Google+ names policy, explained

I’ve been talking to anyone and everyone about what’s going on with Google+’s names policy, and thought it was well past time to write up my best understanding of the situation. I was going to say “I’m no expert”, but actually, I probably know more about this than just about anyone outside of Google (and perhaps more than them), and the Googlers aren’t speaking. So, here’s what I know.

The following information is gathered from user reports, public statements by Google+ staff, and a variety of unofficial/backchannel discussions I’ve been involved in. I’m not going to cite every assertion here, because many of them were given to me privately (eg. by affected users who forwarded their communications with support), so you’re just going to have to take it on trust that I’m not pulling this out of my arse.

In any case, I hope this provides some clarity as to what’s happening, and helps with our ongoing discussions around the G+ “nymwars”.

Table of contents


The policy as written

Google+’s Content policy, aka “Community standards”, says:

13. Display Name

To help fight spam and prevent fake profiles, use the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you. For example, if your full legal name is Charles Jones Jr. but you normally use Chuck Jones or Junior Jones, either of those would be acceptable.

Additionally, on the page Your name and Google Profiles they say:

Use your full first and last name in a single language.
If you use your full name, you’ll help people find you online and connect with the right person. Note that professional titles such as “Dr.” or “Prof.” aren’t allowed in the first or last name fields. If you’re referred to by more than one name, just choose one, and place the others in the “Other names” section of your profile.

Avoid unusual characters in your name.
When you create your profile, our system will check the name you submitted for unusual characteristics. For example, numbers, symbols, or obscure punctuation might not be allowed.

Your profile and name must represent one person.
Google Profiles doesn’t support profiles for couples or groups of people. Additionally, you can’t create a profile for a non-person entity such as a pet or business. Google may continue to allow existing profiles that don’t meet these criteria, as long as the profile names are unchanged.

Don’t use the name of another individual.
Impersonation is a serious issue. Pretending to be someone else could cause your profile to be deleted.

The difference between the two statements (one: “use the name you are commonly known by”; two: “… as long as it has exactly two parts in a single language, etc.”), and the problems with assuming that people are known only by one identifier to everyone they communicate with, are subjects for another post. I’ll just note that the language as written is not non-problematic, but I’ve included it here for reference.


The policy as implemented


What triggers suspension

Profile are flagged for review when one of the following triggers occurs:

  1. Another user flags your profile for any form of abuse, including but not limited to “fake profile”.
  2. You change the name in your profile to something that trips the automatic flagging system.

Note that “legacy” names — those carried across from profiles that predate Google+, or which were created very early in Google+’s public availability, seem to be “grandfathered” into the system, and don’t seem to be checked unless reported.

If you change your profile name, the following things seem to trigger the automatic flagging system:

  • Mononymity, i.e. having only one name (and having just a dot, or similar, in the “last name” field).
  • “Unusual characters”
    • Actually unusual characters, like a heart symbol (❤).
    • Punctuation marks, including quotation marks, parentheses, and possibly even hyphens and apostrophes.
  • Unusual capitalisation (including capitals appearing within a name, as in McWhatever)
  • Spaces in either part of your name, for instance “Marie Claire” as a first name.
  • Name using more than one character set, such as a name which uses the Latin character set for their first name and the Chinese character set for their last name.
  • Certain words, possibly including profanity, names of famous figures or deities, etc.
  • Professional titles such as Dr., Prof., etc.
  • Suffixes such as III or Jr.

The above is an incomplete list.


Stage 1 review

Once a profile is flagged as possibly violating the standards, it goes through a very basic review by a human (which I will call Stage 1 review — note this is not an official term, just what I’m calling it for convenience). The people involved in this are dealing with high volumes, are not well trained, and appear to have been instructed to err on the side of suspension of there is any doubt. They look briefly at a name, and if they think it is in violation, they will suspend the account.

In addition to the aforementioned things that can trigger an automatic flag, we’ve also seen the following types of names suspended presumably based on other users’ reports of abuse leading to Stage 1 review:

  • Names where both parts look like a given name, eg. “Blake Ross”
  • Names from other non-Western/non-WASP/etc cultures, eg. “Mohammed —” and Native American names
  • Names belonging to celebrities (Ariana Huffington, William Shatner) presumably thought to be impersonating the celebrities

In short, anything that “looks weird” to the poorly-trained operators working through thousands of flagged profiles may be suspended.


How you know your account is suspended

You will receive no notification by email or otherwise. Your Google+ homepage (i.e. your “stream”) will appear as normal. The symptoms of a suspended account are:

  • You can’t post anything, or comment. (Error message: “There was a problem saving your post. Please try again.”)
  • Your profile page has a message on it saying that you are suspended (see image below).

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 that this message is not visible from the mobile client (I tested on iPhone, and the mobile web version) so if you are using those clients, you may not easily be able to tell you’re suspended without asking a friend to check your profile for you.


