I’ve been suspended from Google+

So, just to backtrack and fill everyone in on the details:

  • I’ve been a strong advocate of pseudonymity for a considerable time. Hacker News and pseudonymity is a good example of my writing on the subject, from June last year.
  • The startup I worked for was acquired by Google in July 2010.
  • I left Google last Friday, July 15th, one year after the acquisition. My reasons are described, in part, here.
  • During the time I was at Google, Google was working on the project that would become Google+. I was not involved directly in that project, but I did try to keep myself informed of their planned policies regarding pseudonymity, and advocated strongly in favour of Google+ allowing it. Obviously, that advocacy wasn’t successful.
  • My first tweet upon leaving Google, posted from the BART station about ten minutes after walking out the door, was to state my belief that Google+’s anti-pseudonym policy was harmful and discriminatory. (I didn’t say so publicly before then because, as an employee, I couldn’t really publicly criticise my employer. Once I’d left, I felt more able to do so.)
  • Because I knew Google’s policies pretty well (as much as anyone can, when they’re so unclear), I knew I was at risk of my account (under the name of “Skud .”) being suspended. I prepared this page about my name gathering evidence and testimonials from people who know me primarily, or solely, as “Skud”.
I KNW SKD

Viral shows off his home-made "I know Skud" button, on my second-last day at Google

So today, I got off a plane this afternoon to find a pile of tweets, emails, and blog comments asking whether it was true that my Google+ account had been suspended. When I managed to get some wifi and check, it turned out that it had been.

I know there’s a lot of people wondering what happens when you get suspended, so here is my experience so far.

Gmail works fine, I can check my email. There’s no official notification that my Google+ account has been suspended, though.

When I click on “+Skud” in my Google toolbar (top left), it takes me to Google+, and I can see my stream, and that 16 new people are following me. When I click through to my own profile, though, I see this:

notice of suspension

Your profile is suspended. After reviewing your profile, we determined that the name you provided violates our Community Standards. If you believe this profile has been suspended in error, please provide us with additional information via this form, and we will review your profile again.

Note, by the way, that the Google+ “Community Standards” (actually linked as Content Policy at the bottom of most pages on the site — just one of many inconsistencies) says:

To help fight spam and prevent fake profiles, use the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you.

I had been pleased when I originally saw these terms, thinking that they would allow people with long-standing pseudonyms, or who regular use names that don’t match their state-issued ID, or who have unusual names, to use the service without difficulty. However, we’ve seen multiple cases of people having their accounts suspended despite this.

Anyway, I clicked through the form, which looked like this:

Appeal form

Our Community Standards play an important role in insuring a positive experience for everyone using Google Profiles. As part of our standards to help fight spam and prevent fake profiles, please use the name that your friends, family, or co-workers usually call you. [...] If you believe that we have mistakenly suspended your profile for having an unauthentic [sic] name, please fill out the form below.

It then asks me for my name (uh, don’t you know that already?), email (ditto), link to my profile (ditto), and asks me to provide documentation. I can either give them a scan of my photo ID (obscuring “personal information”, whatever that means), or links to places on the web that demonstrate that this is my name. They suggest using Facebook (the site that allows Google founder Sergey Brin to go under a pseudonym, and whose own founder has a page for his dog) as evidence. I have something better, though, because I expected this to happen and I had already collated my evidence. I linked to that page and submitted the form.

The result was this ill-formated, uninformative page:

feedback received

Thank you for sending us your feedback about Google Profiles.

No further word on what the appeals process looks like, how soon I can expect to hear back from them, or anything like that.

So, while I’m suspended, it appears that:

  • I can view my stream, including posts to “Limited” circles that include me
  • I can add people to my circles using the tool in the right sidebar
  • However, it says I have 0 people in my circles, on my profile page
  • When I go to my circles page, it says “People who’ve added you (undefined)”
  • I can’t comment on anyone’s posts
  • I don’t think anyone can add me to posts explicitly using +Skud/@Skud
  • I can send feedback on Google+ (though I don’t much feel the urge to)
  • ETA: I can’t use Google Takeout to export my profile and stream (screenshot).

People have been asking whether this suspension is in relation to me criticising Google’s hiring practices yesterday, or publicly criticising Google+’s pseudonymity policies over the past week or so (you can bet I’ve been criticising them privately, as an employee, for much longer than that). For the record, I don’t think these things are directly related, but I do think it is probable that my profile was reported by someone who disagrees with my pro-pseudonymity activism. Unsurprisingly, the very policy that was meant to make Google+ “a positive experience for all users” is easily used as a griefing tool against those expressing non-mainstream views. Who could have foretold that? (That sound you hear is is my head hitting my keyboard.)

Anyway, I will attempt to keep you all updated on the appeal process, with screenshots and so on. Hopefully if I can bring nothing else to this steaming pile of bullshit, I can bring documentation.

Also, if you’ve made it this far, you should check out the community-curated list of groups of people who are harmed by this policy and accompanying blog comments over at Geek Feminism.


Update, July 23rd

Email from Google, received at 3:23pm PDT, a little over a day since my suspension:

Hello,

Thank you for contacting us with regard to the name in your Google
Profile. It looks like you have deleted your Google Profile, and thus we
are unable to take further action on your request for us to review the
name in your profile.

Sincerely,

Ricky

The Google Profiles Support Team

Um, no, I never deleted my account, though I did have the privacy settings locked down fairly tight. I’ve contacted them and advised them to try again. (Unrelatedly, I also made my profile slightly more visible, because I like the idea of adding “Banned from Google+ for using the name everyone knows me by” to my “bragging rights”.)

Update, July 24th

Please see my followup post where I talk a bit more about some of the issues.


Update, July 25th

Another email from “Ricky” (if that’s really his or her real name — I suspect it’s not):

Thank you for contacting us with regard to the name used in your Google
Profile. We have reviewed your appeal and need more information in order
to verify that the name entered Skud . is your common name.

Please reply to this email with a copy of your government issued ID, which
we will dispose of after review. Once we receive this information we can
review your appeal and come to a final decision.

Here is the reply I sent:

My government ID does not demonstrate that “Skud” is my common name — it only demonstrates the name by which the government calls me, and unless you expect me to “circle” border control guards or people from the DMV, I don’t see why that is more relevant than the name by which my friends and colleagues know me.

My website, to which I have already linked you, demonstrates that “Skud” is my common name. Let me link it again, in the hope that you will actually read it this time: http://infotrope.net/bio/my-name/

It’s now been three days since my suspension. Tomorrow I’m having lunch with my old colleagues at Google. I’ve tried not to escalate this process through unofficial channels because I want to see what the suspension and appeal process looks like to someone who doesn’t have my insider knowledge and contacts. I don’t doubt, though, that my case is being discussed a lot inside Google, and probably today or tomorrow will be when Google starts treating me differently from most people who’ve been suspended.


Update, July 26th

Yesterday afternoon (the 25th) I got this email from “Ricky”:

Thank you for contacting us with regard to the name you want to use with
your Google Profile. After further review, we have determined that your
name is within our Community Standards policy. Thank you for your patience
while we reviewed your profile name.

I mentioned this on Twitter but didn’t get too excited, as my profile page wasn’t actually reactivated yet. I emailed them back and said:

How long will it take for my profile to be reinstated now that you
have approved my name?

Time passed, and this morning I got the following email:

It seems you have edited your name back to “skud.” and your account was
blocked. You have to keep the edited name as your common name or your
account will continued to be blocked. Every time you edit your name it is
automatically checked by our system for violations.

Now, I didn’t edit my name. I didn’t touch it. And it is my common name, as I’ve shown through repeated documentation. But this documentation route is getting a little silly, so I decided to change tack:

Ricky, I never edited my name on my profile page — it has remained as my common name (the name my friends and colleagues know me by) since I first signed up for Google+.

But do I understand you correctly — if I were to edit my name to something else that looks more like you what think is a common name, you would unblock my account? Would “Kathleen Richards” be acceptable, for example? Is it permissable to include my common name, the one everyone knows me by, as a middle name in quotation marks, like Brian “Fitz” Fitzpatrick (the Google staffer responsible for Google Takeout) does? If so, I would be willing to change my name to Kathleen “Skud” Richards, just to have my account reinstated.

I’ve updated my profile to match. Let’s see what comes of this. [Later: I switched back to Kirrily "Skud" Robert -- while I'm temporarily amused to troll them with a fake (but real-sounding) name like Kathleen Richards, I don't actually want it on my profile.]

In other news, I had lunch with my old colleagues at Google’s San Francisco office. This is the visitor badge that Google issued me with:

google visitor badge with Skud on it


Update, July 27th

Had drinks with Doc Popular and aestetix last night in San Francisco. They introduced themselves as “Doc” and “aestetix” respectively, and that is the name I know them by “in the real world”.

This morning, another useless email from “Ricky”:

The name you use in the name field must resemble your First and Last name. Any other name you use can be placed right below the names field in the nick names field where other users can still recognize you by that name.

Here’s my response:

Ricky, it has been five days and I am starting to lose patience. Please can you answer the following questions clearly, without evasion and without copy-pasting form letters:

1) I have repeatedly demonstrated that “Skud” is the name by which I am known by the vast majority of my acquaintance, through the webpage at http://infotrope.net/bio/my-name/ This page shows that I am known by Skud by my friends, co-workers, co-habitants, conference organisers, and Google itself (where I was an employee until July 15th). In what specific way does this fail to meet your standards of documentation?

2) If you won’t let me simply use “Skud” as my name on Google+, how would you advise me to edit my name to meet your requirements? I wish my common name, “Skud”, to be visible on all my posts and comments, but am prepared to use other names alongside “Skud” if it will help get past your rules. I suggest using: Kirrily “Skud” Robert. Is this acceptable?

(Please don’t bother telling me to use the “nickname” field, as it does not show on my posts and comments.)

