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Google+ requires you to use your "real" name. Unfortunately, "real" names aren't well defined, and it's often in users' best interests to allow the use of pseudonyms and names that may not seem "real". This has lead to Google+ taking down lots of profiles recently for using names that don't seem "real" enough (http://m.zdnet.com/blog/violetblue/google-plus-deleting-accounts-en-masse-no-clear-answers/567).

We agree with the goals Google is trying to achieve by having this policy. However, as it stands, it is actually harmful to multiple kinds of users, especially several groups of users who are already at high risk. Rather than just point out a problem, we propose a few policy changes that would avoid these harms while fulfilling Google's admirable intentions and better serving a wider array of users.

We call on +Vic Gundotra, +Bradley Horowitz, and other Google+ leadership to make a priority of fixing this issue and restore accounts that were suspended for pseudonymity, so that all of our friends can participate, under their chosen identities and with respect for their privacy.

We would like to encourage you to continue this discussion in your own streams and offer your own constructive criticism for how Google+ can be improved to be safe and friendly for everyone. When you do, please
a) link to this post: https://plus.google.com/103112149634414554669/posts/WAu688n8JgZ
b) post a comment here linking to your post
c) + mention +Natalie Villalobos, the Google+ Community Manager tracking this issue

If your profile was taken down because of a naming issue, please let +Skud . know about your experiences using this form: http://is.gd/nonplussed

Best discussions of this issue elsewhere (will be updated as we see more):
+Jillian C. York: http://jilliancyork.com/2011/06/30/google-vs-facebook/, http://jilliancyork.com/2011/07/07/google-and-real-names/
+Jay Freeman: https://plus.google.com/116098411511850876544/posts/4t8sFLLK4hK

+Liz Fong (Googler but not on Google+ team) has lots: http://bit.ly/mS9D6d http://bit.ly/ncwBl2 http://bit.ly/nqST6D http://bit.ly/ow50Vi http://bit.ly/nWIxli http://bit.ly/qSjtpP http://bit.ly/pazpYQ
+Robert Scoble: https://plus.google.com/111091089527727420853/posts/aUHFm3Q69uw & https://plus.google.com/111091089527727420853/posts/1uKrSgy4XB3
+Rugger Ducky: https://plus.google.com/u/0/117109546349103307995/posts/HEdqXTrPoTq
+Yaakov Sloman: http://miscellany.kovaya.com/2011/07/pseudonyms-vs-autonyms.html

Discussions from active Google+ employees:

*+Bradley Horowitz (G+ VP Product): https://plus.google.com/113116318008017777871/posts/VJoZMS8zVqU*+Chee Chew (G+ Hangouts engineering director): https://plus.google.com/106717946845088683921/posts/L3Exmzj44fj
+Frances Haugen (Google Profiles product manager): https://plus.google.com/106792630639449031994/posts/4v29vbteeG5
+Michael Hermeston (G+ support operations & abuse / account recovery manager): https://plus.google.com/103438332263642514693/posts/VnGLFXHRGVJ
+Trey Harris (Google Site Reliability Engineer): https://plus.google.com/116222833568410151476/posts/YGLpJkV7sFD

License: Creative Commons by-nc-sa. Please provide a linkback to your reuse.


Google+'s current identity policy

Currently Google's "community standards" policy on names (http://www.google.com/support/profiles/bin/answer.py?answer=1228271) says that Google+ works "best" (i.e. only) in the "identified state". This means that Google+ profiles are required to belong to a single human (businesses are not yet supported), and to "use the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you". This isn't required to be your legal name per se — but anything that appears to not be a "real" name is liable to get flagged by another user or by Google's automated systems.

However, some users have been told outright that they are not permitted to use the name that they do usually go by, but have been required to submit government issued ID (e.g. +CZ Unit http://cz-unit.livejournal.com/873126.html / https://plus.google.com/114851034944797948264/posts/Ar8e1wFLdAk). This de facto policy directly contradicts the stated policy and prevents people from using the name they are known by.

Further, unstated in the official policy page, the Google Profile support team requires users not to have "obscure punctuation", like the period in "Jr.", (as in this forum thread by +Natalie Villalobos http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/gmail/thread?fid=0a9491888144174e0004a1781d618129&hl=en#fid_0a9491888144174e0004a1781d618129).


Takedown and review procedure

1. Flagging: Any user can flag your profile for review. It also appears to be automatically flagged if you remove your last name, add "unusual" punctuation, or other things. (We don't know exactly what; please comment if you do. Try testing it.)

2. Takedown: If your profile is flagged, it is taken down immediately without evidence of human review. You do not get an email. (Google's +Michael Hermeston has said that there is always human review: https://plus.google.com/103438332263642514693/posts/VnGLFXHRGVJ But this contradicts users' reports of having been suspended within two minutes of changing their name to something unusual.)

3. Review notice: After your Google+ account has been taken down, you see a message on your G+ profile page allowing you to submit it for human review. That reviewer, based on examples to date, does not substantively check any information on your profile whatsoever (posts, links to other sites, etc), as there are many cases reported who had their identity proven by the links in their profiles, yet it seems overlooked. It seems that they only check whether there appears to be a violation, such as if your name "looks like" a pseudonym or a famous person's name. You do not get an email.

4. Appeal notice: If the reviewer decides that there’s an apparent violation, there will be a message on your profile. This message includes a link to a form (http://www.google.com/support/profiles/?p=name_appeal) which lets you submit a picture of a “government issued ID” or links to other "reputable" websites confirming your established identity under that name. The latter seems to be often ignored, and even government issued ID is not always respected (which contradicts the policy "use the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you"). You do not get an email.

5. Appeal denial email: If the review of your documents still does not convince the reviewer then you are sent a more specific email saying how your name still violates "community standards", and that it will be reviewed again after you respond to that email. You can provide any information you like in your response email.


Effect of suspension

If your profile is suspended, you can't make comments or posts; you can't be +mentioned; and all of your posts disappear, as does your profile. This includes comments to posts, with the effect of making conversations unintelligible. You can still do everything else, more or less, though some things break as a consequence of those changes. Your non-G+ accounts should be unaffected unless the review triggered a Google-wide violation, such as being under 13 years old.



Things Google is trying to achieve with this

Here's the positive side of Google's intentions with this policy. All of these have caveats, but we'll discuss those below.

Impersonation prevention: Google wants you to be sure that the person you're interacting with is who they claim to be. This is critical to prevent fraud, social engineering attacks, disclosure of sensitive information to the wrong person, etc.
There's a specific, separate takedown policy for this (http://www.google.com/support/profiles/bin/static.py?hl=en&page=guide.cs&guide=1355574&answer=97707&rd=1); we haven't heard any examples of it being used inappropriately yet. Please comment with details if you have.

Empathic real-world-like environment: People are generally nicer to you when when you're easier to empathize with, and having a photograph of your face and accompanying "real name" makes G+ seem more like real life, with the social mores thereof.

Accountability: You, in turn, are nicer to others when you feel that you are accountable. If you feel that your reputation is on the line, you may hesitate to be an ass to someone, because it'll come back to haunt you later.

Abuse prevention: If making new accounts is easy, and they don't appear associated to each other, then people may create sockpuppets or throwaway accounts. Other forums (e.g. Wikipedia) have seen many cases of these being used for abuse, e.g. to harass someone, give a false impression of the balance of opinion on contentious threads, etc.

Likewise, if Google+ wants to ban you for doing something really bad, they want to keep you banned. If you can just sign back up under a "fake" name, then it's hard to keep you away.



Reasons why this is a bad way to deal with these issues

It doesn't work

"Real name" is not well defined or easily checked. There are many examples of people whose government-recognized legal names "look fake" (see below), and vice versa, someone can easily create the fake name "Mary Smith", which "looks real".

Asking for "proof" often doesn't work either. For example, "Alice" might actually be her middle name, left out of her government ID entirely, with her first name something she never uses. She might not have a well-established identity online yet, or might have deliberately avoided using her "real name" elsewhere, but wants to use it on a social networking site. Similarly, a Russian male named Sasha would have "Aleksandr" on his ID, and this is far from the only name with a nickname that would look "fake" to American reviewers.

Even if you could check one name, people have different identities in different situations (cf. Erving Goffman, _The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life_). This is a normal part of how we interact with each other. Forcing someone to choose one identity as "primary" just doesn't work universally. For example, "Robert"'s colleagues might know him as "Bob", his parents as "Robbie", and his hip-hop buddies exclusively as "Slim Bean". Why pick just one?

As +Kee Hinckley mentioned, requiring people to prove their identity using e.g. a Facebook account is rather ironic. Why can't Google+ be somebody's first way of establishing a new identity online? Why is having a Facebook account a more trustworthy way for someone to assert their name than their word alone, especially given that people routinely create "fake" profiles on Facebook?

These intrinsic ambiguities in the policy are worsened by Google's handling of communication about this. The edge cases of policies are what cause problems, and Google hasn't acted to clarify them.


Take down first, allow appeal later is not a good way to treat customers. Breaking a policy about naming, except for cases active malicious impersonation, does not harm anyone. It should therefore not be cause for a preëmptive takedown without notice.

Even when customers try get cooperate with the process, they can get flatly rebuffed. An example is +Sai . (an author of this post), who was told that his name violated "community standards" even after submitting his government ID, and whose account was only reinstated after direct escalation to Google+ team members. +William Shatner (the famous one) posted on his Twitter account a link to his G+ profile, but it was still taken down — and restored only after media attention. +CZ Unit gave evidence of his identity online, only to be told that only his driver's license would be accepted (http://cz-unit.livejournal.com/873126.html).

Policies should work for everyone, not just those with personal connections or media leverage.


Policy can be used to attack people by malicious complaints. Since flaggings are not reviewed thoroughly first, anybody can take down anybody else's profile with a fake-looking name fairly easily, at least for a few hours. This is particularly true of people who are well known, controversial, or nonconformist in some way.

For example, the Chinese political blogger Michael Anti was taken off of Facebook because he publishes under a pseudonym, despite that pseudonym being very well established (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/08/michael-anti-facebook_n_832771.html). Not everyone can easily meet the burden of proving their identity, and this policy disproportionately burdens people who attract negative attention, especially people who are already at-risk online.

It also has a chilling effect, where people are afraid to use their unusual real life names because they might face takedown just for being who they are.


It's not necessary for spam and abuse prevention. There are many ways to fingerprint people who use multiple accounts (e.g. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/09/new-cookie-technologies-harder-see-and-remove-wide), and Google staffers like +Matt Cutts are extremely good at detecting and preventing spam without needing to know anybody's legal name.


Using pseudonyms or names that don't seem "real" is necessary for some users

Google’s Public Policy Blog says that "using a pseudonym has been one of the great benefits of the Internet, because it has enabled people to express themselves freely" (http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.com/2011/02/freedom-to-be-who-you-want-to-be.html).

We strongly agree, and believe that it's especially important on Google+.