What services are affected

When your account is suspended, the following are affected:

  • Google Profiles (useless)
    • Your profile page will return a 404 Not Found for anyone other than you.
    • You will not be able to export your profile via Google Takeout.
  • Plus One button (useless)
    • You can no longer +1 anything on third-party websites
  • Google Takeout (effectively useless)
    • The only download available to you is “contacts”, which gives you a .vcf file per circle, providing links to each user’s G+ profile and email addresses by cross-correlating with your GMail contacts.
  • Google Plus (effectively useless)
    • You will not be able to post.
    • You will not be able to comment in reply to others’ posts.
    • You will not be able to join hangouts (for a while you could, but they fixed this loophole).
    • You will not be able to join huddles (ditto?).
    • Other people will not be able to +mention you in a post or comment.
    • Other people will see you in their circles as “email only”. They can share something with you that way, and you’ll get an email suggesting you join Google Plus (yeah, thanks.)
    • You can add people to your circles, but they will not receive notifications. (This appears to be a mild privacy glitch.)
    • You will not be able to export your stream or +1’s via Google Takeout
    • Account settings page is blank, no error message
    • Note: You can still do a few things, including reading your stream, adding people to your circles, and sending feedback.
  • Google Buzz (effectively useless)
    • You will not be able to post
    • You will not be able to comment on others’ posts
    • You will not be able to export your Buzz via Google Takeout
  • Google Reader (partially affected)
    • You cannot share posts. You will get a message saying, “Oops, an error occurred. Please try again in a few seconds.”
    • Older shared posts lose their comments
  • Picasa (partially affected)
    • Uploading via Picasaweb works, but when it tries to redirect you to the album you created, you get “404 Not found”
    • You will not be able to export your Picasa albums using Google Takeout
    • (anyone got details of more? I’m not a heavy Picasa user.)
  • Google Groups (slightly affected)
    • will not show your profile information and you will receive a warning to that effect

Additionally, by not having access go Google+, you will be at a relative disadvantage with respect to Google Search results.


Are people losing access to all Google services?

Some people have reported losing access to all logged-in Google services including email, calendar, docs, even Android phone features. This seems to occur when an account is suspended for supposedly-more-serious Terms of Service violations, however, people like GrrlScientist have experienced this and have no reason to believe they violated anything other than the names policy.

This was claimed to be a “bug” and we were told that they would fix it. Here’s what Google’s VP of Product, Bradley Horowitz, said on July 25th:

MYTH: Not abiding by the Google+ common name policy can lead to wholesale suspension of one’s entire Google account.

When an account is suspended for violating the Google+ common name standards, access to Gmail or other products that don’t require a Google+ profile are not removed. Please help get the word out: if your Google+ Profile is suspended for not using a common name, you won’t be able to use Google services that require a Google+ Profile, but you’ll still be able to use Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Blogger, and so on. (Of course there are other Google-wide policies (e.g. egregious spamming, illegal activity, etc) that do apply to all Google products, and violations of these policies could in fact lead to a Google-wide suspension.)

The frequency of these incidents seems to have slowed in the last week, but some accounts in this situation have not been restored, so this is still an issue.


Submitting your profile for “reconsideration”

Once you’ve realised that your account has been suspended, you may see a link saying that you can “submit your profile for reconsideration”. Botgirl Questi documents this. No evidence is required — you simply click a link.

As far as I can tell, this simply causes the human reviewers to take a second look. I’m calling this Stage 1.5 review.

Some people have reported that at this stage they are required to enter a phone number for verification of their account. It is unclear what this is meant to prove, nor whether this number is stored and used for anything else.


Submitting evidence for Stage 2 review

Other people see a link to a form to fill out, which leads to what I call Stage 2 review. This is an interactive process, as opposed to the previous stages of review, where you wouldn’t hear anything at all from support.

(It’s unclear why some people get the “reconsideration” link and others get the “fill in a form” link.)

If you make it to the form, here’s what it looks like:

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 name, please fill out the form below.

The form asks for:

  • Name (required)
  • Email (required)
  • Profile URL (required)
  • Photo ID (optional): “Attach a copy of your ID with your name and photo clearly visible. You can block out other personal information. Your ID will only be used to verify your name and will be deleted after review.”
  • Links on the web (optional): “Please provide us with a link to a reputable website where you are referred to by this name. Examples include Facebook, LinkedIn, a school or university student directory, or a news article.”


What it takes to get your profile restored

As far as I am aware, the following will result in having your profile restored fairly promptly:

  1. Your name is a simple, Western-style two part name, eg. Jane Smith and,
  2. You submit your government ID that shows exactly the same name, or a close approximation of it, or,
  3. You submit a link to a Facebook or LinkedIn profile that shows exactly the same name as you use on Google+, or a close approximation of it.

No other combination of factors is guaranteed (or even likely) to get your profile restored promptly.

(Note: I have not yet heard of any successful cases of people using a school directory, and have seen definite evidence of news articles not be accepted.)


What won’t get you restored

The following situations will not get your profile promptly restored, but rather, will most likely lead to (at best) back-and-forth with support and (at worst) refusal to reinstate your account:

  • You have a name which is not a simple, Western-style two-part name. For instance, the legally mononymous Sai and the unusually named 3ric Johanson, both of whose names appear as such on their government-issued ID, initially had trouble getting their names accepted by support.
  • You have a nickname, pen name, pseudonym, handle, or other alias which you use instead of your legal name. No amount of documentation of the fact that you use the name in daily life and are known by it by the majority of your acquaintance will suffice.
    • Exception: major celebrities such as Lady Gaga, 50 Cent, T-Pain, and Soulja Boy seem to be exempted from this.
    • Exception: a small handful of non-famous people seem to have managed to get exceptions through direct contact through friends at Google, but this route has dried up since the mass suspensions of July 20-somethingth.
  • You include a short form, nickname, or alternate name in your Google+ name. This will seldom be accepted, even if it matches your Facebook or LinkedIn profile. (See Allen “Prisoner” Firstenberg in comments below, or the case of Bernhard “ben” Tremblay.) You will be told to put this in the “nickname” field in your profile, not include it in your visible name. You may be able to achieve a workaround by removing the quotation marks, though no instances of this have been documented recently.
  • A Facebook or LinkedIn profile that does not match closely based on the first/last name. For instance if you are “Skud .” on Google+, and “Kirrily Robert (Skud)” on Facebook, that is not considered sufficient match.
    • Match is based on only on first/last name, not “aka” or other names shown.
    • The URL of your Facebook profile page doesn’t count for anything either.