3) If it is not acceptable for me to include the nickname “Skud” in quotation marks in my Google+ name (as, eg, Kirrily “Skud” Robert), due to punctuation marks being disallowed, can you please explain why others, such as Google engineer Brian “Fitz” Fitzpatrick (********@google.com, responsible for Google Takeout) are allowed to do so, and by what method a member of the public can gain a similar exemption.

If you cannot answer the above questions by yourself, please escalate this to your supervisor.


Update, July 28th

Yesterday a Googler friend of mine pointed out that the case I’ve documented in this blog post looks rather like this xkcd comic (click through for full size strip):

This morning, “Ricky” emailed me again to chirp, “I’m a server!” yet another time:

Hello,

To edit your name to comply with our Community Standards Policy can be
done so rather easily. Place the name Kirrily Roberts in the name field
and right below place your nickname”Skud” in the nick name field. Both
names will be visible to users and it solves the issue of complying with
our policy. If you wish to edit your name to comply please email me back.

Thank you,

Ricky

So now I’m pulling out the big guns. Everyone knows (don’t they?) that the only way to get support from Google is to contact people you know inside the organisation and get them to advocate on your behalf. I’ve held off from doing so until now because nobody should have to do that. It’s not fair on Googlers who have to deal with begging from friends who need help with stuff the Googler knows little about, and it’s not fair on customers that a company that provides such vital services as email, website hosting, and phone service should be able to cut services off without offering a clear and usable path to resolution.

But since it seems to be the only way, I emailed the following back to Ricky, and Cc’d Vic Gundotra (SVP Social), Bradley Horowitz (VP Product), Michael Hermeston (who I believe is in charge of G+ customer support), Natalie Villalobos (Google+ community manager), and a few others I know who work on Google+ identity issues (all of whom know me as Skud). I also Bcc’d it to a number of my friends at Google, encouraging them to disseminate it widely inside the company.

Ricky, this is now the sixth day without resolution.

Yesterday I asked you three questions, and specifically asked you to answer them clearly, without evasion, and without copy-pasting form letters — or if you weren’t able, to escalate to your supervisor. You didn’t answer them, so here they are again:

[redacted for brevity]

I am now escalating this to Google+ management and [redacted] in the hopes that my questions will be answered and my account reinstated, under my common name (“Skud”). Nobody should ever have to rely on Googler acquaintances to get them customer support, but since that does seem to be the only way, I’m taking it.

You need to fix this harmful, hypocritical policy and allow people to actually use “the names by which they are known”. Not just special-cases for celebrities and people who have friends at Google, but for everyone — transgender people, those from non-Western cultures, people with only one name, even people whose names you think look silly. Google shouldn’t be telling me what my “common name” is or isn’t. It should be supporting me and validating my identity, so that I can use its services happily and encourage others to do so as well.

Yours,

Skud


143 thoughts on “I’ve been suspended from Google+

  • Laurence Simon

    I think I can do you one better…

    I was also just suspended.

    And I used… MY REAL NAME!

    (Or so I thought I did. Man, I’m gonna be really pissed when I call my parents tomorrow.)

    -ls

  • azurelunatic

    I was at a tech meetup about two months ago with one of your then-coworkers, and we were trying to figure out connections in common. I mentioned “majority female open-source project” and he asked, “Do you know Skud?”

    “Of course I know Skud!”

  • Mary

    I can use “+Skud .” in a post, but it’s inconsistent: it looks fine while writing the post, but then in the published post it turns into “xxxx” or something like that, and the post is not editable.

  • Jed

    I also tried “+Skud .” in a post. In the published post, it appeared as “+*****”; when I edited the post (which worked fine), it appeared as “+103325808503679220346″. So I guess that must be your ID number or something.

  • Knowledge Tomorrow

    At least you got a form to submit. I got nothing. No form. No appeal available. As far as I know, I’m the only one this has happened to.

    Oh yeah, I’ve met Skud, I can verify her 3D identification :)

  • Vaneeesa Blaylock

    For a long time the idea of “Gay Christians” baffled me. I thought, if the church rejects you… why do you want to be a part of it? Then I saw the wonderful documentary “We’re All Angels” and I got it.

    With social networks like Facebook or the presumably rising Google+ one might ask the same question… if Google+, Facebook & Friendster reject your identity… but Myspace, Twitter & Plurk all embrace your identity, why not just reject Google+, Facebook & Friendster… why not build your community and your life in an inclusive, tolerant environment where you are welcome.

    Add that it is claimed that only governments can censor or deny free speech. That when corporations do the same thing, it’s simply a business decision as to who they choose to offer their product to.

    These ideas make sense from one perspective. But consider that The Facebook Nation today stands at more than double the size of the United States. Facebook is closing in on China as the most populous nation on earth. It may seem silly to compare an online nation to a physical nation, but I teach university art, and for a great many of my students, their citizenship in the Facebook Nation is far more important to them than their geographic citizenship. Perhaps this is a byproduct of living in the comparatively stable West. If we were in the developing world, we might have a different perspective.

    When Facebook is the dialog… or as we imagine, when Google+ may become the dialog, then to deny us equality and voice there is to deny us basic human rights. It is to deny real human beings the ability to participate in culture. It it to claim, and to attempt to make so by hegemonic corporate force, that we are less than human.

  • Pseudonym

    They should allow pseudonym but users should be made to make known in the profile that the name used is not a real name. In that way, others can make a differentiation and decide if they want to interact or circle them.

  • Lyndon

    They should have used a verification process from the start. (They way they do in Places). It’s too late now! After proper verification people should be allowed to use a nickname (but also have their real name on their profile).

  • Sling Trebuchet

    Hi. My real name is John Smith. (OK. It’s not – due to an accident of birth)
    Unfortunately, there are 45,081 John Smiths in the USA alone.
    From Census data http://howmanyofme.com/people/John_Smith/
    Google for “John Smith” and get over 22 Millions results.

    Google+ real names policy will only allow one of the John Smiths to sign up under their real name.
    The other 24,080 John Smiths and perhaps as many others world wide will have to use a name that nobody knows them by.

    It could be worse. I might be in China and have the name surname Chen. There are over 90 Million Chen’s in China.

  • David Gerard

    The name fail, like the previous HARD REQUIREMENT for a public “gender” field, and the insistence for the mobile version that you give them your location – really, I cannot access G+ on my BlackBerry without agreeing to the “Mobile TOS” – is when the friendly mask slips and G+ accidentally lets slip just how very much they regard their users as the product to be marketed.

  • Mentions Cat

    There’s a bunch of fake Bill Gates profiles. I guess they’re in no hurry to fix that.

  • Cici

    Hey, in my opinion no one reported your profile or disagreed with what you emitted in the stream. No one even care if skud is your real name. It is just because you have a . In your name. G+ blocked all names who do not look like real names by a simple SELECT in their database. You should see the complains among the Chinese users, hundreds or thousands of them have been suspended.

  • Skud Post author

    As I understand it, they are only suspending/reviewing accounts which are flagged by users. If you see someone impersonating a famous person (as opposed to simply having the same name as a famous person), you can report it if you are so inclined.

    Mind you, there was an account for “Darth Vader” which was suspended, reviewed, and reinstated as “Dave Vader” — while still maintaining the same profile image, persona, etc — and then later renamed again to “Darth Vader”, so it’s not as if even the most blatant violations are being dealt with appropriately when reported.

  • Skud Post author

    That is certainly a possibility (or would be, if Google used SQL on their backend). I would have said I didn’t think they would do that, but then, I’ve been out of there for a whole week now, and my idea of what they would and wouldn’t do is presumably becoming increasingly outdated with every day that passes.

  • Mentions Cat

    If they only ban accounts that are flagged by users, why would someone have flagged mine and gotten me banned?

  • David Gerard

    @Mentions Cat – a Google staffer was telling people to actively go out and flag any account they thought was pseudonymous. This has been not-quite-sorta-repudiated-in-a-deniable-fashion, but gives a useful insight into the thinking of G+ people: SHUT UP AND BEHAVE, PRODUCTS.

  • Skud Post author

    Eh, it’s pretty common, if you don’t want to lose your job. But, yet another reason why pseudonymity is important!

  • Sling Trebuchet

    Scud: “I’m not sure that’s factually correct.”

    Aha! You’re not sure. SO I WIN Yay! :)

    But seriously Shirly… if the uncertainty is purely about a limit on the number of people who can be known in G+ as “John Smith”, then you may be right.
    I don’t know for sure – as I can’t set up an account there.

    The fixation on names leads me to believe that the name is an important part of the identity as far as Google are concerned.
    This works in my small town. The number of people having a name in common is generally low-ish. People hearing a name usually know instinctively which of the three Liz Murphy’s is being talked about – from the context.
    In a population of a few hundred million, a real life name is pretty meaningless. A fixation on the real life name causes confusion rather than assisting anything.

    How does one uniquely refer to a person on G+?
    In an on-line or off-line conversation, how does one nominate a person that is of interest?
    The real life name will be of only minor significance unless the name is very uncommon. There has to be something(s) additional that will identify the particular John Smith.

    I’m really looking forward to hearing Google explain how an account with the name John Smith is less likely to be a spammer or a fake than would be an account with a name John Smootypoo. I should have thought that the opposite would apply. Which of those two would someone use if they wanted to slip in through the gates and start abusing?

  • SubmarineBells

    FWIW, they aren’t just auto-ditching folk who register with . as a surname, since I have a . surname and my G+ account is still active.

  • Gremlin

    What amuses me the most about all this is that, having been suspended now [though you can't find people who call me anything other than Gremlin, online or off] is that half the point of G+ is to use the +1 thing to vote up search results. Being suspended, my votes no longer count.

    So long as I and anyone with a reasonably interesting name can’t vote, google.com has become worthless as a search engine. I don’t suspect that’s what they’d really hoped for when they started this up.

  • Siderea

    I know the answer to this! (Also, why isn’t there a “reply” link on the two lower nodes?)

    G+ doesn’t require unique names! And when you’re typing “+John Smi” it proposes autocompletions out of every John Smith in the system! And has absolutely no way to disambiguate one John Smith from another in the dropdown menu thingy!