Non-"standard" legal names are the first stage of the problem. Almost any general statement you might try to make about names is probably wrong because of cultural bias on your part. See the massive list at http://www.kalzumeus.com/2010/06/17/falsehoods-programmers-believe-about-names/ for details.

It may seem that these "unusual" names are rare, but that's because you're only exposed to names of people in your culture. In other countries, they're not. For instance, mononymic people like +Sai . and +Skud . (who are forced by Google+ to enter a fake "last name") are rare in the US, but common in Indonesia. Robin Kills The Enemy is a perfectly normal Native American name, though it caused a week long Facebook account takedown (http://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/article_5a4a204a-2764-5b77-8fee-7d84eef3f6c7.html). And there are people who have tried hard to establish an identity of their own, like MegaZone, whose actual legal name may look like "just a handle".

Forcing people to use only "normal" looking names (i.e. Western, binymic, nonpunctuated, …) is a kind of cultural dominance (cf. http://jilliancyork.com/2009/01/21/morocco-disappearing-the-amazigh/), and should not be okay on Google+.

Does it matter? Well, how would you feel if Google insisted on you calling yourself Finklebutt Smith? Names matter a whole lot to people who are unable to identify themselves as they desire.


Common law names, nicknames, and "stage" names that don't match somebody's legal name are also, well, common.

As +Yaakov Sloman notes in the comments, these aren't so much "pseudonyms" as "autonyms" (http://miscellany.kovaya.com/2011/07/pseudonyms-vs-autonyms.html).

Many people primarily use a nickname or middle name, like +Doug "Krikket" Krick, who'd rather just go only by his much more recognizable name, Krikket, but is afraid to do so lest his account be suspended (https://plus.google.com/u/0/116222833568410151476/posts/YGLpJkV7sFD).

Some people, like +Skud ., are almost exclusively known by their "nickname", to the extent that even their employers wouldn't recognize them if called by their legal name (http://infotrope.net/bio/my-name/).

Others, like +Trouble Sturm have a very common legal name (in his case, Tom) and are primarily known by a nickname, simply because there are too many people with that name. "Trouble" is way more recognizable (and searchable, and mentionable) than "Tom".
Often people change their names under common law (aka "deed poll" in UK). These are in fact legal names, albeit not always the legal name on their government ID. These name changes are often undertaken for very sensitive reasons, such as a change in marital status, gender, religion, or general identity. Forcing people to reveal (let alone use) their previous name — a name connected to a past person they no longer identify with — can itself be harmful and insulting to such people.

Artistic (stage) names are quite common in all cultures and throughout history (see e.g. https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/List_of_stage_names). These are not just aesthetic whims, but important matters of self-expression that serve to improve individual identifiability.

It's extremely hard to decide what names are or aren't "real", even by human reviewers, let alone automatically. Eminem, Madonna and Prince are familiar examples, but Google needs to support non-Western names too, where it may not even be easy to tell how many parts a name has.

For a thorough review of name change in US law and culture, see +Julia Shear Kushner's Right to Change One's Name (http://uclalawreview.org/pdf/57-1-7.pdf).


Persistent pseudonyms are a good thing. This is the crux of the matter, and is the natural result of asking users to go by the "name they're usually called". Pseudonyms are perfectly valid and common names, just like any other. Google's goals (above) only require persistent identities, not that someone use the name that a governmental motor vehicle registration organization sees fit to call them. The real controls on people's behavior come when you enable reputation (cf. http://dashes.com/anil/2011/07/if-your-websites-full-of-assholes-its-your-fault.html and http://geekfeminism.org/2010/07/07/another-round-of-real-names-will-solve-everything-blizzard-edition/).

More critically, they're a necessary thing for many people, in particular people who are already at very high risk online. Just to scratch the surface:

* people with a need to strongly separate different aspects of their lives
- famous people who want to do normal stuff too
- people with jobs highly sensitive to public perception (judges, bureaucrats, police, teachers, etc)
- people who want to talk openly about sensitive topics (kink, sex, unorthodox politics, disabilities, etc) without it interfering with the rest of their life (though Google+ seems to want to censor people like +Violet Blue outright: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/violetblue/google-plus-fast-cheap-and-out-of-control/557)
- activists whose activities might attract legal, physical, or social retribution (e.g. +Wael Ghonim: http://www.newsweek.com/2011/02/13/the-facebook-freedom-fighter.html https://plus.google.com/111091089527727420853/posts/WPRfnbmCTta)
- people in oppressive countries, like China (https://plus.google.com/104013835962992611989/posts/FML3WLrxXMR)

* people disproportionately susceptible to abuse
- women (cf. http://www.physorg.com/news66401288.html http://disabledfeminists.com/2010/04/14/on-refusing-to-tell-you-my-name/ http://kateharding.net/2007/04/14/on-being-a-no-name-blogger-using-her-real-name/ http://www.historiann.com/2009/07/31/an-object-lesson-in-pseudonymity-and-internet-privacy)
- ethnic and religious minorities (whose legal name and photo would give away that status)
- nonheterosexual people, especially if they're underage or in homophobic areas / professions
- trans people, especially if they're not out about their change or if their legal name is still the one they were born with

* people who have stalkers, abusive exes, etc.

… the list goes on (http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Who_is_harmed_by_a_%22Real_Names%22_policy%3F).


You probably know someone like this, though you may not know you do. If they were to use their "real" names online, they could have real problems — being abused in comment threads, threatened with real life physical violence, thrown in jail, fired, even executed. (Did you know that homosexuality is still a capital offense in 7 countries and illegal over 70 more? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_by_country_or_territory)

These people aren't here to cause harm to others, but to have the same freedoms of expression that more privileged people enjoy. Their use of pseudonyms in no way reduces their accountability or need to maintain a good reputation; if anything, people with pseudonyms often try harder to establish one (http://entequilaesverdad.blogspot.com/2011/07/nym-is-not-unknown.html https://plus.google.com/100281903174934656260/posts/U91ivnL2dYE).



Examples of G+ profiles that were taken down

These are only a handful of the very many profiles that have been taken down, but we'd like to give a human face to why this isn't a tenable policy.

+aestetix aestetix was flagged for using his handle, even though it is the name nearly everyone in real life calls him, and the name he goes by as a journalist (e.g. http://www.technocracylive.com & 2600 Magazine). He has also used his handle for nearly a decade in the hacker community, including as a speaker at several conferences (CCC, HOPE, and Notacon). His profile is still down.

+Bernard (ben) Tremblay was flagged for listing using parens in his name. Ben's LinkedIn profile uses precisely the same format (with parens), and was linked from his G+ profile at the time, but was ignored by the Google reviewer. After having been instructed to not use "obscure punctuation in [his] name" he removed the parens and had his account reinstated a few minutes thereafter. His profile was down for ~8 hours, suspended again ~14 hours later, and is still down. https://plus.google.com/u/0/104846054806852679393/posts/UfHEds4iUhw

+CZ Unit was flagged for using an apparently "fake" name, despite it being the one he normally goes by. His profile was eventually restored, though he was told that his online identity wasn't good enough and his driver's license was the only valid ID that would be accepted. http://cz-unit.livejournal.com/873126.html https://plus.google.com/111865976223939952010/posts/5TQ76VVgBEp https://plus.google.com/114851034944797948264/posts/Ar8e1wFLdAk

+Fox Magrathea Circe’s profile was apparently flagged for sporting a name that didn’t conform to Western cultural naming norms; after 72 hours of suspension he received email asking for a link to a photo ID or another web account demonstrating pervasive use of this as a “common name”. His profile was restored the following morning. https://plus.google.com/u/0/113892479804684135897/posts/boyWwpMRWvz

+Limor "Ladyada" Fried was flagged for using just their well-known handle, even though their profile photo shows them on the cover of Wired magazine, where they were attributed as "Ladyada". Her profile was restored after adding her legal name, and her profile info was changed by Google to be "private". https://plus.google.com/108772200278976934119

+Opensource Obscure was flagged for using their Second Life identity, which is the identity by which they are widely known. Their profile is still down. http://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceobscure/5915226844/

+Sai . was flagged for not having a last name. He posted his driver's license (which says just "Sai": http://saizai.com/dl_redacted_small.jpg) to the dispute form, and received an email saying that his legal name was still in violation of the "community standards". He then advised a Google staffer, who escalated and resolved the matter. His profile was down for ~24 hours. ~6 hours after being restored, his profile was taken down again; after again posting his DL and escalating, it was restored a few hours later.

+Skud ., an ex Google employee widely known exclusively by that mononym but whose legal binym is different, was flagged for not having a last name. She submitted http://infotrope.net/bio/my-name/ as a collection of references proving her use of the name Skud. Her profile is still down. http://infotrope.net/2011/07/22/ive-been-suspended-from-google-plus/

There are many more examples reported in the media and Google+ (http://news.cnet.com/8301-30685_3-20078671-264/google-faces-thorny-online-identity-issues/ https://plus.google.com/100281903174934656260/posts/ja1QGb5P3kb).



Better ways to address the underlying issues

First off, we'd like to emphasize again that we agree with what Google wants to achieve with the "real names" policy. We like having a friendly and open environment here too!

However, we're deeply concerned that the current way of trying to go about it is causing real harm to real people, for the reasons above, so we have proposals for better ways to achieve those goals.

We believe that there should be only three reasons that a profile is taken down:
1. abuse of other users or the system itself, like spamming, repeated personal abuse, attempted fraud like 419 scams, denial of service attacks, etc.
2. violation of law, like children under 13 without parental permission, posting illegal content repeatedly after having been warned, violating a restraining order (for Brits: an ASBO), etc.
3. impersonation, i.e. actively pretending to be someone you aren't, not including parody / satire accounts that are clearly labeled as such or people who happen to use a similar name to a more famous persona without pretending to be them


Enabling optional identity validation

1. Links posted on someone's profile should have an easy process to be validated, so that these can serve to confirm identity. For instance, LiveJournal, Facebook, Flickr, and personal websites can all be confirmed with authentication techniques like OpenID. Links that can be validated should have an icon showing whether they have been validated or not. Any profile that has an unvalidated link that another profile has validated should be automatically flagged as a potential impersonation.

2. Legal names should optionally be validated if a user wants. One mechanism is to use credit cards, like Amazon's RealName™ system (http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?ie=UTF8&nodeId=14279641). Another would be to let users submit a copy of their government ID to a Google reviewer, as happens now. If a name has been validated as someone's legal name, it should have a small icon that says so.

Google's own Knol already does this (http://endofweb.co.uk/2010/02/how-to-get-your-name-verified-with-google/).

3. Photos could also be validated. All that would be required is to have a video chat with a Google reviewer, in which they ask you to say or do something unique (a gesture, phrase, etc) to ensure that you're live and not a captured video, and then compare your video to your profile pictures. Any profile picture that looks like you gets a "RealPhoto" type icon.