The following types of evidence are documented as having been refused by Google Profiles Support:

  • Accounts on social networking or blogging sites other than Facebook or LinkedIn (eg. Twitter, LiveJournal).
  • Publications under the name you use (eg. links to a book on Amazon or to major/mainstream websites that have published you under that name).
  • Public appearances under the name you use (eg. conference speakers who appear under that name in conference proceedings).
  • Credits under that name for musical works, film and television, etc.
  • Testimonials from employers, parents, cohabitants, or anyone else who knows you by that name, regardless of the number or sincerity of them.
  • Newspaper articles quoting or referring to the person by that name.


They really want government ID

Attempts to prove that you are using “the name you are known by” by any means other than those listed (as “optional” and “examples”) on the review form will be met with a response insisting that you send government ID:

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 [whatever] 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.

(emphasis mine)

So in short, although government ID is listed as “optional”, attempts to use anything other than a limited handful of types of evidence will result in them insisting on government ID.

On July 29th, Google+ community manager, Natalie Villalobos, wrote in comments here:

In this case, +aestetix aestetix is correct: providing a government ID is an optional part of the Common Names process and our reviewer is incorrect when he says that he needs a government issued ID to confirm the name. We are adjusting our process to prevent confusion about this in the future.

However, many accounts are still suspended and people are still being asked to provide government ID.


Profile reinstatement

If your profile is reinstated, you will receive an email that says:

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.

(emphasis mine)

Your profile and access to all Google+ and related features should be immediately restored.


The black hole

Certain questions or behaviours can land you in the “black hole”, where support refuses to communicate with you in any way. These include:

  • Refusing to give Government ID when prompted, or asking why your other evidence was not accepted.
  • Refusing to rename your account to what they think it should be. If they think your “common” name is Foo Bar, but you continue to insist that you are primarily known as Baz.
  • Any repeated contact, after about three back-and-forth iterations.
  • Any request to escalate to a support supervisor.
  • Any rudeness or incivility whatsoever, including frustrated snarkiness.

Due to the nature of the black hole, it’s hard to tell exactly what gets you put there, but the above seem to be common factors.


Re-suspension

If your name is finally approved and your profile reinstated, you are not out of the woods. No flag is set saying “this name is approved”, and you may be re-suspended at any moment.


Other mis-communications

Support may claim that you have:

  • Changed the name on your profile since they last looked at it
  • Deleted your profile

… when you have done no such thing.


Updates etc.

I’m hoping to keep this updated with the my understanding of what’s going on. If you know of anything I’ve missed, or have other examples, please get in touch.

Changelog:

  • 2011-08-04, 6:30pm: Added “reconsideration”, aka “stage 1.5″
  • 2011-08-04, 7pm: Added notes on “nicknames” as middle names, h/t Allen “Prisoner” Firstenberg (in comments below)
  • 2011-08-08, 1pm: Expanded section discussing effects on various services, added section on phone verification, removed reference to Hong Kong naming conventions (apparently I was confused about that)


65 thoughts on “Google+ names policy, explained

  • Eric TF Bat

    I changed my name on my G+ profile from the one about a dozen people know me by (which appears on my driver’s license) to the one that literally thousands of people know me by. Oddly, the natty black header bar on the iGoogle homepage varies, apparently randomly, as to which name it shows, and my GMail still has my “legal” name in the From line. There seem to be some bugs in how this is all handled, above and beyond the entitled white-boy bigotry of the colorborg’s policy makers.

  • Sling Trebuchet

    It sounds like Google have recruited some people who were sacked by the TSA because they caused rioting at airports.

    Someone will be in to say that most(all?) Europeans would be breaking the law if they send a copy of their passport to someone. The passport is the property of their government.

    The apparent insanity must be down to fear.
    The droids fear that they will be nuked if they let something suspect through. Far better to err on the side of extreme caution.
    Management are completely paralysed because they know that once they admit that the name-vetting is impossible to scale up – nevermind do properly even at a relatively low volume – then the whole game is up.

    Geeks! and marketing muppets … Pfft

  • Wizard Gynoid

    you missed a step. the first indicator that there was a problem was a notification to me that “there is unusual activity on your account.” i had no access to the account and i had to confirm the account by providing a valid phone number to be used for either a text message or voice communication. there seemed to be no way around providing the phone number, which i finally provided. a bot then called my number and left a numeric code which i then had to enter into a box. once i entered this code, the account became accessible. shortly thereafter it was “suspended” for violating “Community Standards.” i then had the option of requesting a “review.” when i chose that option, the account moved to “Your profile is being reviewed.” it has been in this status for about two weeks now.