    Screen shot: http://pics.livejournal.com/siderea/pic/000209×5

    Best of all? Apparently it chooses five names pretty much at random. Someone named, let us say, James Doe added me. But I wasn’t sure if I knew a James Doe. The picture sort of looked like the husband of a friend of mine, but I’m bad at faces, only ever met him in person once, and he has a different last name from my friend. So I figured I’d PM him and ask who he was. But G+ doesn’t have a separate PM function, you’re supposed to just +name someone in an update. Soooo I write a Stream update shared only with +James Doe, saying, “Hey, are you somebody I know on LJ? Married to my friend Jill?” G+ autocompletes only one James Doe, but it turns out it was a different James Doe than the one who had added me. So I have a nice conversation with a completely other James Doe who was very polite about this strange woman messaging him out of nowhere. Since I don’t seem able to contact the James Doe who added me via my stream, I write him publicly (which I had been trying to avoid, in case he didn’t want his identities connected) on his. Nice job, Google.

  • Charles MacDonald

    I have always though that children should be given some ambiguous names, “Fredwick William Ann Mcgillicutty” for example so the person could quite legally use ” Ann Mcgillicuty” if it suited the occasion, even if they normally were know as “Bill”

    I don’t know the OZ rules fro changing one’s name, but since you are returning to your homeland, perhaps you might try to have Skud added as a middle name. That way, you could be at least Skud Roberts, and have an official document to prove it.

  • Cory

    I’ve seen these issues before, the problem is the period “Skud .” That was always going to be flagged. If you’d put “Skud S” (or any letter of your choosing), or “Skud Smith” it would have been OK.
    http://www.google.com/support/profiles/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1228271
    The appeal form does allow you to submit proof that you are known by that name:
    http://www.google.com/support/profiles/bin/request.py?hl=en&contact_type=name_appeal&rd=1
    Lose the period, use a letter, submit your website as Additional Verification Information and you should be OK.

  • Superman

    My profile in gooogle+ got suspended cause I uploaded a 3d render I created myself, to my profile… silly me!

  • Cory

    @SUBMARINEBELLS It’s only a matter of time, I’d change it while you still can. You’ll see :)

  • Captain Hazel Murphy

    @Cory, I don’t think anyone should have to go to the expense and inconvenience of a legal name change just to please the arbitrary rules of a website. Any social network should, in many ways, exist to serve its users–not expect the users to tailor their real lives in a manner that serves the (changeable) ToS of a website.

    For example (and this is just one potential tangle): If Skud goes out and pays $80 for a name change, waits for a court date, goes in to swear it’s in good faith, and then two months later Google changes their mind about the policy, is Google going to reimburse her the $80? Or pay her $160 so she can also go get it changed back to her legal name?

    @Skud, if you DID want back on the site, I don’t suppose you’ve considered Photoshop.

  • Karsten

    Add me to the people suspended. I own and run pcpcgames.com with a couple friends. And our account has been suspended for… well I don’t know. Had the e-mail for a long time as well as the webpage and our podcast. Heck we even have a google phone number.
    I am confused why we got the hammer or what to do about it exactly other than to ask for a review.

  • Daniel Brewer

    I have a question about your suspension experience. You say that you are still able to access GMail without problems, yet I have read other accounts from people who were suspended stating that they were locked out of all Google services (GMail, YouTube, Docs, etc). Any idea why the ramifications of a suspension vary?

    Was your Google account created with a non-GMail address when you created it and others weren’t?

    I’m just curious and trying to grok what is going on.

  • Skud Post author

    I am pretty sure people are conflating suspensions for other reasons with “name violation” suspensions. I’m fairly certain that “name violation” only loses you your Profile and Plus access. However, if you *also* broke other TOS (for instance, if your date of birth makes you appear under the age of 13) you may lose access to more services.

    Also note that the long rant by someone called Thomas Monopoly, that’s doing the rounds, seems to be based on abuse of Adwords/Adsense, not a G+ name violation suspension. See: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2795465

  • Sling Trebuchet

    Siderea:
    “But G+ doesn’t have a separate PM function, you’re supposed to just +name someone in an update.”
    “And when you’re typing “+John Smi” it proposes autocompletions out of every John Smith in the system!”
    “Best of all? Apparently it chooses five names pretty much at random.”

    Wow! That is so mindnumbingly and stupidly broken.
    Google has designed into the system an assumption that in a population of 100s of millions that a real/wallet name is enough to (closely) identify an individual.

    I can see that if I ever use G+, I will have to instruct any of my friends with common vanilla names that they will have to choose more interesting names if they wish to interact with me.
    Of course, if they do that, Google will nuke them :(

  • Ordinal Malaprop

    I’m completely confused as to the situation now. I was suspended (which I was expecting at some point, as not only do I go by a pseudonym and have been commenting all over the place about the importance of pseudonymity, I had a profile picture from Second Life, where the pseudonym originated – clearly I am thus not real, or at least a target for real name zealots).

    I got the notifications that are mentioned in the post here, but I _didn’t_ fill in the form. I decided that I didn’t want to jump through hoops for this. The next day, though, I found that my account had been reinstated anyway.

    This doesn’t really give me confidence that there is a consistent policy being applied consistently here. It also doesn’t give me confidence that other people I know might not be suspended without notice, or let me know what the path might be for them to get themselves unsuspended.

  • myfreeweb

    I wanna get rid of my Google account, but looks like violating G+ TOS won’t help. Should I mount my Gmail as a disk with MacFUSE & upload huge (porn?) files or say I’m two years old?

    I thought Facebook’s evil… didn’t know Zuck has a page for his dog!

    P.S. on Spotify, I pretend that I live in US & travel to Russia, not live in Russia. They want me anyway 8) And, of course, Twitter <3

  • Indigodruid

    It is the sheer indeterminate randomness that gets me about this policy. J Smith will never be disabled unless zie is abusive or does something that is more obviously against “community standards” (whatever that means). Whereas those of us with real Identity that happen to be single name based are banned. I have not joined G+ and am already on the edge with: https://profiles.google.com/indigodruid/.

    The only possible light is that Google has stated publicly that they recognize the value of pseudonymity. We just have to hope that they eventually act on those words and open the door to a wider community.

  • Huey

    Chris Zach, who you’ve probably never heard of, since he’s been known both on the internet and in real life as ‘CZ Unit’ for something like twenty years now, just went through the same thing. Apparently, after threatening to bombard them with notarized statements to the effect that he really IS known as CZ Unit, they’ve reactivated his profile.

    I haven’t asked, but I suspect that Megazone will have the same problem, but since he DOES have a state-issued ID that says ‘Megazone’, that should be easier to fix. I no longer remember what name his parents gave him.

    Their whole policy seems random, which makes me wonder if they really have an ironclad policy, or just a couple bored interns turning off the accounts of people whose names ‘sound weird’.

  • justin

    thanks for the article skud; saw you referenced on zdnet via HN.
    Do you think this is confounding the port of g+ to GAFYD?
    give us a ping if/when you’re back in ‘shtraya.

  • AV Flox

    My account was suspended for a few hours today. Unlike you, I was given access to no form to submit, simply a “click to submit profile for review” that, once clicked, redirected me to my profile page with a new text box saying “thank you, your profile is being reviewed.” That’s it, no information about the process, no way to contest the claims.

    Your post helped me develop the post I wrote to contest the suspension (linked here as my website). Thank you for going public with this. As someone who has built a career on a pseudonym, the issue of how Google addresses these is of huge importance to me.

  • Mackenzie

    Brands/companies/etc. aren’t supposed to be using “people” profiles. They’re going to have a corollary to Facebook Pages in a couple months. Brands are what were supposed to be flagged, according to an update from the Googler who told people to start flagging.

  • Sling Trebuchet

    Verification is impossible. I can send you ‘my’ photoshopped driver’s licence in the name of John Smith. Or would you prefer one in some other name? How would this be of assistance to you?

    Assuming that there was some sort of internationally recognised non-photoshoppable ID, how long would it take Google to check 200 Million of them?

    Credit Card? If you want to restrict G+ primarily to well-off Westerners – go for it.

    SMS to an anonymous cell phone only verifies that ‘somebody’ whose real name is unverifiable has claimed to be named John Smith and can be aware of messages sent to a particular phone.

    Real Names are meaningless when there are 200 Million people in the same room. They don’t scale up.

  • Sling Trebuchet

    It is the screamingly obvious win-win approach.
    The poor insecure souls who would trust me as John Smith but have a fit of the vapours when presented with Sling Trebuchet can simply ignore me. They ‘win’.
    I won’t have to have my time polluted by contact such tiny minds. I ‘win’.

    Women – and other marginalised / disadvantaged / whatever – can express themselves without being harassed by stalkers, small-minded employers / communitities.

    As for Gender …
    Texas Battlefield 3 launch LAN bans women from attending
    http://borderhouseblog.com/?p=5811

  • Yaakov

    Skud:

    I think Google is way off on this, and I think that those of us who use self-given names need to stop calling them “pseudonyms”. This is a serious and destructive misnomer. Instead, I propose a new word which accurately describes these names not as *false* names but as *self* names, “autonym”.

    My lengthy (and, I hope, worthwhile) essay on this, in relation to your Google+ plight, is here: http://bit.ly/r3JsiE

    I hope to see you back on Google+, we’ll see.

    Be well,
    Yaakov

  • Alison Wheeler (@AlisonW)

    In common with many (a substantial minority, at least) of women, the name on my birth certificate does not match the name I presently use or am known by. In my 20s I changed my {last name | family name | surname}. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that I might do so again in the future. Every programmer and system designer is aware that names are neither unique nor permanent identifiers, so the lack of appreciation by Google of this fact is pretty amazing.

  • Willfon

    So do you think Sting will have to apply using Gordon Sumner or will they allow him to sign up as The Sting? Bono actually has Bono Vox as his pseudonym so he is covered.