4. Jobs could also be validated. The simple first-pass method would be to require proof of ownership of an official email address (e.g.@google.com). A second pass method would be to have an API to interface with businesses that simply pings the business with a given email and asks if that person is still an employee. Both are easily automated, and would prevent a key element of impersonation. (Thanks to +Steve Woods @ https://plus.google.com/u/0/106912596786226524817/posts/WnzSrJi6yBY for the idea!)


We believe that the combination of these optional validation mechanisms should enable other users to understand for themselves whom they're interacting with and gently encourage them to use validated identity information — accomplishing the primary goal of avoiding throwaway identities and preventing impersonation, without preventing anyone from being able to use a pseudonym if they prefer.

We believe this even accords better with the spirit one of Google's own policy posts (http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.com/2011/02/freedom-to-be-who-you-want-to-be.html). Validations don't cause any problem for pseudonymous people still being able to establish their identities, and establish controls that are much more gentle and social than overzealous profile takedowns.


Improving the flagging and review process

In most cases, if you commit a "minor" violation of policy — e.g. having a satire or spoof account that's not clearly enough labeled to avoid misunderstanding, being rude to other users, or having a name whose validity is unclear — you should first be automatically emailed and given a couple days to fix the problem. This email would include instructions for how to validate your information or address any other issues with your account.

The only time that a profile should be taken down preëmptively is if a human Google reviewer has evidence that it's actively causing harm to someone.

After you have time to respond to the automated email, if the account still appears to have a problem according to automated review, a human Google reviewer should look at the account and decide whether to ask for more corrections (again giving some time to do them), or whether the account should be taken down as not even trying to be compliant. Reviewers should take into account the information available on the profile itself (e.g. links to other websites, validation statuses, etc) as well as anything submitted in response to the automated notices.

Unusual names, pseudonyms, etc. should never be a reason for taking down a profile; at most, they may be reasons to clearly label the account as satirical, pseudonymic, or provide a link to the account of a more famous person with a confusingly similar name.

Not only would this method treat people with more dignity and prevent unnecessary denial of service, it would also reduce the workload on Google reviewers by letting most problems be resolved by the user, letting reviewers provide higher quality customer service.


Improving name handling

Support for international names will become even more needed once Google+ supports automatic translation for all languages, so that people from all cultures and languages can be referred to with the name they prefer while also being easy to address by people who don't know their language.

1. Single name field: "Name", just like "other names", should be just a single long field — no "first name", "last name" distinction — that supports Unicode. This would accommodate the widest variety of names that exist in the world and sidestep the sometimes tricky problem of picking which one is "first" vs. "last" (if indeed someone has more than one name at all).

For more on why this is necessary, see http://www.kalzumeus.com/2010/06/17/falsehoods-programmers-believe-about-names/

If Google wants to have "familiar" or "formal" mode of address (equivalent to addressing someone by their first name, or title plus last name, in Western cultures), then those can be separate private fields. Their values should be automatically guessed when a name is entered or changed, but editable by the user for cases where the guess is wrong.


2. Transliteration: Non-ASCII names should be automatically transliterated into plain ASCII for the purposes of lookup (e.g. +mentions). For Roman character sets (i.e. just diacritics that are hard for some people to type, like ü, é, ç, č, ø, etc), this means that you can type the name with or without the accents and it'll be recognized.

If the name is a non-Roman character set, the transliteration should be displayed on mouseover, so that e.g. the Japanese name 多中賢一 can be typed as "Kenichi Tanaka", or the Arabic name ابو كريم محمد الجميل بن نضال بن عبد العزيز الفلسطيني (in full, Abu Kareem Mohammed al Jameel bin Nidal bin Abdul Aziz al Falasteeni) can be typed as "Abu Kareem", "ibn Nidh'aal", etc. Some names may have several valid transliterations.

If you use a non-Roman keyboard, we'd love to hear comments from you on how something like this could work better for you, too.


3. Lookup priority: Currently, + mentions first look at your circles and then at global namespace. This can lead to a silly situation of being unable to + mention somebody with a common name whose comment is right above yours. Instead, + mention autocompletion (and all other cases of name lookups) should consider more kinds of connections. For instance, it could look at a) people in the thread you're commenting on, including the OP and the OP of a reshared post; b) people in your circles; c) FOAFs; d) people at your workplace; e) people you've connected with in some direct fashion, like commenting on a previous post of theirs; f) people you've connected with indirectly, like both having commented on another post; g) global.

In addition, there should be a small icon in the mini-profile that appears in autocompletion, indicating what statuses someone has. For instance, "commenter in this thread" might be a pencil (highlighted for the OP); "FOAF" the network-splat icon used for "extended circles" permissions; etc.



We hope that these ideas will challenge Google+ to protect everyone's right to privacy and identity self-determination while encouraging a mutually supportive, friendly, and trustworthy social environment.

Please contribute your own ideas for how things could be improved.

Sincerely,

+Sai .
+aestetix aestetix
+Bernard ben Tremblay (usually "Bernard (ben) Tremblay")
+В Б В
+Fox Magrathea Circe
+Jillian C. York
+Norv N.
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137 comments
 
+Sai . I've written an essay suggesting that we use a new word instead of "persistent pseudonyms". I object to pseudonym on the grounds that the names being used are in no way false. A pseudonym used for anonymity is a distinct case.

I propose "autonym", for "self name". I think this makes the point much more clearly. Much of my essay covers the same ground as things included in your post here, and in some of Skud's writing.

The essay is here: http://bit.ly/r3JsiE and I would appreciate comments if you have any. There are two links in the essay to earlier, relevant essays as well. I hope you get a chance to take a look.
 
The use of the word "pseudonym" by both Google and the (innocent) victims of their policy to describe the name they are using, is, I believe revelatory of the source of the problem and needs to be cleared up. The word is just plain wrong.

Pseudonym comes to English from the Greek. It is from pseudēs "false" + onoma "name". So, it is a false name. That's exactly what these names are not. A pseudonym is designed to hide an identity but the names used by these people are designed to reveal one. The are not pseudonyms. Not at all.

So today I will coin two terms which I believe are essentially relevant. The first is autonym. This is from the combining form "auto-" from the Greek autos, for "self", and "-nym" for "name". So, we have "self name", not false name.

I would say that the heart of this conversation is not about autonyms at all but about the second term I will coin, the "privanom". From the Latin privatus, "withdrawn from public life" and nomen, "name". This is an autonym that is used to set apart an identity from others held by a person. That is, a name used in certain company which is very likely unknown to others acquainted with the person using it, but, and this is the key, well known to the group within which it is used.

The irony of this situation is that Google+ should embrace the use of privanoms by attaching them to circles. After all, if you are known to a given group (listed in a circle) as "Spanky" while your state-issued name is "Rutherford" how will they find you? How will they know it is you. But perhaps at work people know Rutherford and at play Spanky. The ability to speak as either in the right context is actually a very nice enhancement.
 
Thank you so much, everyone who produced this comprehensive and clear document. I would love to see your suggested changes put into place.
 
It is lovely to see all the issues laid out in one place along with useful suggestions. Well done, all! I really hope Google listens.
 
Quick point: Google+ asks for a "common name," not a "real name," unless something has recently changed....

 
Very coherent and clear writeup, perhaps one of the best ones I've seen aside from +Lauren Weinstein's articles. Thank you for writing this. Feel free to pick through my profile for discussions on this topic to link.
 
+Sai ., I understand the wish to stick to the de facto policy, but I also think the fact that Google's actual policies and Google's official policies differ significantly is very much worth mentioning.

PS: thank you for this well thought out post.
 
We're dancing at various Google offices every Friday until we get our friends back: http://plusinclusive.blogspot.com/p/come-dance-729-and-every-friday.html

and, among other comments, I talk about how pervasive multiple identities are in real life. This is not scary or inherently something about online life. http://plusinclusive.blogspot.com/2011/07/multiple-identities-are-everyday-things.html

and, although Second Life, SCA/Fannish/Geek/arts folks have blogged this to death, there are more important issues at stake:
http://plusinclusive.blogspot.com/2011/07/more-important-than-sl-or-sca.html
 
This is a fantastic post. Bravo.
 
So much drama over something that could be as simple as giving people a "display name" field that could be updated to whatever they want while leaving their verifiable name with the option to be not exposed to the world, and keeping their account ID # static. Anonymous-for-fear-of-political-or-coporate repercussions really is a different animal, and I can completely understand why Google wouldn't want to take that on (including the fact that they, like every other company in America, would have to turn over records to the government if required, and I bet the stuff they have is a lot more damaging than whatever Twitter might have).

But, seriously, a field trial of >100mil largely nerds, who probably have a much greater chance than normal people of having a non-given name that serves as their primary established identity, who might not even be recognized by their given name except maybe by people they went to middle school with (who probably already found them on Facebook) is a really bad place to turn on the banhammer bots with minimal human intervention. (Support people are expensive, and users are not the same thing as customers here.) I am glad this is getting press and meme attention, because it's revealing a couple serious issues and I am looking forward to seeing how well Google lives up to its claims regarding fairness, transparency, and privacy.
 
+Angyl Bender You are right that they could accomodate the bulk of people easily, the trouble is, for whatever reason, they have so far chosen not to do it.

And yes, noms de guerre are distinct from noms de plume and frankly just now I don't think Google needs to accomodate the former. Even the latter is a outdated concept since online we are almost all of us authors at various scales. Alternative names are very common for people now, and they are certainly the leading edge of the meshing of online and offline interaction. People who meet online go on to use either just the autonymic they first learned or a mix of given and adopted names even after they meet in person. For those not yet fully embracing the online world, "in person" is still called "in real life". This is one reason I am very negative about anonymity in ordinary social settings online.

Google has a chance to be on the cutting edge of full on and off line integration. If they choose a reactionary route, it will be sad, but not unprecedented. My essay on key signing culture (http://bit.ly/pEsppz) offers some insight (I hope) into how unlikely people will embrace an orthodoxy and how social pressure can prevent change.

But your points are cogent: This could be fixed easily, the current population is atypical and how Google handles this could be a bellwether for their future decisions.
 
There was apparently some G+ activity with hangouts post-Oslo tragedy, which didn't really require any anonymity. (Also raising some interesting responses to seeing ads tied to such horrible news and the discomfort that caused, possibly leaking on to the brands unfortunate to have gotten the ad slots.) I think they certainly could try to position themselves as more about breaking news from verified sources and locality-tied disaster response than a home of planning political rebellion.
 
+Sai ., to clarify, I think you did an excellent job in the post itself, it's just that having the first bolded sentence be inaccurate can give the wrong impression, especially when writing a comprehensive "open letter" type post, which is why I think something like "identified" might be more appropriate & accurate (and it's also not well defined, like "real," so only some minor editing would be required). Having said that, it is possible that I'm being overly nitpicky.
 
Thanks for such the excellent & informative post. Why couldn't you link names in your comment? And how did you manage to create a profile without any information? I thought Google required at least full name and gender.
 