  • Allen "Prisoner" Firstenberg

    Skud,

    I can provide another data point, I think.

    I replied to the Stage 2 Review request with a link to facebook indicating that my name on facebook was essentially the same as my name on Google+. (Facebook wouldn’t let me use double quotes, so I used single quotes instead.) They continued to reject Allen “Prisoner” Firstenberg as a name, citing general policy. When I requested specifics (going point-by-point about why my name wasn’t in violation), they suggested in the letter I received as a reply that this was a “nickname” (their exact term) and should be in the Other names portion of the profile.

    It has been over 24 hours, and I haven’t received a reply to my response (providing references to Facebook, wikipedia, and other references going back over 5 years), and I suspect I’m now in limbo.

  • Zorin

    Does anyone know WHY Google is doing this? It seems odd that they would want to so badly alienate the first users of their new service.

    This has got people deleting their accounts before they even get suspended the first time! What’s the deal? Google has always been very much about freedom and doing what you like, and now they’re being total jerks about this.

  • Skud Post author

    Wizard, this is the only case I’ve heard of where someone’s been asked for phone verification. As I understand it, this is more usually done when they think someone’s been trying to hack your account. I suspect this is orthogonal to the names issue, unless I can find some other people who’ve had similar experiences.

  • The Raven

    “They really want government ID”

    That seems to be the bottom line. Some serious investigation and hard questions would seem to be in order.

  • Tablesaw

    I got my suspension yesterday, and my experience of “Stage 2″ differs a bit from what you’ve described here, and it may be the result of policy changing over time. After submitting the links for appeal (social networking, etc.), I received this message this morning:

    Hi,

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

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

    This is the only e-mailed communication I’ve received from them, so there has been no e-mailed request for a photo ID. Also, they have added text about resubmitting the profile.

    My response, as yet unanswered, is reproduced on my blog: http://tablesaw.dreamwidth.org/484324.html

  • The Raven

    “Does anyone know WHY Google is doing this?”

    I think they are being pressured by the government, probably Homeland Security, but perhaps other agencies. Remember that Google is a very large business and can be subject to many difficulties by a hostile government. Also, of course, their paying customers, the data miners, work very hard to attach any data they gather to bank accounts and so on. But the various security agencies buy data from the data miners, so it may not be an either or thing.

    Ever see a raven wear a tinfoil hat?

  • Sid

    Skud, the GrrlScientist post “Google’s gormless ‘no pseudonym’ policy” http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/punctuated-equilibrium/2011/jul/25/1 alludes to having to divulge a phone number:

    “Whilst I tried to learn what the problem was, this suspension created a communication blackout that affected my entire life. In the end, I was forced to give up my telephone number to Google so they could text me a numerical code that I could use to unlock my gmail account.

    Fortunately, at this point in my life, I have a personal telephone number — which I eventually and reluctantly provided to them in exchange for renewed access to my gmail account. But my G+ account remains locked and inaccessible, even now.”

  • Wizard Gynoid

    if someone had hacked my account and they got this message, then all they would have to do would be to provide a phone number to get a verification code. i don’t see how this action would verify that the account is mine. #fail

  • bunnyhero

    here’s an interesting case of a profile being recently reinstated that doesn’t seem to fit into anything listed above:

    Emory LaserWolf: https://plus.google.com/u/4/107808352053592539015/posts/MtawBEkSaCb

    a commenter asks: “how did you get your account back? what did you tell them?”
    Emory LaserWolf: “I have no idea. I just told them I considered it my real name.”

    [meta: i used to use my google profile URL in 'website' links for comment forms. i can't now, thanks to the new name policies and my g+ account suspension]

  • Wizard Gynoid

    @janakyomoon posted this on twitter to confirm my account: “@wizardgynoid giving google a phone number as you posted was the only way i could get back into my google accounts when they suspended my g+”

  • Janni

    Bunnyhero,

    You might be pleased to know that Google+ keeps suggesting that I invite you to join.

    The irony. I lack the words to describe it.

  • Sling Trebuchet

    I have seen a number of reports of people being asked for a telephone number and receiving a code via text … to confirm their real name! Yes. Orthogonal or in layperson’s terms – Bonkers.

    It’s easy to see why this is happening.
    Google already had the infrastructure and widgets to do code confirmation via text message. This is for the two-step verification/login as well as for restoration of an account that had been compromised. http://www.google.com/support/accounts/bin/static.py?page=guide.cs&guide=1056283&topic=1056284

    For a droid in a hurry and/or wishing to be sanely helpful, pressing a button to initiate the automated account restoration is hugely more attractive than organising and dealing with images of ID documents – that could be photoshopped in any case.
    Initiating the automated telephone confirmation gets the droid off the hook – and it’s trouble-free for them.
    The game is to be seen to be trying to keep up appearances.

  • Imnotgoing Sideways

    My own situation was a week’s worth of non-communication. I first got the prompt to put in a phone number to get the code and pretty much reflexively did so. That got me as far as Gmail. Once I entered my profile site, I saw that I was suspended.

    I hit the dispute button and spent a week sending “Feedback” posts twice a day… Mostly out of boredom, but, I really did want my profile back. (-_-)

    After the week, I found myself re-suspended in the morning before going to work. Reflexively hit the dispute button again. And, within an hour, had full access to my Google content, profile, G+, Buzz. No contact, no email, no “sorry”, no legal ID, no legal name, just sort of pretend it never happened, I guess. (._.)