  • jasonh

    my account was suspended for using a fake name. i was blocked from GMAIL and all other servides. it seemed very buggy, sometimes things would work, sometimes not.

    i had no clue what was going on, it took a while to find the ‘you have been suspended’ page.

    what i did was clear my profile of all content and it slowly all came back in bits and pieces.

  • David

    My G+ account has been suspended too…the name I used was Gladys Hitler so it wasn’t much of a shock. My gmail remains usable (only used for junk so I wouldn’t have been too put out if they’d canned it) and I have no intention of bothering with G+ again…what a good way to lose users.

  • Singularity Utopia

    Here’s my blog-post about Google #plusgate

    http://singularity-utopia.blogspot.com/2011/07/should-transhumans-be-purged_22.html

    I’m glad people are outraged by the G+ censorship, but mainly the outrage is limited to people who’ve directly suffered Google-censorship. To really make a difference this issue needs to be taken up by everyone. People should not underestimate the importance of this issue.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came%E2%80%A6

  • Priscilla

    To be fair, you put a dot as your last name. You should at least use the my “alias” name notation.

  • RE Vernon

    I posted this on Hacker News but I’ll post it here too

    I suspect the reason Google wants your real name is to match it with credit headers. And before anyone calls me a tin-foiler please read the following and understand that I work in the industry. I’m not making a judgment call one way or the other as to whether this is “right” or not.
    For those that don’t know a credit header is information in a credit report that gives identifying information about a person. Credit headers contain:
    Name, AKA’s, Maiden Name, Date of Birth, Social Security Number and Issuing State, Relatives, along with Current and Previous Addresses which can go back 25+ years.
    Credit headers have been ruled as to NOT be part of a credit report:
    http://epic.org/privacy/fcra/

    A credit header is identifying information from a credit report. It includes name, mother’s maiden name, date of birth, sex, address, prior addresses, telephone number, and the Social Security Number.
    Credit headers came into use after the FTC changed its definition of a credit report in the course of settling a case against TRW (now Experian). The FTC allowed the CRAs to treat headers as “above the line” information and to sell it with no legal protections for the individual. The reasoning was that this information did not relate to credit, and thus should not be considered part of the credit report.
    Credit headers are used for location of individuals and for target marketing. They are sold in bulk by the CRAs and can be purchased online.

    Google can simply take your IP address, trace it back and then run your name against the header database to locate individuals in your area with that name. The more unique your name the easier you are to identify. If you have a common name it would be further cross-referenced with other information like relative names or maiden names. Once identified they have your complete life history.

    Someone responded:

    There are more countries in the world.

    To which I responded:

    And? Why would that stop them from getting this information and matching it? Are you saying because this information isn’t available all over the world they wouldn’t collect it it in the U.S.? The U.S. is the biggest consumer market in the world.
    What do you think they could achieve (monetarily) having a personal history attached to a social account? I can tell you the first thing I’d do is determine your influence. I could take your addresses/family addresses and reasonably determine what kind of spending power you have based upon cross referencing your address with tax information. On top of that I don’t have to necessarily know about you in another country. I can simply define the influence of an individual here and you may end up in their circle of influence. Imagine a person that’s been voted as highly influential in said system and they communicate with you on a regular basis. From that I could infer that you are also potentially influential.
    Other countries have similar systems. The information may not be as freely available but it’s there. It just needs to be harvested.
    For example, one of the biggest sources of relative information is obituaries. Something that is freely printed all over the place.

  • d4rkie

    I was suspended for using my real name too >__> so I’m now using a pseudonym. I actually sent them the new name for review and they accepted it. I do wonder though how many people in real life are called Dark Phoenix ^^

  • Singularity Utopia

    I was suspended not because of my name. Google said my ‘text and images’ violated the community standards, but such an allegation is completely untrue. Nothing I have posted violates any standards(ToS). In a Kafkaesque manner Google refuses to explain the alleged violation and they refuse to allow me any option for appeal. I think the reason for my suspension was that I posted a post which criticized Google’s user-name policy. The community guidelines do not mention anywhere that is it forbidden to criticize Google. This censorship by Google is very undemocratic, anti-freedom, repressive, authoritarian.

    #plusgate

  • donnacha of WordSkill

    My profile has been “under review” for over THREE WEEKS, meaning that my profile is invisible to others and I am unable to do anything with my Google+ account, not even make comments, until some notional human within Google looks at it and makes a decision.

    My “crime”?

    I had a single non-standard character in my old Google profile name, where it was not a problem but which was automatically carried over to my Google+ profile.

    I removed the non-standard character as soon as I became aware that it was a problem but, more than three weeks later, I am still awaiting review, possibly permanently.

    The irony is that, if I were actually suspended, I could least click that link to appeal the decision. As it stands, waiting for a review, I can do nothing.

    How the Hell has Google, a company of supposedly intelligent people, allowed such an obvious and avoidable problem to alienate some of their previously enthusiastic users? I have been a heavy Gmail user from the first month of its existence and have invited hundreds of new users. I am precisely and predictably the sort of user who could have spent July out there, using Google+ and evangelizing it to others but, instead, they have needlessly placed me and thousands of others in limbo.

    If a profile is automatically suspended (or, worse, placed “under review”), it should be automatically reinstated if the offending character is removed, it should not require human intervention, especially as Google have so clearly allocated no humans to the task.

  • Sling Trebuchet

    I have a feeling that you have hit the nail RE VERNON.

    Google’s fixation on real names was looking like religious fundamentalism – impervious to logic.
    We mere mortals can only see a list of 40,000 John Smith’s – or as SIDEREA notes above – a random 5 of them when we go to message one of them with +John Smith.

    Google see way more, including the IPs that can be very specific about location.
    John Smith combined with an IP could make any of the 40,000 John Smiths very uniquely identifiable to Google and by extension to its customers.
    Eh that would be ‘customers = the people who pay for it all’ not you gentle readers who just use it.

    If that’s what’s going on then the frantic in insistence on the name that is on government/banking/credit ID is totally understandable.

  • soror Nishi

    I am sure that RE VERNON has got it right. Combine this potential database with the face recognition software now used in FB and the data base becomes a substantial asset for law enforcement too.

  • Tablesaw

    You had to say that, didn’t you?

    When we signed up for Google Plus, the network of our dreams,
    We all set out investigating circles, sparks, and streams.
    We had high expectations for our pseudonymity,
    But found too late it wasn’t geared for users such as we.

    And we’re banned from Google; it’s not just.
    Banned from Google, you could say we’ve been nonplussed.
    We’d love to give more feedback on a field test we adore,
    But Google doesn’t want us any more

    The ToS is simple, but the policy opaque
    Behind how mods consider some names real and some names fake.
    The Name Police keep coming for aestetix, Sai, and Skud.
    So please, folks, make some changes before Google’s name is Mud.

    Since we’re banned from Google, all of us.
    Banned from Google, and we’re kicking up a fuss.
    We used to be evangelizers. Now we’re pretty sore.
    We don’t know if we’ll Google any more.

  • Sling Trebuchet

    From https://plus.google.com/103112149634414554669/posts/WAu688n8JgZ – which I think is another excellent overview, see
    +Frances Haugen (Google Profiles product manager): https://plus.google.com/106792630639449031994/posts/4v29vbteeG5

    In that discussion, Frances felt safe to share this
    “At the same time, please remember Google+ is committed to helping people connect with people they know and to feel safe sharing and communicating. We believe using real names and real profile pictures is the best way to create that kind of environment.”

    “with people they know”?
    Frances – if I want to connect with someone I know on some on-line service, guess what? I ask them what ID they are using there. I know it’s them because I know them and they told me.

    If someone that I know tells me that the ID used by a specific John Smith of interest is Attila The Hun, then I can feel safer in that working assumption than I would be in trawling through 10′s of thousands of John Smiths – none of whom might be the one of interest.

    What if I find a John Smith that appears to be the right one. Google+ is encouraging us to believe that he is the right one – because it’s on Google+. He has their implicit stamp of approval. BUT – Google has never actually verified this. He’s allowed to be there because his name doesn’t “look funny”. That’s is the reality of validation when you have a few hundred million accounts signing up on-line.

    Unless …. Google take a name, check it doesn’t “look funny” and then run the name and IPs (real word locations) ever used by that account against databases like electoral rolls, credit headers, etc.

    I think that RE Vernon (above) is on the right track.
    I want to believe that this unbelievable mess is down to evil rather than terminal stupidity.

    An evil 50-ton gorilla can be met and dealt with.
    A 50-ton gorilla that is mostly cute and helpful but prone to breaking things is too much of a PITA.

    YOU WILL CONFORM !
    Google want to become the TSA of the Net.
    If you don’t tick all the ‘safe’ checkboxes, you can’t fly.
    If you appear in the least bit non-vanilla to some algorithm or low-paid drone, you can’t fly.

  • niels

    Same thing happened to me for only using my first name.

    and the link to the policy page on the suspension notice page is dead…

    “sorry this page can’t be found”

    nice for them to remove the policy after claiming you ran afoul of it.

  • alpha_charlie

    FYI- Gordon Sumner actually changed his legal name to ‘Sting’. Which makes me wonder if he’d get banned for using ‘Gordon Sumner’?

  • RE Vernon

    A lot of confusion seems to be going on with the Google+ Real Names Policy. The argument goes something like this:
    “It doesn’t matter if I use my real name or not. If my name is John Smith then there’s no way Google can know which one I am, ergo it’s pointless.”

    People making that argument are flat out wrong. I work in the public/private record and data broker industry. I’ve worked in it for 14 years. If I was Google and I had your real name here’s what I’d do:

    1. I’d grab your IP address and trace it back to its location. Googles IP to Location database is probably the best in the world. It’s not 100% accurate but it’s good enough. So now I’ve got you as John Smith in Anytown USA.

    2. I’d combine your name/location and run it against the header database.

    Let me explain what a “header” a.k.a. “credit header” is.