+Sai ., I agree that psuedonymous people are identified, but Google doesn't seem to agree with us, which is part of what this is all about. They seem to be using a radical interpretation of "identified" that doesn't conform to even their own officially stated policies. Anyway, I'll let it go now :)

What I do think is worth mentioning, though, is that the Good Google Goal titled "Empathic real-world-like environment" implies things that simply aren't true of the real world. In the "real world" (and I have huge problems with this terminology, but I won't go into it), we definitely do not share our full legal names with the majority of strangers we encounter. I can be on friendly terms with local shop owners I frequent for years, but unless I use a credit card, the issue of my name is unlikely to come up at all. If I'm in a waiting room, a lecture hall, a party, a concert, at the beach, in a pub, or a variety of other potentially social environments, it's unlikely that I, or anyone else, will be sharing their full legal name with everyone else, even when we do interact. If I get to talking to someone under those circumstances, and introductions become appropriate, then I'm still likely to simply introduce myself as "Ronnie" (which happens to be the first name on my birth certificate, but it could easily be short for Ronald or Veronica and still be the name I go by) and I might choose to add one of my two last names but not the other, depending on circumstances. Walking around declaring your full legal name to everyone you come across is not normal behavior in the real world, yet for some reason no one seems to question the rather preposterous claim that using one's full legal name makes online interaction more like "real life" interaction. In real life, the only people who can reasonably expect me to provide a full legal name are government officials and representatives, and the decision to share that info with anyone else is entirely up to me. As far as I'm concerned, this is a significant flaw in the thinking behind the "real name is more like real life" reasoning, and one that is separate from the question of how we choose to introduce ourselves to others once we do decide to take that step (which you've touched on in the original post).
 
This all is very well written, +Sai . and everyone else involved you did great work.

I know for example at least one friend who uses a non-legal name for every day use as an online identity. Actually, I know a lot, but one that I am going to discuss.
She is a federal law enforcement officer with the National Park Service. She arrests people. She has had individuals she has arrested find her on FB and send her threats. Her surname is not common, she is probably the only person in the United States with her first name + surname combination.
This is why she stopped using her legal last name on Facebook. She uses her first name and middle name. This would not be verifiable by a drivers license, which omits middle names. This is connected directly to the example in the article of Judges, Police, Teachers, etc. If she creates a G+ account she too will be using a name that is not verifiable according to G+ standards. Her middle name is not extremely odd but I can certainly see the potential for a reviewer flagging it as a fake name. If that were to happen, well, what then? I think we all know where this is going. But to have her information out there for anyone who knows her name (i.e. everyone she arrests who gets a copy of the incident/arrest report from the National Park Service, or whoever sends it to them) is dangerous and potentially unsafe for her to do. So she omits her surname. This makes sense to me, and likely to all of you, but to G+? I hope that this article and the ensuing and preceding work done by all of you will help to change G+'s attitude and policy as to what constitutes a real name.
 
+Sai . Just a small correction... Nowhere does Google say they require you to use your "real name" technically.
 
Sai, I don't doubt that it's not effective, but what I'm saying is, even if it were effective, the claim that it's (more) real-life-like would still be false. These things bug me ;)
 
I wonder what Google would do if I tried to set up a profile now with my real, legal name as it is apparently not permitted anymore. It has punctuation. This is all too Kafkaesque. 
 
I agree, +Ronnie B Unfilthy, almost no one goes around telling people their full legal name IRL, and seldom does anyone ask for it. It's not unusual for people who've known each other for years and still not know the other's last name.
 
Well composed post discussing up many of the salient issues. Another to consider: As more people, in more countries, participate in social media, the potential for a "name hash collision" increases significantly. At my day job I am not the only person with my name - my exact same first, middle and surname. This creates all manner of problems and that's only one company in one country.

As we see more people communicating from more places, the need to be able to distinguish each other apart -- by pseudonym, autonym, real name or whatever -- become ever more important. Adding the wrong person to your social media circles due to a case of mistaken identity can create unintentional (and embarrassing) consequences.

It also slightly troubles me that so many people are in the position of having to provide to Google's representatives copies of their bona fide identity documents; the potential for misuse/abuse of that data is significant....as global news headlines have made clear with data breach issues of late.
 
There are always going to be name collisions, and you can still have a successful social network with them. Look at FB.

If there were to be no collisions, then we would all have to revert back to using unique 'handles' like our email addresses. And nobody wants that.
 
+Sai .: The errors you received while editing the post are due to the "stale references" to users you mentioned whose accounts have since been suspended. Interestingly enough, the error seems to only be a UI issue: the data (as you noticed) is saved to the database, and the references (which are encoded in the post as ASCII "+32131" strings) even are still "connected", but as the post can't be updated to show the little boxes, the saving process errors out at the last step.
 
Indeed Joe - but all the more reason for Google to accept that requiring names by their preconceived notion about what a name is just doesn't make sense. Hopefully they will reconsider their currently overly restrictive policies and accept some of the points Sai and others have been making.
 
This is a brilliant post. It seems to cover nearly everything, except for people who use nicknames to differentiate themselves from all the other people in their social circles who share their name. Sort of like name collission, but just for the first name.

I know hundreds of Toms. Most of the ones I know use some sort of nickname to keep confusion to a minimum when several of them are present. The same with all the Mikes I know. They often go by a nickname or last name in mixed-mike company. I go by Trouble, Largely because it prevents my posts from being associated with my Father, whose name I share, but whose politics I don't share. I also use it, because it's the nickname people know me by, and it's one I really enjoy answering to.
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Another example for the pile:

The name on my Google account is the name by which I'm known in real life in almost every context--the main exceptions being academic and medical (where people learn my name from a form I filled out and it's not worth the trouble to correct them for how briefly or sporadically I'll see them). If I put my legal name here instead, it would be actively confusing to my friends and acquaintances, many of whom don't even know what it is. For all social purposes, Fizz is my real name, and I have zero documentation of that fact--why would I? I have no reason to make a legal change nor any interest in doing so. If I could, I'd remove my last name; I don't need it for disambiguation, and it's kind of silly and formal in a social context.

If I had to use my legal name on G+, I would not be endangered, nor have artistic or other problems. It would just make this service much less useful to me by forcing me to operate under what is, effectively, a pseudonym.
 
+Fizz in your case, there is no problem. Your name is allowed, because people know you as Fizz. If you get suspended, you should have no trouble showing that people really do know you by that name.

I think half the problem is all the misinformation spreading that Google is requiring 'real' or 'legal' names. Not true!
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+Joe: Sai et al are also using the names here which they're known by, and getting shut down for it. Neither of us is violating the policy as written, but I'm violating the policy as enforced just as much as Sai is.
 
I see. But are the accounts getting reinstated?
Finn
 
Er, read the OP?
 
I did. there seems to be a lot of misinformation spreading like crazy. I think that's the major problem. It's too unclear, and Google needs to make sure they are clear and consistent.
 
While Enabling optional identity validation, and Improving name handling contain good ideas, another is to expand on the Other Names feature to include handles and have those shown to certain people in certain circles or at request like when sharing with someone.
 
+Sai . Sorry, I don't mean to sound like I'm talking about you. I have just noticed it in general, everywhere. People claiming that Google is requiring legal names, I even seen posts claiming that swearing is disallowed and you need to have an actual real photo of yourself!
 
But that's not the official policy, Sai. And this is what I mean about them needing to be clearer about this. We have probably all heard by now a Googler claiming the opposite, and that scanning "ID" is only one option for getting reinstated.
 
I had not realized how willing they were to outsource the expensive verification process to unrelated parties like Facebook/etc... This is also potentially something of a problem.
 
Well for instance just for fun when I signed up to + in the Other Names section just to have something I translated my lastname into English. I can search Justin John-Nicholas and it will come up with my profile. Also I included Bailey, my mother's maiden name, in my profile and you can find me if you type Justin Bailey. . Now when I tried adding a handle just now I needed to give it some time to let the info "sink in" but it could find me! So this is all good so we know the system works.

As far as communicating goes you could set the profile info to expose certain things for certain handles like is the option for circles. Then when you acquire a new friend and choose their circle you could also choose the handle that will address them. You could even have an option that if searched under certain handle only that name would show up. This is me just riffing.
 
I don't like the "Suspend First" ask questions later. Why not email a "Confirm your account" and give you 48 hours to respond?
 
I added you to my circles, as I find your plight interesting and I'm being bombarded by fans with the same problem
 
I have a very common name. When I was in school, in that same school there were actually two other boys with the same first and last name as myself, one a few grades ahead of me and one a few grades behind. I've seen people with my same first and last name mentioned in magazine articles, on TV, and elsewhere. There was actually a character in a Perry Mason movie many years back with my first and last name, too, which I found fairly amusing at the time, since he was a novelist, and I wanted to be a novelist at the time, too, so could directly identify with him, and while watching it kinda hoped it was a good omen for me, showing that maybe I might become a published novelist too. (I didn't.)

Oddly, before I got my G+ account, I appeared as the nick I've had since the mid 80s: NomadOfNorad, and that was the name that appeared to me at that top of the page for all my Google activities. When I got G+, suddenly that went to my real name, and I haven't bothered with twiddling it back to appearing as the Nomad name. I've used that nick actively up to just about two years ago, when I slowly switched over to appearing more active in various circles as my second Second Life account name, and while I still sometimes post as Nomad, I more often appear now as my Second Life handle. A few people know me by both names, but I only know most of them by their Second Life names... which makes it hard for me to identify these people under their wallet names, as apparently some of them are known here by, in order to add them to my Google+ circles. I've managed to identify a couple of them by their wallet names, but some others I suspect I probably know, I don't know what their Second LIfe name, if any, might be, so can't add them to the appropriate circle yet.

I am hoping Google provide a way to add my Second Life name, in a manner that still allows me to keep it separate from my wallet name, and allow them to add theirs, so that I can more readily add them to my circles as appropriate.

Thing is, what happens when another David Hall tries to get a G+ account? More than likely this attempt has already happened, and if there can only be ONE, they're basically up a gum tree without a paddle. oO




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@david hall Apparently there are at least 4 others already on G+, and none of the 4 show the same icon as shows up for you in your comment, so I was unable to tag-reply to you since I'm not sure which if any is you. Everybody has a sub-title, looks like employers or schools a la FB Networks, I guess to help differentiate them, but a nickname there might be every bit as helpful as "David Hall from Rollins College". Anyway my original intent was to assure you that there being other David Halls isn't a problem as such, but my inability to tag you may have proven me wrong.
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Great post. I want to add that I am considering leaving Google Plus over this issue. I have been the victim of domestic abuse by members of my own family, who have persistently tried to contact me over the years. Unfortunately, I also have a disease; systemic lupus, in which the immune system is exacerbated by physical and emotional stress. What this essentially means to me is that if the relatives that used to physically abuse me find me and repeatedly contact me on a social network (as they have tried to before on Facebook) I'm very likely to have another flare-up of my lupus.