    Mind you, I have no qualms with providing my “real” identity, in spite of nobody knowing me as my given name. But, my one desire is that my legal identity is kept out of sight. Not because of any co-workers or family “finding out” anything. They all already know “Immy”. But, in consideration of the horror stories I’ve heard about online stalkers.

    At this point, Google has accepted that I’m most commonly known as Imnotgoing (Immy) Sideways. I’m pleased with the result but I count the days before they screw something up again. (T_T)

  • Some Random Nerd

    Why?

    My guess- search. If you want to find someone online, you don’t search in Google. You search in Facebook, LinkedIn etc. Google want to make sure that if you want to find someone (who wants to be found), that you do it in Google.

    From that starting point of profiles and circles, Google can build their social search product, build better and more consistent profiles for behavioural targeting and targeted advertising, integrate YouTube, Reader, Gmail etc.

    But it all starts with the name that people search for – that they would search for in Facebook or LinkedIn. (Hence using those as reference?)

    I guess they have made a decision to take a hard line- if people have two identities (an online and an offline name), they would probably default to the online one. Google want to be as sure as possible that Google+ is about the offline one.

    And at the end of the day, if you already have a strong online presence with a unique pseudonym, then Google’s search engine works fine for you already.

  • Emory LaserWolf

    It’s hilarious to me that someone ELSE posted what happened to me before I got a chance to!

    Anyway, yeah. I have no idea what worked, or why it happened. I got no email saying I was reinstated. The most interaction I ever had with anyone was some heated back-and-forths between me and some ironically anonymous Google person, where I explained to them that Emory LaserWolf is my real name, it is NOT on my ID, and I wouldn’t show them my ID anyway. I never got a response to my last email to them, which was like 5 days ago. I was hoping this meant that there had been a widespread reversal of policy, but that is obviously not the case. I am back on Google+, but I am NOT back on team Google.

  • Sidra Vitale

    The insistence on a government issued ID that they claim will be deleted immediately causes a situation rife with the possibility of identity theft, doesn’t it? I mean, come on, how many of us work in IT, or used to? We all know how easy it is for things NOT to be deleted. Backups, rollbacks, cron jobs that don’t work right, and the ever-popular “I’ll get to it eventually.”

  • DavidG

    The Government ID thing is interesting when I think through what I, as a Brit, have that might count:

    Photo ID:
    Passport, driving license: Probably what they have in mind, but not something I’m especially comfortable with sending off copies of. And here’s the kicker, entirely voluntary to possess, there is nothing to say I have to have either (use of driving license as ID is relatively uncommon in the UK, use of passport vanishingly rare). This also selectively discriminates against low-income or disabled persons who are proportionately less likely to have either (I didn’t have a full driving license until my mid-30s). And what about refugees?

    Non-Photo ID
    Birth certificate, NI Number card, NHS Medical Card. I can lay my hands on my birth certificate, but not everyone will be able to say that, in fact I think it took some prolonged digging to find at my parents the first time I needed it (probably for security clearance, not exactly something most people have to face). Again I’m not comfortable sending copies of that off willy-nilly. NI Number Card I don’t remember the last time I saw it, you need the number not the card and I have mine memorised , NHS Medical Card, I do have somewhere, but again it’s not something you really ever need and both NI Number and NHS cards are just scruffy slips of cardboard that could be forged as easily as they could be lost. Even a birth certificate could easily be forged if all that was wanted is an electronic copy. And most people won’t need to access any of these from one decade to the next.

    Most UK ID checks simply want a couple of utility bills in your name, the government abandoned the controversial scheme to have a National ID card and many people were adamant that imposing one was a step against freedom and British national values. So Google asking for ‘Government ID’ might be more controversial, and more difficult for some people to satisfy, than it seems.

  • CopyLion

    Something to add:
    1,Hong Kong users don’t actually use Latin + Chinese names, we use full Roman characters, like Brian Chan not Brain 陳(I don’t know if you can read the Chinese BIG-5 character). So far what I know is both Brian Chan and Brian 陳 will get suspended.
    Brian Chan never match the legal name on id, this is the Hong Kong case; Brian 陳 has more than one kind of character in it(Roman and Chinese BIG-5), this affects not only Hong Kong people but some other people whose mother language is Chinese, like Taiwan/Mainland China.
    so that’s even worse for Google to suspend those users.
    2.Some people involved in this name issue was banned from using all Google services that require a gmail account. That is, they can’t access gmail and many services other than buzz and G+. Some of them who use an android phone will find that the phone is like almost fully bricked.

  • Huey

    As to ‘re-suspension': CZ has now been suspended for a third time, after being reinstated for a second. He may be winning the “how many times can they fuck this up” sweepstakes.

  • DABrookes

    Community standards have little to do with this banning spree G+ is on. It was quoted once in the media (and only once mind you) but it smacked of the whole truth to the matter. Google can’t sell “Spiffy Doggy” to advertisers. The loss of revenue to them on pseudonyms is considerable and the advertisers have said time and time again that they want real names. I believe TechCrunch had an article on this aspect of it as well

  • Spartacus

    Starting at 2 PM Eastern today, August 5th, many people with G+ accounts will be changing their name to “I Am Spartacus” and variations on same.

    I expect most people will change them back a day later, unless they find that being Spartacus really fits their self-images.