    A credit header is the top part of your credit report. It’s the part above the lines of actual creditor reporting. It contains:

    • Your “real name” • Your aka’s (what your friends call you) • Your Social Security Number • Your date of birth • Your relatives names • Your current and previous addresses (with dates) going back 25+ years • Your current and previous telephone numbers

    At this point the list of John Smiths is reduced dramatically. If I needed to narrow it down even further I’d take a look at your date of birth. If you have Gmail you may have already provided this to Google. There’s also a bazillion other places this is available.

    Another place to deduce your approximate age is where you attended high school and what year you graduated. So now I’m looking for John Smith currently located in Anytown USA who once lived in Mytown USA and is between the ages of 38 to 40.

    If I couldn’t find your date of birth I’d run your addresses and look for other people with the same last name living at that address. Then I’d scan your communications looking for people with that name.

    On top of that if I have your phone number (think Gmail again) I can run that too.

    Most of the time I’m GOING to find you EVEN if your name is John Smith.

    From that point it’s as simple as cross-referencing data. I can run you against:

    • Bankruptcies • Tax Liens • Judgments • Defaults • UCC Filings • Property Values • Relatives and their above information • And on and on and on

    At this point I know who you are, who your relatives are and what kind of spending power you have. I have your whole life history. I can decide your level of influence while I keep tacking on additional information to your dossier. How much do you think that list is worth?

    This level of sophistication is almost impossible for spam bots and fake profiles to duplicate.

    For those that say “Well there are other countries, not just the US.” My answer is:

    1. This type of information is available in many countries. It may not be as freely available but it’s there.

    2. I don’t necessarily have to have this information from other countries. I can simply watch my initial network grow. If I have a “high influence” individual in the US and they communicate with you on a regular basis it’s pretty easy to deduce I should also assign you some value and on down the line. It’s easy enough in a global economy.

    P.S. The credit header file has been ruled in court cases to NOT be part of a credit report therefore it is free of the FCRA laws preventing it’s access by unauthorized individuals. It can be free traded and sold. The last time I checked the file was less than $200,000 US plus the cost of updates. However many companies can get free access in exchange for reporting their data back to the bureaus.

  • Mackenzie

    RE VERNON:
    Credit reports are pretty much only accurate for the “credit” part. They get very out of date on the employer & address stuff. I’m looking at mine. It doesn’t have any of my employers, and it has the addresses I lived at when I was in high school and living with my parents. It has one of the 6 addresses I’ve had since high school.

  • RE Vernon

    Employer information is usually very out of date. As far as being accurate, no system is going to be 100% accurate. The fact they are missing 5 of 6 addresses could be for several reasons:

    1. You didn’t have any credit in your name at those addresses.

    2. The places you lived didn’t report to a bureau. ie private rental or dorm

    3. You’re looking at a credit report from one bureau and not at a triple merge from all 3. Choice-Point/Experian usually has the best information out of all 3.

    Sounds like they have your social and date of birth though??? If so then you’re identified, which was the point I was making. And that’s not to say that in the future your current address won’t be reported. Th data is updated constantly from warranty cards and utilities to home purchases and everything in-between.

    As far as the statement of:

    “Credit reports are pretty much only accurate for the “credit” part.”

    is absolutely untrue. You’re the exception, not the rule.

  • Moe

    The real name doesn’t bother me so much as them now wanting my phone number to verify my account. Every day this week I’ve visited and they have asked me for my phone number just in case. I have to do a back track to skip it as there is no way to say “no thanks”.

    Every time I read stories like yours I am in constant fear of my account which is attached to analytics, affiliate, youtube, gmail, blogger and much more being cancelled for whatever reason. One of my biggest concerns by having everything all under one roof.

  • Bry .

    @RE VERNON
    You really think Google would do anything close to this involved? Considering how many accounts they have to deal with it’s easier (not necessarily better) to mass ban and reinstate the ones that reply. Most spam/junk account holders would just create another profile.

    The disturbing part of this story is that users are reporting being shut out of ALL google services, not just G+.

  • RE Vernon

    Absolutely. It’s not a person sitting at a computer going through accounts one by one. That’d be impossible. Google revolves around algo’s. It’s no harder to do it for one account than it is for Millions using an algo. It’s just computing time and power. The data is easily accessible and highly profitable.

    Imagine being able to target people who recently discussed a product via Google+ or Gmail who have spending power, are in the target demographic and you have their contact info. Lets say you’re a mother and you need to buy a car seat. You ask your friends/family what they recommend. Google mines that data via keywords, analyzes your dossier, decides you score well and send you an ad for X percent off said product mentioned/recommended by your family member or friend. Think you’d buy it?

  • Homer

    @RE Vernon

    “1. I’d grab your IP address and trace it back to its location.”

    You’d fail at the first hurdle, Bob, since many people connect through offshore proxies, just as I’m doing now (nl.gigabit.perfect-privacy.com). Hint: I’m nowhere near the Netherlands.

    Since my name is also a pseudonym, running credit checks etc. won’t help you either, and thus won’t lead you to any of my other personally identifiable information.

    My phone number is an anonymous PAYG mobile, topped up in cash over the counter.

    My domain is privacy protected.

    My postal address is an anonymous forwarding address, that forwards to somewhere I don’t even live, but just visit occasionally.

    My credit card is an anonymous pre-paid card, topped up in cash over the counter.

    I’ve never had a driving license.

    I’ve never had a passport.

    I’ve never had any sort of ID card.

    I’ve never voted, and therefore I’m not on any electoral register.

    I’ve never completed a census questionnaire.

    I don’t have a criminal record. I’ve never been been arrested, or been fingerprinted, or had a mugshot taken, or had a DNA sample taken.

    I’ve never been in the armed forces, or worked for any government agency.

    I’ve always been self-employed, working strictly off the books.

    I’ve never applied for or collected welfare payments.

    I’ve changed my real name since leaving school, so educational records won’t help you either.

    I have no living relative you could use to track me.

    I have no neighbors who could identify me.

    About the only real identifying document I own is my birth certificate, and if Google asked for a copy of that, I’d just send them a Photoshopped forgery. If they didn’t like it, I’d walk away rather than reveal myself.

    For all intents and purposes, I simply don’t exist.

  • RE Vernon

    Well that must make for an interesting life…

    Most people do not connect using offshore servers. A quick look at any GA acct will prove that. Your average user has no idea how to use a VPN or TOR. Nor (quite frankly) do they care. They connect to the Internet right through the modem/router provided by their ISP. Whether they should or not is a whole other issue. I know all about them and still don’t always use them.

  • Homer

    “Well that must make for an interesting life…”

    It makes for a very private and secure life, as intended.

    “Most people do not connect using offshore servers.”

    Most people have Facebook accounts too, which lays their entire life bare for all too see, including stalkers, government agencies, “IP” litigation firms, and other nasties. Most people have no concept of online privacy, or the dangers that stem from not having any.

    But clearly they should, because most people are in danger, sometimes quite severe danger, from not having adequate privacy and security measures.

    For example, I already have your full name and home address, using nothing more than a quick search on Google. Lucky for you I’m not an unscrupulous person. But you shouldn’t have to depend on luck, should you?

    Google, it seems, wants to discourage privacy, since privacy is in direct contradiction to its business model (much like Facebook and others).

    What I’m saying is, that in order to actually use these services AND retain any sort of privacy and security, one essentially needs a completely false online identity.

    That’s what I have.

    But I don’t expect to convince others to do likewise, any more than I’d expect to convince a child to stop playing with matches. They’ll learn eventually though – the hard way.

  • RE Vernon

    “For example, I already have your full name and home address, using nothing more than a quick search on Google. Lucky for you I’m not an unscrupulous person. But you shouldn’t have to depend on luck, should you?”

    I’m not hiding from a thing. I’m fully aware of what information of mine is out there. Anytime you want to come over from Cruden Bay feel free. We’ll discuss security.

  • Homer

    Not even the right country, sorry, but I can see the trail you were trying to follow. Like I said, I have never published any genuine contact information online, and never signed up for anything using my real name. The most you’ll ever find is a bunch of Mickey Mouse details used to satisfy registration processes. Keep going and you’ll find my zip code is Beverly Hills 90210, I’m Mongolian, and I live in New Dehli, Australia. :)

    I realize that registering a business, for example, can make it difficult for people to protect their privacy, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, or that you shouldn’t care. You should certainly care when companies like Google and Facebook want to crack open every crevice of your life and lay it bare for the whole world to see. Not everybody has good motives, and as the above article demonstrates, people have actually suffered as a result.

    It’s time Google recognized people’s right to privacy.

  • Bob

    I tend to agree for the most part. My legal name is Robert but the world knows me as Bob. Where does using legal names stop?

    I am also known as RTC and R&T Computers, the last being my company name witch is legally registered with the US Government.

    So, what do I get called? A lot of Facebook friends call me RTC (Short for R&T Computers) and by a lot, I have over 400 “friends” there.

  • Sling Trebuchet

    Homer, you are a free man (or maybe woman).
    A price of that freedom is a set of limitations on your freedom to act.

    Minor perhaps would be the inability to rent an apartment or contract for services because of a lack of credit history etc.
    You could have a problem crossing international borders.
    If in the USA, you could be in deep doo-doo if you ever came to the attention of TSA / Homeland Security.
    Some drone thinks you look a bit ‘funny’ and they try to look at you in detail. They find your zip and they can’t find other stuff. “This guy does not exist – yet here he is.”

    Then you get a nice guy in a suit looking down at you and explaining that what is about to happen to you (waterboarding) is not torture. It’s more ‘intense discussion’ :)

    That last bit is maybe way OTT, but not impossible.

    In the context of G+ and Vernon’s thoughts….
    What if Google decide that they are so all-knowing that they can validate a few hundred million accounts?

    If you are in the USA, certainly, they should be able to match you from various state and commercial databases. If they can’t find a relatively rich picture, you may be a fake.
    If they see that you are connecting from a known anonymising proxy … you may be a fake.
    I can actually see Google blocking access to their ‘real name’ space from anonymous proxies. That would make perfect sense to them.