A lupus flare-up can mean a few days in bed, or it can mean a serious physical complication like a blood complication which will effect me the rest of my life. Lupus and stress are highly linked; and nothing is more stressful to a person who has suffered repeated physical abuse than the abuser repeatedly contacting them.

It is essential to my health and well being to go by a pseudonym that my friends know me by, but that my birth parents do not. I cannot risk a severe flare-up of lupus. So while Google Plus has been fun and a great social network experience, if they are going to force me to go by the name I was born with, I will be leaving. Because I cannot afford to jeopardize what remains of my physical health by risking being contacted or stalked by those who abused me in the past.

I hope they change it. I know I am not alone in having this issue. Domestic violence is unfortunately all too common This naming system is set up in favor of the abuser and stalker, not the victim.
 
This whole "other people have the same names as me" thing has been happening forever in phone books or imagine what China is like where most common surnames account for something like 85% of people.
In Russia they have lots of the same names with a huge nickname system. This is where middle names come in handy.

M Monica, while I'm in no way saying this is the case, you could totally be "trolling" right now like they say on message boards. So accountability has never reallly been something the internet has been great at and so this is a hard issue for google to at least attempt to tackle.
 
+Angyl Bender Well, good to know there CAN be more than one person with the same name. :D Doesn't really bother me that you can't tag-reply me, though.



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Wow, I have to get official google policy updates from Scoble now?
 
+Justin Giancola (Bailey) Those who know me well and have seen me go through multiple hospitalizations due to stress-related incidents would beg to disagree. My case of lupus + history of abuse may not be common, but there are many incidents of domestic violence in which the victim would prefer not to be contacted for their own state of mind. This is a real problem, but for me, it's a physical as well as a mental issue. No one should be forced to go through continued abuse because of forced disclosure of real name.
 
Just a small remark about this sentence : "Take down first, allow appeal later is not a good way to treat customers."

But are we really customers, here ? We haven't payed for anything yet, have we ?

Who was it who said "If you're using a service without paying for it, you are not the customer, you are the product being sold".
 
M Monica "while I'm in no way saying this is the case"
You were a good example of how someone might create an identity to add credibility to an agenda.

Dang how do you get the highlighted plus to appear by a person you name..and what is the point? :)
 
+Justin Giancola (Bailey) I have set myself as untaggable on G+ for precisely the same reasons I mentioned in my post: I have been repeatedly stalked and harassed by members of my own family who have mental issues.

Your point about trolling is a little absurd considering that I have been posting about my struggles with my health and Medicaid since I first signed up for the service. People don't fake health conditions over a period of years with documentation just in case they might someday need to make a point about privacy. That's absurd speculation.
 
you can't read. It was not literal, but analogous. What if you're profile was private?
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+Joe Lancaster There are cases reported, when requiring a "government issues ID" was the only option offered by Google profile review department to "prove" one's use of a suspended name. (despite the different understanding of the Google policy, which seems to consider there are two options). There are cases even, when friends/acquaintances of the suspended people have gone at great lengths to prove their friend/acquaintance is known by that name, including getting and signing notarized letters. (I am not sure if those got to Google, but I am aware people were actively working on making such...).

There currently are many suspended accounts that I know of, including @TheBlack Box who has been initiating a while ago a similar petition for identity policy review, and who was apparently reported and suspended...
 
This just in: Apparently Vic is on the case. He says the idea is not to suspend people just for using pseudonyms, but it's supposed to be aimed at businesses, spammers, impersonators and people obviously using silly names (he gave 'God' as an example). He says they're already changing the way the suspensions are being handled, with more communication as to what the problem is etc, and we'll see some policy updates over the next few weeks. Hopefully they make people happy! So I guess "stand by" is the message from them for now.
 
Very good post. A good lesson on how oneself best shoots into his foot...
 
+Norv N. yes I just read that. I think it is quite useful, and quite important for Google to note that there are individuals out there with names such as Tai Man 陳大文 as their legal names. As the names they go by in every day life. As their pseudonyms. As their autonyms. It is important to note that Google's policy regarding using only one script/alphabet in a name is actually not in line with what people in Hong Kong, and I am quite sure other areas of the world, do.

There are people, for example, who use the Devanāgarī script with friends and family but the Latin script for business. I know some of them. These are from India, Nepal, The United States, and many other countries worldwide.
These sorts of situations, amongst many others, are important to take note of.
 
I have the problem of using multiple names for different social circles. Support from Google+ for that situation would be great.
I joined Google+ unter a pseudonym that nobody knew me as before (Thomas Smithy) but that looked real. After testing for a few weeks I decided to change my name to my autonym.
This is the name most people know me as. They also call me Onii in real life which is a variation of Nii. Both mean "older brother" in Japanese.
My Coworkers and family know me by my legal name "Thomas Rheker". But that is a minority of people I communicate with online, so my primary name should be "Niisama" which is what the majority of people use to refer to me. So I added my legal name to the "other names" field and used my autonym as my primary name on G+.
If someone flags me and my account is suspended because I adhered to the written community standards - Well, so be it.
 
Nii sama: As of right now you could at least include all of those names in Other Names as to be searchable by them. Once one finds you they hopefully know something else about you to confirm or they could engage. You could even include a nickname or other name in "" or () in the display name.
 
+Justin Giancola (Bailey) That's what I did. My Other Names include my real life name, Niisama and Oni. When people find me via search they will recognize me.
 
Since I've seen several suggestions for having possible pseudonyms depending on the circles you publish to, I'd like to voice my concern over this idea:
It may be convenient if you simply want to "mostly" show a certain name to certain people, but for an actual pseudonym, I cannot see it working.
For one thing, once such a connection is there, it is out of your control, and all history shows that it will be revealed, by careless mistake (say, Buzz), changes in ToS (say, Facebook) or hacks (say, Sony).
And that is not even counting the obvious possibilities of user errors, and the difficulties arising if there is overlap in the circles. Even just flipping back and forth between public and logged-in view would show various connections.
Norv N.
 
Thank you for raising those issues, +Tali Rosca.
One more issue brought out by +Kee Hinckley elsewhere, was about replying. That is, one might present themselves to a circle under the name they are known by the respective community, however that applies to their first posts... It doesn't say much about when they intend to reply to a post... from someone in one of their circles, lets say, and/or visible to them, and by that, engaging in the discussion.

I admit I didn't think much about this name-per-circle idea, however these issues do not seem to me easy to solve at all. What I seem to see is that the multiple accounts/multiple sign-ups feature that Google is already offering would be the answer. Please, correct me if there are other options.
 
Well maybe if you didn't have that other friend set up to see said handle posts it wouldn't even show them you (said name) posted it. Like you set your friend as real name and when responding to a thread in handle only specific circles or people with multiple handle access would even see it come up as your activities.
 
+Sai . re:+1's on comments, as you have probably realized, G+ users have already de-trained themselves in a matter of a mere 3 weeks from using these much at all. The reason? G+ forgot to build in any further feedback loops that would continue feature use/adoption. They are not visibly recorded anywhere now except in the posts that rapidly disappear into the far recesses of the already voluminous stream(s), when they should, e.g. be recorded for your use/reference on your user profile somewhere (option to be visible or not). They are also not (yet) used for anything like resorting comment threads by +1's.

Hence, in terms of simple Behaviorist principles, the behavior that is not reinforced is instead extinguished. Google should know these principles. In other news, thanks so much for doing this, reading and commenting more on the issue at hand now.
 
+Jens Tiefenstaedter re:"this is a social issue and cannot be solved through technology". Actually, I would say that it is ultimately a filtering issue. G+ should provide the (tech) tools to solve this and continue on the service DESPITE any unwanted speech/input/noise.

The simplest way to do so is to have a *strong* block function, that allows a user to completely hide all traces of another from them in the system. This should include their comments on others' public posts, etc. Why should Google try to pre-decide this for everyone, especially since it's obvious that tastes and needs differ for everyone, and between cultures and subcultures.

Simple. Information Overload, the more common cousin of the more specialized "Unwanted Information", is never a problem with the source(s). Google is trying to solve it at the source level, which is futile because it can never scale. Solve it at the receiver "inbound" level.

Allow me to decide in all cases what I do or do not see. Ideally with things like per keyword search/surfacing ("Track") over groups/Lists/Circles curated/chosen by me. That is the only thing that works to solve overload/unwanted issues long term. Everything else can at best be a band-aid.

/cc +Sai .
 
+Sai . also of concern regarding the name collisions (which are only apt to get worse and worse once there are 100s of millions of users on here), is the issue of the display in the + mentions lookup. I think you already have a section on this, but I wanted to add that it is simply a fairness issue as well as to whether someone can easily address me or not. BTW, the replies issue on threads is solved for now with the Replies&More Chrome Extension, which one would hope G+ would implement natively before long.
 
+w o o d good point, however it can be argue that users pay with their (scarce) Attention (only scarce resource in an info economy).

If it weren't for the war about time-on-site minutes with Facebook, Google wouldn't need this G+ project at all. "Don't sell yourself under value" so to speak... users need to educate themselves that their attention is theirs and is valuable.
 
/cc +Yaakov Sloman (BTW for some strange reason your name would not appear in the auto-fill lookup)

+Gabriel Gadfly well said. From a Philosophy/Ontology perspective, here is the thing that everyone (including Google Ph.D.'s) needs to realize:

*All names are in essence pseudonyms.*

They are all "false names". They are ALL made up by someone at some point. The only issue is whether there is a built-in temporal persistence of a name (for some window of time, never eternity - except for maybe some religious claims) with some names, usually due to political issues of power/control. You cannot have power over what you cannot refer to, i.e. cannot name.
 
The reason why "Strong Block" doesn't work is the same reason that spammers can't be stopped using "Dont' send me any e-mails from this e-mail address". If identities are effectively free, then someone can always create a new account with a new identity, and then they won't be blocked any more.

Even if the problem of people creating new accounts with new identities is ignored, consider what happens if the "tone" of a social service is one where everyone is constantly posting in constantly course, rough, way. Take for example the posting style of "4chan". Even if many of the identities of the denizens at 4chan are persistent, long-term ones, is that a style you would want to see in your stream all of the time? And even if you're OK with this, remember that G+ is trying to be a mainstream service; would you mother or your Aunt Betsy be OK with that?

Granted, there are many places where handles are used where the social tone has not degenerated to the point where posting pictures of genitals in comments is considered "OK". The problem is, once people start using that tone (whether via inappropriate pictures or inappropriate text), it's very hard to bring it back from the brink. The people who don't like seeing that sort of thing flee in droves, and if you start moderating, then people will start crying "censorship". One advantage of using a common name or a real name policy is that it allows social enforcement to take place; people are less likely to foul the reputation of a long-term identity.

"But I've put 5 years of my life into Second Life" --- OK, how can you prove that to someone who is trying to figure out whether Hoffner Halfhand is a throwaway identity or a long-term identity? Something like Government ID or "let us charge a nominal fee to a credit card in that name" or "show us a blog using that identity that has obviously been in operation for a long time", perhaps. But the bottom line is that determining that some identity has been in use for a long, long, time, and not just something created on the last five minutes so that one can act like a creep without suffering the real-world consequences to ones reputation, is a very hard problem.