  • Argonel

    thank for the write up. Keeping this info publicly visible will hopefully keep the pressure on google to fix these things that they didn’t think about while dogfooding G+.

    I wonder if some of the schizophenic type behavior around some of the bans is actually related to data distribution errors. At this point I’m confident that G+ is big enough that it has to be distributed across multiple data centers which gets to the question of how well is the database replicated and which is considered the cannonical copy. If you hit one data center where you are marked as banned and then happen to hit a datacenter that the ban hasn’t propagated to you could see different results. It could get real ugly datawise if you then do something that changes data so that the center that hadn’t got the ban notice has the freshest data about your account.

  • (anon for this article)

    I only needed to do #1 (change name to Jane Doe, etc), I did not submit any links or photo ID. Nor did I receive any cheery email that my account had been reinstated, it was just available next day when I checked.

  • SpaceBass

    Bunnyhero! I was wondering if they would get you too, even though you made the effort to change your name so it wouldn’t just be your nick (unlike me). :/

    The things that bug me the most about this are the lack of clear communication and inability to directly contact people, the uneven enforcement creating seeming privileged classes, and the attempts to spin profile suspension as having no repercussions in other or only a few Google services. I also find it laughable that the public Community and Profile Managers have disabled the “email me” links on their Profiles.

    *waves at old friend tablesaw*

  • BEG65

    Oh, I should point out. The other day, I typed +Skud in a post dealing with ‘nyms elsewhere on G+. It autofilled it to +sKud sKud” — if that’s not you, then I think there’s some sublime level of irony in seeing an impersonation of your account *facepalm*

  • Wizard Gynoid

    i was unceremoniously reinstated today after NO communication with anyone from Google. how long will i remain active? too soon to say, given all of the comments about multiple suspensions. having run a business i suspect our experience is the result of their being totally slammed but this is a hell of a way to run a business.

  • SpaceBass

    @SKUD asked me to clarify a tweet over here, so here goes.

    My profile was suspended the morning of August 2, I received no notification just the message in my profile with the link to the form, no reconsideration link. I submitted the form, received a form email and replied that same afternoon, received another similar form email yesterday morning, and replied again today asking for a discussion with a human.

    I was able to post one item to one of my circles after my suspension, and comment with my friends on it for a few more hours before I was completely cut off. That is the only post that shows for me on my profile, and was downloadable via the DLF tool.

    I expected Buzz and +1s to fail but I am disappointed that Reader is also affected. I cannot share posts nor comment on them, and my old shared posts have lost all comments attached to them regardless of comment authors. Oddly, I can still “like” my friends’ shares and my previous comments still appear in old discussions on friends’ shares.

    I’ve also noticed some effect in Talk and Gmail. Sometime yesterday my profile photo disappeared entirely from G+ (but let me reset it there) and was replaced in my desktop Talk client with an old photo from my ancient Orkut account (Talk now seems to be integrated there as well). I logged in there to change it but now the desktop Talk client keeps losing my profile photo entirely, which I have to reset about hourly. It has disappeared from my Gmail profile as well but will not let me reset it there (generic flag: an error has occurred). Earlier today, a chat session initiated by a friend popped up only on my phone, not in the desktop client or open Gmail window.

    Initially, I was still able to access Plus (in read-only mode) via the Android client but now it errors out with a message about requiring an internet connection, whether I’m on 3G or wifi. I can still access it via mobile or desktop browser in read-only mode, can still encircle people and see them in my streams, and still get the occasional activity notification. Some settings are saved, such as profile information and circle names and members but others reset every session, such as the chat window not staying signed out and reordering circles in the list only lasts for the current session.

    Friends can still see me in their circles but I am labeled “share via email only.” They can not see me in their following lists. I would like to try encircling someone with an active unsuspended account to see if they receive a notification when I follow them. Is anyone here willing to help me test this?

  • Tim Pierce

    Thanks for summarizing this. Can you say anything more about what leads you to think there’s an automatic account flagging mechanism? I changed my G+ profile earlier today to have “.” for a last name, and nine hours later have not yet had my account suspended. If there’s an autobot going around flagging likely pseudonyms, I expect that it’s following new accounts and accounts which have recently changed their names, so I expect that I’d already have been suspended.

  • Ordinal Malaprop

    For the record, I would like to say that I went through stages 1, 1.5 and 2, and at stage 2 did _not_ submit any details at all or even return the form, and was still reinstated (without notification, obviously).

    Just in case there wasn’t enough inconsistency around.

  • Ravan Asteris

    I ask *anyone* who wants my “government ID” why the hell they want it. If they black hole me, fine, fuck ‘em.

    I won’t present some stinking online service with my papers. I balk at doing for officials, why the hell would I do it for them?

  • Rainyday Superstar

    I haven’e receives a single word from Google regarding my second suspension. I have lost all Google services except Gmail and chat but even those are limited. I now have several useless apps on my phone.
    I just want my profile and my life back the way it was before Google invited me to join G+

  • Ben

    The take-home message is that signing up for Google+ can lead to losing access to other Google services. Not worth the hassle.

  • Allen "Prisoner" Firstenberg

    They finally replied to my last name change request, and included a link to their updated and clarified name policy: http://www.google.com/support/+/bin/answer.py?answer=1228271

    There are now examples, and they make it very clear that my name isn’t acceptable to them.