    The problem for everyone comes if ‘pants down’ becomes seen as the normal and required mode for everyone. Anyone with half a clue about privacy will become increasingly marginalised.

  • RE Vernon

    Nope. Everything I have says Cruden Bay Scotland. Couple that with the fact that:

    1. You use the UK spelling of some words
    2. You comment on UK politics, specifically Scottish school system politics
    3. You posted a picture of a moth to uk.rec.gardening asking what kind of moth it is, along with stating the fact it flew through your window and you’re in NE Scotland. Guess where Cruden Bay is. And guess where that Tiger Moth is indigenous to. You did remember to remove/change all the metadata from the photographs you posted online didn’t you?

    You may have dumped your RL identity but you created an online one with breadcrumbs left every time you post, which in your case is thousands. I found the above in less than 10 minutes. I’m not going to dig any deeper because quite frankly I don’t care enough. You can claim I’m wrong and you planned all that. If that’s the case then congratz. If not you’re as vulnerable as everyone else.

    In the US it’s illegal to register a business with false information. There are a couple states that don’t publish officer information like Delaware and Nevada but that doesn’t stop other individuals or companies from sharing your info. It’s also illegal to not pay taxes on your income which is what an individual/company would be doing if they were paid under the table.

    The only way to solve this issue is for Governments to create laws on the use of this data and create data expiration dates. Google is going to do exactly what they are able to get away with. They are no different than any other multi-national corp, they are out to make a profit. And as it stands now they’re not breaking any laws. Whether it’s morally right or not is a whole other argument.

  • Tim

    Having worked at a marking software company in the past, I can assure you that a large part of your value to Google or Facebook or any similar ad-driven entity is exactly this. You are a marketing dossier that can be exploited for great sums of money. Open source guys might make useful software for free, but when you see these enormous investments in data centers, software as a service, even platform as a service, you should assume what you are getting isn’t really free.

  • Homer

    @RE Vernon

    “You use the UK spelling of some words”

    I also use the US spelling of some words, which seems inconsistent, doesn’t it? The reason will become apparent in a moment.

    “You comment on UK politics”

    I also comment on US and EU politics, and many other things outside my sphere of interest, for reasons I’m about to explain.

    “You posted a picture of a moth to uk.rec.gardening asking what kind of moth it is, along with stating the fact it flew through your window and you’re in NE Scotland. Guess where Cruden Bay is.”

    You assume that publishing and authoring are the same thing. The fact is that Slated has many users, all published under the pseudonym of “Homer” (usually). That is in fact what Slated is for (hence the tagline: “You can run, but you can’t hide”). This is why “Homer” seems to be different people, with different interests, speaking different languages and living on different continents, at different times.

    Personally, I have no interest in gardening … or moths. The fact is I don’t even have a garden. The person above (now sadly deceased, which is why his record ends so abruptly) was merely an elderly contributer. There are others, some of whom are technophobes who don’t even own a computer (they correspond through intermediaries), some of whom are disabled, and some of whom merely wish to protect themselves from exposure (for various reasons). One is a software developer quite well known by his “full” pseudonym, but whom nobody (in the software development community) has ever met in real life, for reasons he/she wishes to remain private, and I’m only too happy to oblige. Some “Homers” need to provide “full” names for registration purposes, but even those names are pseudonymous and, as you may have noticed, all different (which should tell you something).

    “In the US it’s illegal to register a business with false information.”

    Of course, but then being illegal doesn’t stop it happening. I’ve just finished reading an article in which one “businessman” is suspected of operating thousands of shell companies, none of which have any employees, all registered under false identities in the Cayman Islands, but none of which have any verifiable links to the suspect.

    I’m certainly not endorsing that sort of behavior, given that he’s probably a scam artist, but it does prove the point that anonymity is possible, even in business.

    “If they see that you are connecting from a known anonymising proxy … you may be a fake.”

    If it’s a known proxy service. OTOH, where do you suppose the bulk of today’s spam and DDoS attacks come from? Certainly not official proxy services. I forget the exact figure, but I believe it was once estimated that most computers on the Internet have served as unwilling proxies or “Botnet nodes” at one time or another. Masking one’s true IP address is a trivial affair.

    “The only way to solve this issue is for Governments to create laws on the use of this data and create data expiration dates.”

    Agreed, but that won’t stop people breaking the law anyway, so you’ll still need to take proactive measures to protect your own privacy. And by breaking the law, I’m not just talking about companies sharing your data without authorization, I’m also talking about hackers taking it by force (e.g. Sony).

    Both companies and their customers need to get more serious about privacy and security issues.

  • Homer

    @Sling Trebuchet

    Sorry, I seem to have attributed one of your comments to RE Vernon.

    But in reply to your comment:

    “Minor perhaps would be the inability to rent an apartment or contract for services because of a lack of credit history etc.”

    I’ve lived very privately (and very remotely) for most of my life, so I’m not only used to it, but in fact I can’t imagine living any other way. I’m lucky in that I inherited many of those things for which people usually need some form of identification, and thus my details have rarely ever been entered into records, and when they were it was usually fake information. I lead a full and happy life, and I’m not deprived of anything, so I have nothing to complain about.

    Granted, my circumstances are not common, at least not in most “developed” countries, but it does offer me a rather unique opportunity to do things – mostly for others – that I might not otherwise have been able to.

    Unfortunately I cannot possible be a sock-puppet for the entire human race, or even for every Google+ subscriber, so ultimately those people will have to look after their own privacy.

    I just hope they have the means to do so.

  • RE Vernon

    It doesn’t seem like many people at all to me. It seems like one person with a lot of roads leading back to Scotland. But this is the Internet so if you say it’s many people I guess it’s true…

    All this is really pointless though. You say that you’re untraceable and I say you’re not. We’re just talking around each other and getting off the subject.

    Look at all a person would have to go through to stay off the radar. They could do everything you do + some and slip up just once. When they slip up, everything they did under their fake identity gets linked.

    I say your fake identity(ies) give you a false sense of security. It’s just like criminals who don’t ever think they’re going to get caught. If they knew they’d get caught they wouldn’t do it.

  • Skud Post author

    Homer and RE Vernon, could you please take this discussion to your own blogs or another forum? It’s taking over this thread and has passed the point of usefulness to other readers.

  • Anomalous

    Seems to me the fastest way to algorithmically validate “real names” is to crossreference to other consumer marketing data; if you match up they know who you are, and if not then they want you to better identify yourself. Inference as to why this is so important to them is left to the reader.

  • Gremlin

    They don’t seem to want to validate anyone. Personally, I linked them to my profile at facebook.com [reportedly good enough on its own], my primary site, some of my secondary sites, a book I’ve got up at amazon.com…the guy I had telling me to just use my real name was being professionally obtuse.

    In the end, I dared him to tell me what my real name is, if not Gremlin. Now he’s hiding from me.

  • Tzctinfo

    That is the kind of life many of us chose to lead: we want to control as much as possible who from the net has access to us in real life (as much as people insist that Social Networks are part of real life, they actually aren’t)

    I thick many of the boxes of the guy above, and I want to keep it that way.

  • Tzctinfo

    Why should any random nobody should be able to pick and chose names from a website (any website) in the knowledge that the website’s host has done the hard work of forcing people to drop their privacy? He can now proceed to steal or use fraudulently people’s identity with impunity.

    Also the nothing to hide brigade are easy to defeat. So you have nothing to hide: then would you be so kind to name your children and their schools?

    I would know your name, I would know your children’s names, I would know your address, maybe your place of work, I would be half way to cause you harm.

    What about your medical records? Or you will never talk about your illnesses in G+ then?

    Or your political biases? Wait, we discovered you are a Republican, oooopsie, all your neighbours, which otherwise like you, are Democrats or Greens or whatever, and you wanted to keep a lid on that.

    And of course we have far more interesting and legitimate situations.

    Everybody has something to hide, unfortunately people that ever realize this do so only when it is too late.

  • DavidG

    Interesting stuff.

    The BBC just shut down their Ouch! disability issues board, telling everyone they should go use Facebook or Twitter instead (Beeb really haven’t been keeping up to speed technically and have been leaned on to cut their web activities). As Ouch! users like me repeatedly pointed out to them, part of the reasons Ouch! was so valuable to many disabled people was the ability to post pseudonymously (in fact it was BBC policy that users should not reveal contact details). That meant that people felt safe in discussing the most intimate aspects of their disability, or their experience of abuse, or discrimination in the workplace, the street or at home. They could retain their anonymity and privacy from anyone trying to track them via their ‘real’ name, but still retain the ability to be a known person in a community. What made the Ouch! recommendations to use Facebook particularly ridiculous, if not downright insulting, was that their own columnist, Disability Bitch, had already had her own Facebook page deleted for not having a ‘real’ name.

    Facebook, and now it appears Google+, simply don’t offer that protection of pseudonymity that some people need to be able to access social media, and for some disabled people, as well as members of other minorities, that’s going to mean they are simply unusable. And when it comes down to it, that’s discrimination.

  • Sling Trebuchet

    So Robert Scoble had a chat with his old friend Vic Gundotra (now Google VP) on the 25th.
    Gundotra “says that he is trying to make sure a positive tone gets set here. Like when a restaurant doesn’t allow people who aren’t wearing shirts to enter.”

    I was in a restaurant last night.
    Robert De Niro was at the next table.
    I was feeling a bit uncomfortable because
    (1) I had to wear a shirt over my designer dress
    (2) De Niro was in a tee-shirt and not a collared shirt – and I thought that this lowered the tone a bit.
    However, Robert – or rather, Bob – he *insisted* that I call him Bob was perfectly charming. I tweeted all my friends about dining with Bob. I didn’t mention his down-market attire though.