It probably would have been easier if G+ had used an even harder line "must be whatever is on your Government ID"; they aren't, they are saying it should be a "common name". Unfortunately the enforcement guidelines for how do you prove something which you commonly use in real life is much more slippery, and it's clear the people who are charged with enforcing this are still struggling a bit to do something which is fair and which scales to millions of users in a timely fashion. Hopefully they will get better at it as time goes on.
 
+Alex Schleber I have to disagree with that. "False" implies deceit. A name doesn't have to be for the purpose of deceit, and an autonymic can be a pseudonym or not. If you take a nom de guerre, you are adopting a false name to hide rather than reveal, if you take a nickname, and use it persistently, you are using it to reveal, not hide.

Now, I would happily agree with you, philosophically, that all names reveal at the cost of hiding, but that's not your intention. Your contention is that invention of the name makes it somehow not a true name, I can't agree with that at all. However, your further point that the truth of a name is dependent on its use is something I can aver. Context is critical.
 
Can't read all comments at this point, but am glad I ran into someone who uses their first name and a period as a last name just like I prefer and do.

I understand Google's policy, but yes, it is our prerogative to use the id that we choose, though it's a catch 22 with regards to privacy. I am comfortable with status quo, so I'll watch how this discussion shapes.
 
+Theodore Tso But a "real name" policy doesn't really help in that, unless it was, as you said, backed up by a hard, non-fake-able ID verification upon sign-up; something which evidently is not realistic.
I have no way of checking who "Theodore Tso" is, or whether the account here represents the person with that name on his driver's license whom I want to contact. I only have what you've already posted as reference and reassurance, and a vague notion that Google at least hasn't banhammered you for impersonation and spamming yet.
-Which is all any name here ever gets.

EDIT: +Tateru Nino talks about building a "flow of authority" (or web of trust) here: https://plus.google.com/107316733400561258834/posts/1KUiFuyBEo2
It could be explicit, like Tateru talks about, or even implicit, since circling people is a deliberate action showing some form of validation.
 
+Yaakov Sloman I would disagree that 'false' implies 'deceit', to me it only means that there is no such thing as a "true name". True/false being only a concern of Logic, not of intention or morality.

All language "lies" - pretends that there is certainty where there is only convention, i.e. agreement by a limited number of users of that language with roughly overlapping internal representations.

All meaning arises in context.
 
Tali Rosca: One thing that people sometimes forget is that the system doesn't have to be perfect. And it's not whether you can be 100% certain that I am who I say I am, but whether I know whether or not if I act like a jerk, that I will be besmirch the reputation of a long-term identity. Furthermore, if most of the people around me are interacting in a certain way, it's more likely that I will frame my posting in a similar way.

+Alex Schleber: It's a matter of scale. There are only 300,000 Wikipedians who have edited more than 10 articles. The last public estimate I've seen (not from Google, but from Paul Allen if I recall correctly) for G+ was 20 million. And blocking by IP address really doesn't work well. It's one thing if Wikipedia blocks an entire net block to cut off an errant editor. That's probably not something an AOL or Google or Yahoo could really afford to do.
 
+Theodore Tso Now you're contradicting yourself. You specifically asked, "how can you prove that to someone who is trying to figure out whether Hoffner Halfhand is a throwaway identity or a long-term identity?"
You prove that exactly by the person not being willing to besmirch that reputation. Not by expecting somebody to magically know whether the name is on a driver's license somewhere.
 
+Alex Schleber I will certainly not disagree with meaning requiring context (http://bit.ly/nXhiIr) but there is a context here. I will aver that when a name is first coined it is neither true nor false, but, we have a context, and that is intention of the coiner. In that way, a pseudonym is false and an autonym intended to persist is not false.
 
I'd definitely suggest that anyone who needs true separation use a method other than names-by-circle. However, it would be convenient to a lot of people who don't separate, but want to be visible as other names. I'd like it as a feature myself. I do think it works better for people, like me, who have a kind of concentric web of trust, rather than people with separate enough roles to have an overlapping venn diagram.
 
+Jens Tiefenstaedter I mean in so far as that the technology to enable the user choice needs to be provided. We're still using technology here, whether it is in a strong sense (algorithmic solutions), or the simple Medium=Message that I am referring to.
 
+Tali Rosca: Enforcing that would mean that Google would have to disable Profiles based on content. That's incredibly subjective, and would result in people crying, "Censorship". That makes your proposed method a non-starter as the primary way of trying to ensure a good tone.

Sure, if someone does something really outrageous or illegal, such as threatening someone with physical violence, perhaps that can be an adequate reason for banning them (although I bet there still would be people crawling out of the woodwork saying that should be allowed as a matter of free speech). But there is plenty of stuff which is creepy, and would cause mainstream people to flee a social network in droves, but which would be really tricky to enforce via account or profile suspension.
 
+Yaakov Sloman "intention to be true" does not make the name any more true or false than anything else. It is simply an altogether different logical category, and hence a category mistake. If you take seriously my tenet that all language functions by convention alone, then you know that I cannot grant special "origination privileges" to "the coiner".

It's just as much an invention as anything else. In essence, you are jumping to a sort of "But I said it first" defense. Which, to be sure, in practical terms CAN have the effect of starting a new name (a meme really) that will "take" in conventional usage (be adopted by others for the purposes of communication).

Which also means that the "intention to persist" does not lie with the coiner: If no one agrees, then the name is not used, and/or the meme dies out. The case of digital media is somewhat special in that they on their own contribute to the rapid copying and thereby distribution/self-justification of such chosen names/memes: The system repeats the name on its own for the most part. So in that sense you could say that the intention of the originator gets a bit more weight.

But the issue of meme persistence still remains nonetheless, e.g. if someone chooses a name on G+ and e.g. everybody blocks them, does the self-chosen name matter? What if they abandon the account? Asf.

To get back to practical issues, I am mostly concerned that if you take away the term 'pseudonym', which has gained conventional usage on the Internet to refer to freely chosen names beyond those (also ultimately made-up) ones in e.g. one's passport, then you are leaving people with less of a tool-kit to talk about these things. They are pretty unlikely to adopt your term 'autonym' (although I personally enjoy its implications, but that's more of a inside joke/private language among philosophers), and pseudonym for most simply does not carry the connotation that you ascribe to it. Language = Convention. That it derives from an (Ancient) Greek root word has next to nothing to do with current usage.

Even the distinction between e.g. 'nom de guerre' and 'nom de plume' is tenuous: One could argue that a literary pseudonym is also most typically used for a form of warfare with other means... information warfare. Overall, I would argue for a principle of language inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness. Let the "precise meanings" (which are also ultimately unknowable due to the inability to gauge the precise resulting states of mind in the sender/receiver) arise in each case. In context.

Because that is what we are arguing about here in regards to Google+, isn't it? Inclusiveness vs. exclusiveness, i.e. will they allow all possible names/identities/pseudonyms/autonyms/noms-de-guerre/plume, or will they say that all names must look polite/Western/easy-to-read/easy-to-understand/"real"/etc.
 
Theodore Tso: So you do not want to censor based on subjective content, you just want to censor "stuff which [you find] creepy"?? Wow, that's a nice road to start down.
And I am specifically not talking about Google enforcing content, but letting the social weights do it, as Sai just described. Sure, somebody can create an anonymous throw-away account and barge into a discussion to troll, but requiring them to say "I promise this is my real name" before clicking "Post" doesn't change that.
 
+Dredd Coder It's a different thing being called a "profile", it's not the Google+ profile being referred to there. If you hover over anyone else's name you'll see the same thing.
 
As various people have pointed out, the "no pseudonyms" rule is actually the "no unusual names" rule. Banning on sight unusual names like Skud, or Sai, or Crescent Dragonwagon (a genuine children's book author), without bothering to contact the person first, doesn't do a thing to address the problem of badly-behaved people relying on anonymity -- those people can trivially defeat Google's rules by creating plausibly mainstream American names. A gaudy name is not necessarily a fake name, while a "normal"* name is not necessarily real. This policy merely gives Google the illusion that they are doing something useful. This is a classic case of "security theater".

Furthermore, the official policy "name that you are known by in everyday life" is simply not being followed. "Bug Girl" actually gives presentations to the Entomological Society of America under that name, but that isn't good enough for Google.

* Note: "Normal" doesn't actually mean "ordinary, everyday". It means "casually recognized by an American as a valid name." It's a big ol' world.

http://membracid.wordpress.com/2011/07/24/why-google-hates-women/
 
A friend of mine was recently forced, through account suspension, to remove her long standing online handle, known by hundreds if not thousands of people, backed by a couple decades of built reputation across platforms, and replace it with a legal name that is not only unknown to many, and is, incidentally, newer than her persistent handle, but is also both very common and identical to that of a couple of famous people. I'm struggling to see any sort of benefit to the community stemming from her compliance with this bizarre Google policy and its enforcement. All I see are claims that it's for the best, but they don't seem to be substantiated by any sort of evidence or even a consistent rationale.

The current policy doesn't actually achieve what it claims it's in place for, and though changing the enforcement aspect would be an improvement, it doesn't solve the basic problem at the heart of the policy itself.
 
I actually have read the entire thread, and I feel the need to address what +Justin Giancola (Bailey) was saying in response to M Monica (untaggable). I choose to believe that M Monica is sincere, but even if she weren't, I fail to see how it makes any difference whatsoever. M Monica raised a legitimate and very real safety concern, sadly shared by many others. Does +Justin Giancola (Bailey) doubt that there are, in fact, cases where people are stalked by their abusers, and that their physical and mental health is affected by their abusers' actions? If that's the case, then he requires further education on the subject. If it isn't, then I fail to see how it makes any difference whether this describes the life experience of the person who identifies herself as M Monica, or "just" the lives of millions of other abuse victims that are effectively silenced/driven out by Google's policy. If the argument is valid, why should I care who makes it, and how can making a valid argument be considered "trolling"? And if the argument weren't a valid one, what difference would it make if Google had a copy of a government issued ID of the person who made it?
 
+Sai ., I know she knows about it, but I sent her a linked reminder anyway, just in case ;)
 
I'm waiting nervously to see if my profile will stay. The paperwork on my name isn't official yet.
 
@Ronnie B (unfilthy)

You take issue with google's policy by stating that in "real life" we do not use real names anyway. I would (partially) counter that by saying that is not really the point. The point is a sense of accountability. In "real life", our circles intertwine in such a way as to make many if not most of our social transactions somewhat accountable. We tend to need to deal with the same people over and over. Our grocer may never know our name, but he will, over time, recognize us, and even recognize our shopping habits. We don't usually piss off such people because that would be like pissing in our own soup.