    They also make it clear that they don’t want “our types” there anymore:
    We understand that your identity on Google+ is important to you, and our Name Policy may not be for everyone at this time. We’d hate to see you go, but if you choose to leave, make a copy of your Google+ data first. Then click here to leave Google+.

  • Tablesaw

    Here’s what I’ve been able to figure out about Picasa.

    For Picasa, I haven’t had any trouble uploading or linking to any photos. However, I am no longer able to comment on photos of anyone who has joined Google Plus, even if the photos were public long before Google Plus came online.

    Interestingly, if you view a public photo of someone now on Google Plus without being logged into a Google Account, you receive this message: “Sign in if you have a Picasa Web Albums account, or sign up for a free account.” But if you are logged in with a Google Account without a Google Profile, you then get the message: “This photo is shared on Google+. Join Google+ to add a comment.”

    I can, however, leave comments on other Picasa accounts that have not signed up for Google Plus.

    Finally, since implementing Google Plus, Google has been having trouble with the “Limited, anyone with the link” visibility setting (http://picasa.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=39551) since implementing Google Plus. I haven’t done much with this, except that while I was on Plus, I accidentally changed this option, and could not restore it through the photos tab on my profile (only Public, Private, and Circles).

  • Ricky Buchanan

    This is just a small thing compared to everything else, but (at least in many western countries) the need for “government issued photo ID” discriminates pretty accurately against non-drivers who are poor – thereby niftily capturing a very high proportion of people with disabilities in these places, as well as some other categories of people.

    Like many others I can’t drive because of my disability so I don’t have a drivers’ license, so the only way I could get government-issued photo ID would be to get a passport. I don’t have one because there’s no way I could afford to go overseas. To get a new passport here in Australia costs AU$226 according to the government website – to put that in perspective it’s pretty close to my entirely weekly income. Here’s hoping I don’t get suspended…

  • Tablesaw

    Huh. My profile has gone from failing a stage 2 review back to failing a stage 1 review. I don’t know why. I suppose it’s possible that I was reinstated and resuspended, and nobody was around to notice it happening.

    More importantly, I seem to be able to archive stream posts using Takeout now. Profiles gives me an error, +1 initially seem fine, but then fail when creating the archive, and Picasa finds nothing to archive even though I have several albums of information.

  • bunnyhero

    I noticed tonight that when I look at my own suspended profile, I can see my own posts now (before they were missing and showed “there ar no messages to display”, like your screenshot). like tablesaw, it seems I can download my stream now, although when I actually try to download it, it doesn’t download. I get a “your download is starting” message, but then nothing. if I click on the download button again, i get a “414 URL is too large” error :(

  • Birgitta Sandgren

    I haven’t joined Google+ yet, and after reading all this I seriously doubt I will. Too many problems, and a risk of losing what I already have. But I have a question about ‘unusual characters’. The rules seem to be all English langauage oriented, but in Scandinavia we use letters not in the English alphabet (Ã¥, ä, ö), and so do Finns and Germans/Austrians, like in the Swedish names Ã…ström, ÄnggÃ¥rd, Öhrbäck etc – and Spaniards use ñ. – How would that be regarded? Accepted?

  • SpaceBass

    I also can now download my entire stream, which again shows up in my profile. Previous to yesterday, I could only download the one post that I managed to fire off while in suspension limbo (profile was marked suspended and all my posts had disappeared but I was still able to post once to my circles and then comment on it a few times before being locked out entirely). Still can’t get +1s or Buzz.

    The suspension message on my profile has grown by a few paragraphs and now contains separate links to the Community Standards and the new Name Policies page.

    In other news, I may have finally joined the Blackhole Club. Hooray!

  • bunnyhero

    update: my profile has been unsuspended (for now). how? i changed my name. not to a wallet name, but a variation on my screen name that looks less “funny”.

    recap of my situation:

    my display name was “bunnyhero (wayne a. lee)”. profile was suspended, and i got a form email (“name doesn’t comply to community standards” blah blah). i figured they didn’t like the parentheses, so i changed it to just “bunny hero” and replied to them. got the same automated response back.

    replied with a longish email explaining how the name i am most commonly referred to is indeed “bunnyhero”, so it should be allowed.

    no response. silence for days.

    i then decided to amuse myself by changing my name every day or so. i have no idea if a name change automatically triggers a re-review or not. i can’t remember all the names i tried (i know one was “wayne bunnyhero lee”), but i stopped at “b hiro” (b is for bunny, geddit?).

    today i received an email saying my profile had been reviewed and that my name complies with community standards. i sent no government ID with that name, no links to anywhere else that has that name.

    so my “compliant” display name is not anything that anyone knows me as, either online or off, which runs entirely counter to google’s supposed goals.

    i shake my head.

  • Birgitta Sandgren

    It is also common to have given names like Lars-Erik, Per-Ola, Ing-Marie, Ulla-Britt etc. That seems to be against Goggle policy also, despite those names are legally registered in every official document, including passports. So, what would happen with names like that – suspended? And I guess names like that could appear in English too?

  • SpaceBass

    Some time last night, Google implemented a new account suspension splash page including the same expanded text from the suspension notices on profiles regarding the standards and name policy, but also with this bit from the names policy page (including helpful links, curious wording, and one superfluous apostrophe): “We understand that Google+ and it’s Names Policy may not be for everyone at this time. We would hate to see you go, but if you choose to leave, make a copy of your Google+ data first. Then, click here to leave Google+.”