    Someone mentioned Sting above. I’m sure that he would be able to sign up with G+ as Sting – because he’s like really, really famous.
    I hope he does sign up, because that will train the Google system that ‘Sting’ is a normal name. That way, I might be able to sign up as Sting Trebuchet rather than normal-but-probably-nukable Sling Trebuchet.
    It would be nice to have a plausible name that is close to my real name.
    I don’t know if Randi Zukerberg has even the remotest chance of getting a G+ account. NO WAY is that a real name! Where I come from, people would fall about laughing. It sounds like a guy playing a cheap/free whore avatar in a Second Life brothel.

    Anyway, good luck with signing up as Skud.
    I do feel that you will have to to something to raise more widespread recognition of the name – like making a lot of movies or blowing up the Golden Gate bridge.
    Do that and I’m sure you’ll be able to get into G+.

    At this stage however, I have the feeling that a more useful outcome would be that you would be able to get into posh restaurants without having to wear a shirt – or indeed, anything at all.

  • Sling Trebuchet

    I’ve just heard that Google are suspending accounts if the person in the profile photo is not wearing a shirt.

    How to get into G+ :-
    1) Choose an ordinary name. Any name will do. Google have no way of actually checking.
    2) Find a photo with a shirt. Google can analyse images automatically.

  • Sling Trebuchet

    Sorry :)

    It was a creative build on Scoble’s assertion that Vic Gundotra “says that he is trying to make sure a positive tone gets set here. Like when a restaurant doesn’t allow people who aren’t wearing shirts to enter.”

    Since Google have absolutely no way of confirming millions of names, the tone is set by disallowing names that ‘look a bit shirtless’.

    Checking that people are ‘wearing shirts’ in their profile photos would be a more dependable way of maintaining the superficial appearances/tone.

    Basically, checking for shirts in photos would be as sane as the standard name checking (e.g. Chinese names) to date.

    In short (shirt?), I made it up.
    When Google adopt the measure, I was a cut of the profits.

  • Skud Post author

    Ah, ok! I know that you can report people for “nudity” and that both Facebook and Livejournal have had similar policy disputes over profile pictures that show mothers breastfeeding, so it seemed all too plausible!

  • Sling Trebuchet

    But to be more serious about the insanity, I have a strong suspicion that when Google review an account, the vibe that they get from the profile photo is a factor in their decision.

    The person – whose real name could be anything no matter what they say it is – could be a consummate professional or a serial killer.
    The only control that Google can exercise is purely on the appearances. It’s all very superficial. This is going to be a very subjective exercise for the Google drone involved.

    There would be a psychological pressure on the drone to err on the side of caution in this.

  • Bastard Sheep

    What if we do want to use it?

    The point of the site (to consumers at least, even if not to Google) is to be able to enrich social circles that already exist. For me, by not being able to use “Bastard Sheep” (or Bastrd Sheep on MyFace) means I cannot enrich already existing social circles, I have to start brand new ones under the name on my drivers license, which is one barely anybody knows me by.

    Fortunately for me I set up my Google Profile a long time ago so haven’t had to touch the name field. This along with the fact I haven’t been reported (yet) means my G+ profile is still active.

  • RueGinger

    I actually know a Bill Gates, just not “the Bill Gates”. It is one of those common names out there.

  • Max

    Even better – just call then your ‘real name’. The thing that is on your government-issued ID is your ‘wallet name’, which may or may not correspond to the name you actually use.

  • N i e l s

    @ Sling Trebuchet,

    I don’t think it has to do with the vibe, cause my profile was all friendly, family oriented, with a real picture. And on top of that, I’ve was all pro google :P

    They just didn’t like the first name only, even if thats your real first name, it seems to help naught…

    I wait and wish for some open source social site for people who aren’t trying to be anonymous to people they talk to, but who do want to remain anonymous to the zillion cheesy companies other creeps that will grab all your data if its easy enough to do.

  • Dave from The Longest Way Home

    I had a Google profile set up last year sometime. Not a problem using “Dave from The Longest Way Home” which everyone knows me on line as (My personal website being thelongestwayhome.com

    Once I went into G+ and started getting people circling me etc, it triggered something and I got the suspended note.

    I replied back asking why? Took them one week to say it was a name violation. Same boat as everyone else basically.

    My about page narrates why I list myself as “Dave from The Longest Way Home”

    I could lie, set up another profile as Joe Blogs, or simply go down to a market and have a fake ID made up. Which in Asia, where I am currently traveling, is not an issue.

    However, the fact that Google just comes along and slaps a “suspended” notice, and just points to a page of vague policy violations is what worries me for future usage.

    What if I photograph a cultural significant Hindu statue in Nepal and it shows genitalia, will I also get suspended, or booted out altogether?

    Based on that, I will not be using G+ until such time as they make an amendment to this situation.

    I will however, be following your story along to see how it fares out.

  • Bob Cat

    They suspended me yesterday.

    I reported a spammer, and when I checked my profile a minute later, I had been suspended. I am wondering if this is a coincidence.

    I have appealed, giving them my whitepages listing [I have a landline, and am in the phonebook] and my facebook page. It was [is?] actually illegal to have a false name in the phonebook in my state – the listings were supposed to be solely for facilitating contact with actual persons and organizations. Sound familiar?

    The telco employee who told me this 15 years ago read me the relevant section of the rules, and this is a real quote: “For instance, a subscriber may not use the name ‘Snow White’…”

    There are currently dozens of Snow Whites on Google+. I wonder if any of them are in the phone book?

  • Bob Cat

    +Bob Cat has been reinstated. It was 24 hours of HELL! ;)

    By the way, I never did get mail saying I was suspended, which I think they promised they would do.

    I’m still wondering who might have reported me, there are lots of mean people on the ‘net.

    If everyone started reporting everyone else, it might slow down the kickbanning. Consider this a call to slacktion, a click-in if you will. Feel free to reshare+ if you’ve not been banned.

  • kevix

    I have accts on fb and diaspora. i’m hoping more folks will move to diaspora. If skud or some other folks want Diaspora invites, I have 10 left. You get 10 when you join. I’m waiting to see how all the cool folks get this resolved. Diaspora has many features that seems to have been ‘borrowed’ by g+, well with the exception of the policy for using ‘real names’ :) they even have a text field for gender.

  • N i e l s

    Would love an invite to Diaspora… (stormchanter at gmail)

    Diaspora is that open source project, right? I don’t think I want Google as my social gate keeper, the way they are playing this; unhelpful, uncommunicative, selfish and without a basic understanding of what they’re doing, is what it looks like…

    I always liked Google for doing some projects that weren’t just for making more money…
    But at the same time, for all the engineering power, they can be so unbelievably sloppy, like the Android source code headers, and not thinking copyright through… I know some 3-man shops that are more careful… And the Google+ ‘real name’ concept is obviously just as sloppy with millions of people with identical names in the world.

    Get yourself a sloppiness prevention team, Google…

  • Lyndon

    “unhelpful, uncommunicative, selfish and without a basic understanding of what they’re doing, is what it looks like…”

    Are you kidding? I’ve never before had direct contact with so many Googlers who’s been very helpful, understanding and certainly seem to know what they’re doing.

    With Diaspora you will get that little bit more freedom, but what you loose is the energy and levels of engagement currently on G+. Diaspora (good as it is) is positively dead compared to G+

  • N i e l s

    Lyndon, you’re mixing up 2 different things…

    Yes, the individual people at Google are great…

    1) unhelpful
    But lets say you have a problem of any kind, (like getting suspended) and you can’t contact some nice individual you know at google: you’re stuck with getting form letters and copy+pastes that don’t even remotely answer your inquiry.

    2) uncommunicative
    Google hasn’t put any statement on how it will resolve all the people who have identical names, nor does it answer to inquiries from the media… if you’re outside of the garden wall, there’s no other thing you can call it.

    3) selfish
    The real names policy is of course to make the data more valuable to advertisers, connect our names to credit headers etc… Enable the most modern form of redlining yet as a trivial side effect…

    4) without basic understanding
    How will all those people you find in the phone book with the same name sign up with their real name? There’s millions and million sharing identical first and last names.

    let me add one more:

    5) brazen
    Figuring they can ignore or lobby away European privacy laws requiring providers of just such services as Google+ to allow anonymity.

    Of course all that doesn’t make them any worse than all the other cheesy corporations vying to be in control and make a dollar. I still like Google better than Apple, Oracle, Microsoft and Monsanto.

    Its just the same thing as everywhere… when you can address people individually, they’re mostly reasonable, helpful and pleasant. Once you have to address a large organization of people, that’s all gone.

    How do you think it is, that most of the individuals you ever meet are great, yet humanity as a whole is a nightmare expending most of the worldwide GDP on arms to fight over things, instead of just sharing stuff…

    Basically, your statement isn’t contradicting mine, you’re just standing in a better spot than some others :P

  • David Gerard

    Lyndon – really? I ‘ve found far too many of the Googlers who’ve commented on the problems to be evasive as hell. Ridiculously so. There are obvious reasons for this, of course, but it’s absolutely not the behaviour one would expect from a formerly-clueful company. It’s as if someone in Google management has decided the human interactions components of the Cluetrain Manifesto are a problem to be engineered around.

  • Sling Trebuchet

    Perhaps you could list the contact details of those Googlers here, so that they will have the opportunity to be directly helpful to millions of people outside the walls. That would be great!

    Maybe Google+ was the best thing that ever happened to Diaspora.
    Google+ shook the social networking tree. It got many people questioning the status quo for privacy – and the motivations behind it. It got people thinking about alternatives to the incumbents.
    Perhaps Google’s actual threat to FaceBook is that it will begin to move people from there to Diaspora.

  • Lyndon

    Yes and I agree and can understand your frustration. I did once try and get hold of someone at Google because I deleted my account and then wanted it back. Ran into the “username’s are lost forever, once deleted” issue. Really had me upset too and still hate that policy. However, I’ve moved on and have a new username now. Point is there will always be policies and issues like this when dealing with corporations, we can’t hate it but it’s less agro and stress to just move on.

    (point 3) I don’t thing they are evil or greedy or selfish for insiting on real names. Advertising pays for all of this, no big deal. We get something out of this too.

