getting out of the name policing game mean more random names? Most definitely. But I don't care. I don't care if you call yourself Joe or Pony or FuzzyBunny. And I find it interesting that anyone else would.

I think we agree on one thing though. Google is fostering a perception for G+. "Real" is an ongoing theme and people (incorrectly) assume a name that meets a certain look is "real". Note that Google doesn't really care what you call yourself as long as it looks a certain way.
 
I don't really see anyone calling for a complete opening of the floodgates in regards to naming policy in this discussion. Simply that Google allow people to use their real name, as is stated in Google's own TOS - that it be the name that individual is most commonly known by.
And yes, Will.i.am is the oft-thrown-about example of Google bending the rules for one individual on basis of celebrity, but not for lesser-known individuals, even when they can gather sufficient evidence that their real name is the one that everyone they know, both on- and off-line, knows them by, and not their legal name.
 
+lerato majikfaerie Skud (aka +Alex Bayley, fka +K Robert) is probably the prototypical example. She had a whole page of testimony prepared that people knew her pretty much exclusively as "Skud". That's even what her coworkers called her… at Google.

But Google insisted that she use her wallet name instead. Because zomg, we can't have people naming themselves. Or something.
 
+lerato majikfaerie to be fair, I'm a proponent of pseudonyms. I don't think names are powerful enough to adjust behavior. But I do think they are powerful in so far as they are labels with which to search. One of the best tools for privacy is adopting more than one label. I also think people who buy in to the transparency movement are short-sighted fools. ;)

(And I find certain irony in that Facebook was one of the leading edges of that movement yet it is often quoted as a bad example by people who champion "real names" here on G+).
 
1: Because I am a wizard.
2: Of course, sharing is caring.
 
+nomad dimitri you see +Steven G being a "G" because Google's enforced policy is inconsistent. There are accounts that went dark in the past for the same naming convention. To be fair - it seemed to be one of the first concessions Google made on naming policies. That people are being allowed this convention is a definite step in the right direction.

I assume everything I put out in the public is being mirrored, collated, and repeated. Because it is. I'd be honored if you find anything I type to be worth quoting.

And yes - I enjoyed the impromptu debate with +Steven G too. :)
 
Yeah +Sai . I know. I'm not saying the system and methods have been 100% been fair on every single member of G+
 
Do you know that google initially intended to allow people to represent themselves using only an avatar when making a g+ account and that it still may be possible at some point in the future?
 
The google+ blogs. The idea was people could share as much or as little as they liked so security would go beyond Facebook and mean if you click on me (and my settings had the relevant settings) you would only see an avatar. This was determined as the very least amount of information one needs to actually be part of the network but it was never implemented, even in the pre-beta stage. Maybe in the future, I think it would be neat.
 
+Steven G that would be interesting; just the UUID and avatar. I'd be surprised if we ever saw that though. That wouldn't fit in to the "identity service" concept too well and by all appearance, that's what Google is driving right now. I wouldn't be surprised to find out early concepts for G+ have been waylaid by this drive.
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