    The page shows up at the start of every browsing session, including if you pop open a Plus link in a new tab (at least in Chrome). It is annoying but trivial to bypass by clicking the single available button (“Edit Name”), clicking Cancel in the resulting dialog, then hitting the Back button in your browser.

  • SpaceBass

    Nope, everything else that was locked is still locked. Can still view streams and follow people, just no participation.

    I think it’s interesting that they are now thrusting the “don’t let the door hit ya” bit in your face (since it doesn’t even say that on the profile page suspension message).

  • bunnyhero

    ugh yeah.

    and this confirms that they took the time to change code relating to name suspensions while still not delivering on the promised policy changes about warnings before suspension. infuriating.

    and this may be a minor nit to pick, but i find it telling/amusing/appalling that google’s usual attention to detail is lacking in the new warning dialog. they misspell “its”: it should be “We understand that Google+ and its Names Policy”… not “it’s”! maybe their “A” team isn’t working on this :(

  • Karl the Pagan

    Bayle restored my account with not much proof after I changed my name to first name, last initial.

  • Stilgherrian

    Oh, I seem to have just ruined by own chances of solving my own legally mononymous profile by publishing an expletive-filled angry blog post. However I was angry, and that anger fuelled the post.

    If Google simple cuts off communication with people who are angry, that speaks very poorly to their understanding of customer service, and indicates that we may have a serious problem in how the power relationship plays out given Google’s ubiquity.

  • Google minus

    What the F**k of sh*t Name Policy?

    What Google going to do? they wanna get more accurate data of people over the world in their hand? and what if they get all accurate data? or they could make a big tornado?

    Facebook already made a big mistake that stole phone number of mobile user to show in public.

    Why don’t they do this at the beginning?
    Google makes us happy for a month, after that he kicks us out, and then he will makes us happy again (maybe few month later). I think I’m his toy now.

  • Anonymoose Cowherd

    “What triggers suspension: Another user flags your profile for any form of abuse, including but not limited to “fake profile”.

    Is it just me, or is this cause for further concern? If anyone can seriously disrupt some or all of your Google services simply by maliciously mashing a button, then something is very wrong.

    Maybe it’s time that, on a given day, say Aug 20, everyone flag everyone else. If their process breaks maybe they will fix it. Then again, maybe not.

    They obviously have far too much info already, and willingly giving them more is not the right answer. Unfortunately, most will do just that.

  • sabik

    You could probably get a “proof of age” card… Lot cheaper than a passport (~$10) but still some amount of hassle to obtain. Also lets you into night-clubs.

  • Trulle

    Interesting. So in order to reinstate a user account for a Swede they actively encourage unlawful behaviour as in Sweden (at least) it’s against the law to make copies of your goverment-id.

  • JR

    Yes, your post is exactly right – and an example of why I am COMPLETELY INFURIATED at Google+’s TOTAL FAIL.

    Story:
    In good faith, although I was dubious about the wisdom of a “real name” policy online in the first place, I put my real name on google’s site back in beta. I hadn’t been back for a while because nothing ever happens there. When I went back two days ago I was banned for “violating the names policy” – by using my real name.

    I had put my simple, not uncommon last name only in the last name field, so I can’t imagine that was the problem. The problem likely was what I put in the first anem field, which is the same problem facebook has with me and why I am NOT ALLOWED to use my real name on facebook, although I have tried, on multiple occasions, and cannot reach a person to correct the problem.

    The name by which “everyone knows me” is my middle name, which is both slightly unusual/unbelievale sounding AND has an apostrophe. To mitigate this, I add my legal first name, which is common to the point of being boring, and the second middle anmes’ initial. Yes, I have two middle names. THIS IS MY LEGAL NAME. I use it in a variety of contexts. Having two middle names is not unheard of, although unusual in America at least. Google+ has no field at all for a middle name, of course. So I filled this out in the long first name field – it fit. I see other people’s profiles with middle names listed as well so I don’t see why it should be a problem.

    So to recap – my name was listed as – lets call it “Jane P. Middle’s Last”.

    And for this, they suspended me.

    I don’t have any other website where my name is listed exactly like this that I can link them to, so I’m down to sending strangers in charge of a social networking site my government ID. …are they serious?

  • Br. Gabriel

    You could also get a State issued ID card in most US States. Usually looks just like a Drivers license but without it being an actual drivers license. Most Western nations also have a Federal version of this too that is not as fancy as a Passport.

  • Br. Gabriel

    This finally just happened to me. But, it’s ok because Google is just taking one more step toward becoming Skynet. I may just decide to switch everything over to iCloud (once it stops having birthing pains) and ditch Google. I’m not one to whine about these types of things. However, this is MY name. They are trying to get everyone to fit into their nice clean world. What if you have a double first name. What if your latino and have multiple joined last names. What if, like me, you are a Religious Brother and your title is not what you do but who you are? Is it so horrible to have a Doctor listed as a Doctor, a Priest as a Priest, etc. I don’t understand their purposes here.

  • moncler

    on multiple occasions, and cannot reach a person to correct the problem.

    The name by which “everyone knows me” is my middle name, which is both slightly unusual/unbelievale sounding AND has an apostrophe. To mitigate this, I add my legal first name, which is common to the point of being boring, and the second middle anmes’ initial. Ye

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