    (point 4) Just make a selection of details mandatory and public on the profile pages. Your photo should go a long way.

    (point 5) Perhaps this is why they will allow what ‘looks’ like a real name, this way they can still claim that people can be anonymous on G+. Just to keep it within that law. To be honest I’m not au fait with this law so don’t can’t really criticise it one way or the other. I just like the idea of knowing that you know who I am and vice verse (on G+).

  • Lyndon

    David – good to run into someone who’s actually read the Cluetrain Manifesto :-) But clearly we have a different experiences of Google. So much so that I can be classified as a fanboy. I actually find them quite good in relation to some aspects of the said manifesto. Not perfect, but better than most. They say and admit it when they make mistakes. All of your data is yours to do as I like. And you can criticize them publicly without them removing your comments, they will even respond. You may not always like their responses, but they at least they respond a lot more than they might have. (compare to Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and others)

  • Lyndon

    They are all over G+, I think they are being encouraged to engage with us. I’ve been hoping that Diaspora would be the Facebook alternative and that’s way I joined it. But to date I’ve managed to convince a total of 2 of my 200 FB friends to joing it and they hated it.

  • Sling Trebuchet

    Lyndon, on your (point 4) and (point 5) comments to Niels …

    Things like names and photos ‘looking’ normal, combined with
    1) No guaranteed way of confirming these are true
    2) Google implying that they are true
    …are a scammer/stalker/abuser dream.
    Goggle are making social engineering easier for the bad-minded.

    All this fuss about suspending suspected false accounts tends to create an entirely false and dangerous belief that someone is more trustworthy simply because it’s a Google+ account.

    One reason that ‘abnormal’ or gibberish names are associated with scammers and spammers is that serial account creators have a problem with any platform in which the unique ID is plastered alongside any content they originate. They can’t be ‘trustworthy’ John Smith. They would expend time and risk detection if they attempt JohnSmith, JohnSmith1, JohnSmith2,……..JohnSmith1984. So (as an extreme example) they go for JS25yjr9ifgtr to achieve the required ID uniqueness.

    Google+ is great for them.
    a) The name that everyone sees on their content does not have to be unique.
    b) The vanilla flavour of the name is Google+ whispering “trussssssst my precious”

    I can understand that you “like the idea of knowing that you know who I am and vice verse (on G+).”
    It would be nice perhaps, but it’s a fantasy.
    That might or might not be your true photo beside your comments. Facial recognition software and a huge pool of photos might find that face under other labels. tineye.com can only find the truly lazy fakers.

    Lyndon might or might not be your true full name.
    It doesn’t matter. Your comments are just as worthy of consideration no matter what handle you use. I can engage in discussion with you as an intellect.

    If it should come about that we were moved to make contact off-line, then true identity information becomes necessary, particularly if a meeting in person is in question.
    If all people are doing is discussing ideas, then true identity is probably more of a barrier than an aid. It would be a barrier due to preconceptions and prejudices, even if the effect might be slight.

    If some entity presents us with information on which we will act, then it it is up to ourselves to evaluate the worth of that based on our experience of the person and the environment. Some name and a photo of some person won’t be of any help.

    It could be that many people are already in Google+ under assumed ‘normal’ names chosen so as to avoid suspicion. I wouldn’t be worried about that unless they are using the account for abuse.

    It could be that people have put up a photo of somebody else so as to appear ‘normal’ while still not revealing their true image. Now *that* is truly evil. That sort of person should be boiled in oil. This even if they had not considered the possibility that it could wreck someone’s life, and did it ‘just to get in’.

    (( Just to absolutely clear – I’m not suggesting that you are anything other than the image you present))

  • David Gerard

    @Sling – “It could be that people have put up a photo of somebody else so as to appear ‘normal’ while still not revealing their true image.”

    Tangentially, something I’ve noticed: I recognise G+ adds not necessarily by their chosen G+ WASPonym, but by their icon more than anything else.

    (Can’t wait till someone at G+ thinks of suspending accounts because they don’t like the icon. Someone want to suggest it to them?)

  • Sling Trebuchet

    I did suggest above that a ‘shirtless’ photo would be part of the Google-droid evaluation of an account.

    If the name has to conform to the tone, then it should follow that the image be similarly unchallenging.

    There may be room for a new breed of Internet help books
    “How to look just like everyone else on the Net”
    “Same is the new Different”

  • Sling Trebuchet

    Posters for a new Net
    http://botgirl.blogspot.com/2011/08/google-slogan-poster-01.html
    http://botgirl.blogspot.com/2011/08/google-slogan-poster-02.html
    http://botgirl.blogspot.com/2011/08/google-slogan-poster-03.html

    Googthink is plusgood

    “It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself–anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face…; was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime…”
    - George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 5

    Facecrime! That’s it. Name and photo must look normal.
    Google Plus are penalising facecrime.

  • Bob Cat

    I got suspended again, 1 day after I was resinstated. Again no warning by email. Google+ is seeming pretty useless to me now. Will I have to file an appeal every day?

  • Lyndon

    Sling, actually suggested the photo as a way for us the users to distinguish between two or more names that are similar. How exactly doe that make Google Big Brother?

  • fluffy

    BTW, it sounds like there might be a San Francisco community of jilted former Google+ users. If there are any official meetings, feel free to let me in on them. ;)

  • Sling Trebuchet

    Dave Gerard (for example – above) uses an image that distinguishes him. The image that I use is also distinctive.
    Both would be far more noticeable then our text names for anyone scanning a page.
    Other examples above.
    Such images can be more helpful than photos for the purpose. The photograph that you use currently would not be so distinctive – in particular because of the contrast/brightness. I have seen many photos like that.
    The requirement is for a visual cue. That does not have to be a passport photo.

    On the other hand, someone who knows me off-line but was not familiar with a habitually used image of mine, and was searching for me by name to find me for the very first time in G+ would find a passport-type photo useful to remove ambiguity from a list of matching names.

    Finding me like that is actually a bit creepy. It smells of stalking.

    *The easiest way for someone who knows me off-line to find me on any service is to ask me for the ID that I use.* That is the way of integrity, honesty, openness and respect.

    What about a person who actually knows me off-line but for some reason has no way of contacting me other than hoping that I might possibly have a G+ account? They don’t even appear to have any contacts with anyone mutually known.
    Do they actually “know” me at all?

    Why should I put up my photo for any random nutter in the world to stalk me – simply to facilitate someone a bit less nutty and who does not actually know me to find me?

    The Big Brother came into the photo thing by way of a theory that Google’s review of an account should logically include an assessment of the Profile photo/image in addition to the name. Gundotra wants to “set a tone” according to Scoble.
    Some faceless unaccountable entity is setting out to ensure that nobody appears “funny” in G+. For now there is a huge emphasis on the superficial, to the exclusion of activity.

  • Quintessence

    I am an African-American woman, and I tell ya…..we have some very interesting names. What’s gonna happen when Ja’Queesha Shonteena puts her name in for bid @ Google+? Or maybe Prince Mayor. These are actual names that possibly could not be a part of the Plus community (without a hassle)?

    I was also suspended and am appealing. I thought I was trying to join a social community, not sign up for a government position with the CIA. I use my business label name for all networking. For privacy reasons I choose not to use my real name, as I do not choose to be “found.”

    Although I enjoyed it immensely, maybe Google+ just isn’t for me. I did appeal the suspension, however I have NO intentions of kissing their ass to be a part of that community. I’ll stick with what I know – Twitter.

  • Spyk Amera

    Lots of extremely useful information disclosed on here – thanks, everyone. One thing I remain puzzled about though. Are we talking about google.org, the brave altruistic non-profit community of open source social-libertarian freedom fighters, or are we talking about google.com, the most explosively profitable money-making capitalist machine in the history of humanity?

    ;)

  • Jermaine Sky

    I feel you man, my new default search provider is Bing! This is now becoming ludacris, they can keep their search engine -1 me.

  • seebs

    Hi! I’m seebs. Yes, I have another name, but this is what people call me. This is what my spouse calls me. It’s what my coworkers call me. It’s what my therapist called me. The only living person who knows me personally and calls me something else is my mom, and she is allowed to call me by the name she used before I could talk. (I really can’t call that a grandfather exception, though, can I?)

    The current policy of Google+ is simple: Some people are allowed to use the service and follow the described rules if they want to. Other people can do so only if they are willing to risk violence or abuse. This is okay, because the latter category is mostly minorities, such as trans people.

    I personally wish they’d correct this idiotic policy BEFORE someone gets killed because of it, but I somehow doubt that will happen.

  • Dr. J Dallas

    I know Google is the top dog in everything but I actually think the Google plus is going to be a massive failure. It’s not catching on like they want it to and it’s really just being abused by spammers.

  • robert

    Google also shuts down android apps without notice or explanation.

    They backed down here because g+ is small and they want it to grow but look what happens when they get big like android.

    Forget the hard working developers, they have amp’d their borg behavour 1e100x.

    This should be a warning on too much dependence with an opaque private company thats answers to no one.

    They can pretty much destroy your online identity and your ability to function online at will.

    Like the credit report agencies, we need a consumer identity protection act to 1) allow consumers to request their personal information/profile/graph, 2) require warning and reason prior to terminating services, and finally, 3) allow consumers to correct in-accurate information in their databases.

    Rob

  • Dana

    I just got suspended from google+ for violating their name policy too…..umm…ok….I didn’t know my real name, really wasn’t my name. Totally ridiculous and there is no way I am sending my personal id to them. Looks like I won’t be using the service. I am also so shocked Google would even have this policy, they have always struck me has a forward thinking company and this just doesn’t feel forward to me.

  • Lee

    I work for a company and I mistakenly clicked on the Google+ “feature.” My previous profile name was “flagged” as a violation because it was the company name. Consequently, I put in my own name in order to get it working again. I’m just an employee of this company but now I “represent” this company.

    Can I be sued by my company for taking over the representation of the company?

    I heard they are going to role out a Business version of Google+ but what can I do until then?

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