Even situations which may be truly "anonymous", such as stepping on someones foot in a crowd, we tend to be somewhat polite about it, since we are in a crowd, and generally fear the censure of the crowd.

However, in "RL" in situations where we are more anonymous, we do tend to behave worse. My favourite example is in the car. People do things when driving that they would never do face to face as pedestrians. This is somehwat analagous to (some) peoples behaviour online, and I think is the type of behaviour that google are heavy handedly trying (missguidedly) to impose against.

I don't think that every, or even any user must expose their real identity online. For all the reasons given by others, and other reasons, people should be allowed to use whatever names they wish to be referred by. What does need to happen is accountability. Google should have a record of a users' "real identity", in the sense of being able to hold users accountable. If user "Malcolm X" violates some code of conduct, and I (another user) have flagged him. I need to know that google will investigate, and if they agree with me, they can not only take down "Malcom X", but they can also ensure that he cannot (easily) get back in under another identity.
 
+Dredd . I apologize if my message sounded patronizing; it absolutely wasn't meant to. I was commenting from my phone and brevity can lead to sounding curt.

What I was trying to explain was that the help forums are not currently integrated with Google+ profiles. That's probably a very good thing for the current issue under discussion, since people whose profiles have been suspended would surely want to still be able to post to the help forums.

If you click on your own hovercard in that forum thread, the "profile" you get sent to isn't your Google+ profile. Having Natalie's Google+ profile available seems useful, but that feature isn't in the help forums interface right now; there's no way she could link to it currently.

Over time, Google+ integration will improve across all our products, but right now help forums aren't integrated. And it isn't something that can just be dropped in, especially for a product like help forums where you want people without Google+ profiles (or with suspended ones) to be able to use the service as easily as those who have Google+ profiles.

I think I don't fully understand your concern though—is it just about the cosmetics or seeming absurdity of the help forum UI saying she doesn't have a profile when she does have a Google+ profile? Part of being in "field test" means that many possible Google+ integrations that may eventually exist don't yet, and this is just one example. Or was there another issue you were getting at?
 
I am not a "troll with an agenda." On behalf of the disabled community, I find it very hurtful that this is being discussed.

Regardless of the fact that I own and need to use a wheelchair (and this is reflected in my profile photos), I also have over 16 years of documentation of my condition, which I am willing to supply G+ with should they so desire, though only with portions blacked out, since these are HIPAA sensitive records. There are many people with systemic lupus and fibromyalgia whose conditions are aggravated by stress.

I will state that my case of systemic lupus is immensely worse than the majority of people who have lupus. I am in and out of the hospital about 3 times per year with life threatening conditions; most people with lupus are able to manage it better than me; but this may be partly to the fact that I was abused so severely and for so long before it was discovered. I was diagnosed at 15, They did not at the time believe I would survive past age 25. I am now alive at 31, albeit with many more complications than the original diagosis; Raynauld's disease, fibromyalgia, and a clotting disorder called "anticardiolipin antibody syndrome." These are all connected back to the lupus and managed with the help of a local rheumatologist, cardiologist, neurologist, and hematologist.

But simply because I have survived and made it to age 31 means that I have to put up with the degrading physical condition that goes along with having a severe condition and mutiple attacks per year; I am now half blind due to a central retinal vein occlusion in my left eye; I have been told that even on chronic anti-coagulation blood thinning drugs, I may not be able to avoid full blindness if the lupus keeps flaring.

My profile is not open for strangers to read medical details/post for the same reasons I have been harassed by my birth parents. The more personal details linked with a profile which actually has my own pictures means the likelihood of them being able to find me; I have real photos of myself up and to a limited amount, discuss my disease and my battle with it.

Rather than see G+ focus on a "real name" vs. "pseudonym" battle, I'd REALLY like to see them focus on infrastructure for the disabled; text to speech programs. In case I do go fully blind, I would still love to participate in hangouts. I'd like to see more infrastructure in place to allow those of us with disabilities to communicate with each other. Like Facebook Groups, but.... FB groups never worked well for that sort of thing.

Since originally posting, I've been contacted by several people who have fibromyalgia and lupus, and it has been good to network with people who have similar disabilities.

I hope, however, that Google understands the importance of pseudonyms to those in vulnerable places. The members of my biological family are mentally ill; I should have the right to stay away from them in all forums, be they public or private. I had the legal right to change my phone number, physical address, and email (which I did), but if I have no legal right but to appear here with my birth name, then all the work I've done in evasion of them essentially goes for nothing.
 
Here's the question I've asked on another thread: "what meaningful controls and accountability measures to address criminal harassment, defamation, etc. on this site would be acceptable to you?

"My using a pseudonym myself isn't acceptable to me, and wouldn't help: it's my real name that's being defamed, etc. Suggesting I 'be more cautious online', without any concrete description of what that means, fails as well."

I'd add that suggestions that "abuse be tackled directly", when that simply amounts to suspending a profile which the harasser can replace inside of five minutes, and with which the same abuse, harassment, etc., can be continued, is not an effective response, nor does it provide the least bit of accountability.
 
+Tali Rosca - You misunderstand me. It's not that I want to censor creepy speech. I would prefer that creepy speech and creepy behaviour (i.e., such as linking to pictures of genitals such as can be found on 4chan) be deterred by the social consequences of forcing people to have to do this under the use of a long-term identity, instead of something which is throwaway. If someone feels that they must do something unpopular, then let them do it under their real identity. This is what happens in real life; if someone makes a scene in public, they risk their own reputation. That doesn't mean that we prevent people from making a scene, just that their are social consequences to behaviour which is not illegal, but which society as a whole would disapprove of. Just as I don't think we should make laws banning creepy behaviour, I'm not proposing that creepy speech be censored. But that doesn't mean that society as a whole shouldn't disapprove of creepy behaviour, and "shun" people who behave a certain way, and use other forms of social pressure to promote a more civilized society.

+Sai .: The reason why circles aren't a good enough way to discourage pseudonyms is that people with pseudonyms can still post comments on other people's streams, even if they aren't in any one else's circle. If you see how nasty, immature, and well, uncivilized, the comment stream is at a place like 4chan, that's clearly not something I personally would like to see on G+. And if all it takes is for someone to create a throwaway identity, and then start posting crap, even if you play whack-a-mole and block each offensive comment, and disable each account used to post bad stuff, I'm not at all convinced that scales well, and then even moderate leakage might be enough to drive people away from using a social network like G+. You may be too young to remember seeing the hordes of AOL users destroying Usenet, but it can easily happen. Worse yet, there may be stuff which is just borderline creepy that it scares away lots of G+ users, but it's not the sort of thing that you want to use a heavy-handed ban-hammer to control. It's much better if that sort of behaviour is controlled the same way it is in the real world, which is that you end up dragging your own personal reputation through the mud if you do lots of creepy stuff. Yes, it won't stop all creeps; there are lots of creeps out there in the real world. But my experience is they are a lot fewer in the real world than in some places that support anonymous discourse, and at least in the real world they suffer the consequence of their being a jerk --- that is, everyone knows that they're a jerk.
 
"...people with pseudonyms can still post comments on other people's streams [...] And if all it takes is for someone to create a throwaway identity, and then start posting crap, even if you play whack-a-mole and block each offensive comment..."

I still haven't seen a logical explanation how banning pseudonyms prevent throwaway accounts.
 
Ronnie B Unfilthy I used it as a hypothetical situation and despite saying "I in no way think this is the case" which I guess is just not good enough right? When talking about a sensitive subject you shouldn't even bring points up at all in risk of offending someone?! Cause we aren't on the internet and have skin a little thicker than that in 2011? Surely everything she brought up could be valid; the trolling potential could have been an elaborate case to attract sympathies as not only was it about abusers finding her and causing her harm but the stress involved should they even contact in any way could flare her rare version of lupis, which is already rare, and she might get seriously ill or die or something. The whole thing was was that if it's that stressful for you to use this google doesn't owe you anything, neither did Facebook. While it would be nice for Google to assist you you ultimately should take responsibility for yourself. And I see more pseudonyms on here than I ever have on Facebook so where is this griping still coming from?
 
+Theodore Tso "And if all it takes is for someone to create a throwaway identity, and then start posting crap"

All it takes for someone to create almost unlimited throwaway identities that fully conform with Google's profile policy is a baby name book combined with the local phone book. The "solution" doesn't actually solve the problem it's trying to solve (and just makes the community worse, not better). Some people are willing go to any lengths to be jerks online - what we need are tools to filter those people out, not mass suspension and Google telling us what a persons name should look like (especially as neither of those will have the effect you're looking for).
 
Yes, if someone is determined to use throwaway identities, they can post crap, and at that point the only solution is to play whack-a-troll. But, most people aren't deliberately malicious. And if they are less likely to be troll-like if they don't see other people around them being troll-like, and if they are less likely to be troll-like because they might be risking their public reputation, the net result can be hugely different.

The flip side is that the more that people see other people are using electronic handles, the more likely they are to use electronic handles themselves, and if that causes few people to be less careful about being civil in their discourse, it can cause other people to take a cue from that less civil discourse, and be less civil themselves, and the whole things goes downhill from there. It's like how a whole mass of people can suddenly become a mob; there can be some very interesting and non-obvious feedback loops at work when large numbers of people are involved. (At least, that's the only way I can explain the the Tea Party in the US.... :-)
 
If we agree that this policy does absolutely nothing to prevent throwaway accounts, the line of thought hinges on the assumption that people who use a persistent handle they have chosen for themselves to build a reputation around are more likely to be crass.

That is not my experience. My impression of that is that there are a few who will be a lot more crass and hostile under an assumed name, but more who will more thoughtful, since such a chosen name is their deliberate "brand". In my book, that pretty much evens out to zero, with an edge towards positive, since crass assumed names tend to not be global across services or time, edging them towards "throwaway" (which we agree we cannot deal with anyway), whereas the "brands" are more global and persistent.
And then we can add the benefits which pseudonyms give of "not crossing the streams", for all sorts of reasons as has been detailed in this discussion.

Even if we disagree on the exact balance of behavior between pseudonyms and birth names, the advantages of pseudonyms still create a huge counterweight to that balance, which I think some people underestimate in their "doesn't everybody use the web in the same way I do in Silicon Valley start-ups?" mentality.
meg d
 
I don't want my name attached to my social networking world, in large part because people trying to find me who only know me online will most likely look me up by my barefootmeg moniker. Starting with a "B" won't even begin to get them close to finding me, even if Google does pop up some handy headshots to help them narrow down their search.
 
+w o o d If you are going to argue that we're not Google's customers, then you have some obligation to come up with the list of actual customers. I do pay them $5 a year for storage space. But anyway, how does a company make $20 BILLION a year and not have customers? By giving them our personal information, clicking on search links, proselytizing their services, and helping them refine those services, we are, in fact, helping them make money. We are the core demographic. Without us, who do they sell ads to?
 
+Fred Gutermuth Google's actual customers are the one who are actually paying them money, i.e. the advertisers. And we are the products being sold to them.
 
I agree with your post. This maybe a defining moment for Google+. How they respond and the fairness of their approach.
 
+Dominic Amann "You take issue with google's policy by stating that in "real life" we do not use real names anyway."

Not exactly. I take issue with the claim that use of full legal names creates a more real-life-like environment, which it doesn't, and I stand by that. Still, you feel that a more important point is accountability, and so I'd like to point you toward your own example, that of people's behavior while driving. People's cars have license plates, which are unique and traceable, even more so than legal names. That actually makes people easier to identify and track down, and so, by your reasoning, should make them more accountable than the people who anonymously bump into you on the street and apologize (or rudely walk away, as the case may be), yet you yourself give that as an example of less accountability.

I believe you're right in saying that people tend to be more rude while driving (an inherently identified state) than they are while talking to someone they (anonymously) see on a regular basis like local grocers, but that actually supports the view that civil human interaction and accountability are not the product of standardized/legal identification, but of other factors, possibly proximity and familiarity (I'm guessing that +Sai ., as the resident empathy expert, has more accurate and detailed information on this matter). What you're talking about is social accountability, and by your own reasoning, that's not something that is achieved by the crude formal/legal accountability type measures Google is trying to enact here.
 
+Ronnie B Unfilthy
As far as car license plates - in this country, as a private citizen, I cannot identify or track down someone by their license plate due to privacy laws. I am fairly sure you cannot do that in the US either, or any other country that I am aware of. Sure, I can try, in the middle of heavy traffic, tear after the person who offended me, get close enough to read his license plate, and somehow either write it down or commit it to memory, all the while avoiding a serious accident, then take that number to the police. Frankly, everybody knows that is a complete waste of time, so I stand by the notion that car drivers are rude because they feel both armoured and anonymous.

I agree that accountability does not spring largely from legal identification, but rather "softer" human factors. That said, we still need some means to ensure that services are not abused. I still feel that people will be more rather than less civil if their real name (by which all their associates know them) is attached to the statements and actions, and certainly they will be more easily held to account.
 
+Dredd .
I take exception to the way you make me wrong by implying that somehow, if the grocer does not know my name, it is because I do not treat him like a real person. Mr Dredd, your casual incivility does not bolster your case.

As it happens, I treat my grocer like a real person, ask questions about the produce, and he comments on my very active daughter (who is two). I do not know his name, nor does he know mine. I don't really expect to get on first name terms with him, and do not feel the need to. That does not reduce my respect for him in any way, nor make it at all likely that I will behave in an uncivil manner towards him. However, I know where he works, I know where to go to complain, and I know where to recommend to my friends.
 
+Sai . +M Monica I'm already the contact person/advocate for accessibility-related questions/features/rants/suggestions. Please feel free to contact me directly and pass that on to anyone looking for a Google person to talk to about disability access. I don't just work on Google+ -- anything Google-and-accessibility-related is fair game. That said, the Send feedback link is a much better way to get feature requests and accessibility concerns onto the individual teams' radar. Your reports make the difference between me saying "hey one person is having difficulty with X" vs being able to say "hey, 1000 people are having difficulty with X". (This is true for all Google products.)

I'd love to have a way to identify "people who speak on behalf of organisation" in Google+, but I'm not sure an "official designation" is all that important for me within that. I'm pretty findable.
 
Sai (whom I cannot catch with a +): I will point out that I say "in my experience", which is obviously tinted by my own choices. In my circles, the pseudonyms are "the bleeding hearts and the artists", and I see a lot more abuse from people with fake-authentic names like, say, P. Smith or such, which hints at a name without adding any actual accountability, in the "testimony" style.
If you run your scraping on 4chan, since that example has come up in the thread, I am sure you'll get a different result.
But that is pretty much the point: I choose which circles I move in, and who to listen to.

I'll crosspost an observation to this thread:
It seems to me that many who advocate pseudonymity see G+ as a good place for people to gather around their interests and issues, whereas many who argue against see G+ as another blog where they can publish to their 160,000 followers, and would rather not have their comment threads sullied by what they perceive to be "less serious accounts".
 
+Naomi Black , well, my main condition and issues (relating to this) are written up and summarized here: https://plus.google.com/116113014152499702246#117665613028757061169/posts/ZycBwscrNDB

I know that while I may be unique in my own case, I still feel there must be others out there who have experienced domestic violence and know what it's like to be in my shoes. +Abi Lee and a few others have mentioned in the comments on my post that they have been in similar situations and don't feel comfortable with disclosing their full names due to fear of repercussions.
 
+Sai .: No, most people who know me don't know Japanese, so mixed encoding isn't relevant to me at the moment. Still, I think Google should work at supporting that some time in the future. I think they just forgot it in the design phase, so it causes difficulties now. An error that could happen to me ;).
 
+Dredd . Far from making your case, you have in fact made both mine and google's cases very well.

I don't see the principle argument here being made for anonymous posting. The OP is arguing that "true names" are nebulous concepts that defy easy definition. Which in point of fact I fully agree with. You are arguing that you need to be anonymous to freely vent your feelings. That may be true - but frankly I don't much care. I will gladly sacrifice the sharings of the odd person who is unable to express him or herself with their identity attached to their words, if the quality of discourse were to improve as a consequence - "the benefit of the many outweighs the sacrifice of the few". Whether it will or not is the real question.

There are many, many different forums where people can be anonymous on the internet. The vast majority are that way. It is an interesting experiment to have someplace where people can actually be identified. It remains to be seen whether it will work.

For myself, I don't care whether you are called "Dredd" (which incidentally tells me more about you than seeing "John Smith" ever would). It cannot change the you I perceive through your words. However, if google find some way to reduce the number of trolls, (and I don't consider you a troll) I am all for it. If they can also accomodate +Sai 's corner cases - better yet.
 
+Sai . While I don't disagree that for some peple, anonymity is necessary, I am pretty sure google is a bad place to expect this to hold. After all, it is an American company, with a legal obligation to turn whatever data it holds, for no specified reason to pretty much any authority that asks, and those authorities have a pretty poor record wrt safeguarding data.

I am not completely insensitive to the desire of, say a battered woman, to be able to participate in a public forum without being stalked or censured. However, I just don't see how a pseudonym is going to give that security. If you need or want, I can describe exactly how I would track down any individual on an pseudonymic system quite easily. False names are actually very little security at all. In fact I would say they confer a false sense of security.

My experience of the Internet of the last 20 years has been that people have progressively been ruder, and more anonymous. To the point of lulz, and Anonymous to mention just two orgs. There is no shortage of places where people can be anonymous and as politically active as they desire. There is a real shortage of places where people can expect civility and tolerance to prevail. Perhaps this is a coincidence. Perhaps not. How will we find out?
 
+Dominic Amann Wait, didn't you just say, "I don't like Anonymous. Go join them if you want to say something"??
If you want people to be civil, how about judging them on, say, civility, rather than any random correlation/causation you care to invent?
 
I am pretty sure that is NOT what I said. It sounds almost as if people here feel they have been negatively judged by what I have said. I don't really hold strong opinions about the views expressed here, I am just concerned overall about the lack of civility on the many forums I frequent, and I for one am willing to try a system with a little more accountability for a while.

I have agreed that there are people for whom an identifying system will be a poor choice. However, I happen to think that most if not all "advocates" for these people are not speaking for themseves, and I would be far more interested in what these people might have to say for themselves.

What if many of the arguments "on behalf" of the unfortunate few who may be victimized by having their real identity known are actually self serving so that unsociable types can continue to bully others in cyberspace anonymously? Hard to tell, since they could be using one pseudonym here and another elsewhere.
 
+Sai . It does not require a proper court order. All the DHS need is a judges signature. And they even have a few in reserve to cover "emergencies".
 
Notification will happen after the fact. The data will already be in wrong hands before the defendant can contest it. It has happened many times.

No, I am saying that some people who will jump onto your bandwagon are bullies themselves. This is already happening. I happen to think you are well intentioned. I cannot assume the same of all other posters.
 
There is one other issue I have been pondering for awhile, which may have coloured my judgement on the whole pseudonym thing. I have a two-year old daughter. She will grow up.

There have been a few (but still too many) cases of middle-aged predators posing online as teenagers, who have lured children even across national boundaries. It happens far more often within cities, where the predator may even already know the victim. This is the extreme case, but I think it likely that it represents the tip of the iceberg in terms of intentional misrepresentation on the web.

Another point to consider is that of adolescent cyber bullying. It does happen, it is perhaps even more severe than f2f bullying, and it can be fatal. Bullies have been known to create their own "sock puppets" to give the appearance of a larger group of like minded people in order to increase the intimidation of bullying. I suspect that anonymity also bolsters these peoples' fearlessness in conducting their illegal and grossly immoral activities.

If we are using "victims of opression" to make our case FOR anonymity - how about some victims that are opressed anonymously?
 
+Sai . Unfortunately, queer teens of homophobic parents have to deal with those issues eventually one way or another. Sometimes staving off the issue may seem helpful, but really, it is a much larger issue, and somewhat outside the scope of an ISP's mandate. I have genuine sympathy for anyone whose living reality is being actively denied by their parents. As for numbers, I have no idea either way. I really would not like to speculate. As for the severity of the outcomes - I do know that abductions and death have been enabled by the internet.

As for the anonymous part, the predator establishes the trust relationship anonymously, usually lying about age, and often even gender. By the time the teen meets the predator, it becomes an abduction. And as for frequency, at this level it is still rare.

At the level of anonymous bullying, it is shockingly prevalent at the high-school level. Accusations of "slut behaviour", boyfriend stealing etc. are levelled from behind the safety of complete anonymity, and even further from parental screening.

Bearing these facts in mind, I am very glad to see you make it clear that you are NOT arguing for anonimity, but rather "persistent psedonimity". The problem would be how to implement this fairly and correctly, which is much harder than simply requiring id.

I am not saying that I know the answers here. I am saying there are counter arguments, and that their cases should be made as well.
 
Dom.. have you sold enough surveillance equipment to scared users yet?? Or should we look forward to an installment about the dangers of Online Terrorism?!
 
+Sai . My apologies. I knew +Skud was not an official contact, but had not reached the part of your post about her history with Google and the fact that her profile is still down. Like you and Skud, my husband has been known by one name for more than 30 years, and just had his profile taken down without notice of any kind. So, I appreciate that you and Skud and others are voicing your concerns about Google's conduct in this area.
 
Concerning health topics is true that google is not the place for share about his health if we want keep privacy.. Even with a different name, all the google services follow the idea to help personal and real people. From the google map, google buzz, gmail recovery multiple account options, etc... is easy with some IT to track people their real email id.
 
So, if Tom Cruise or David Bowie make a profile, those will get taken down under this policy, right? Didn't think so.
 
I think you have put far too much work into this.  If people want to use false identities or identities that do not conform to the policy, then they should not use Google+.  Google is not attempting to duplicate the same policies that make Facebook such a dreadful place to exist anymore.  
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