Sunday AI: Does Google+ hate women?

banned from google

Yes, that title is way over the top to get your attention. BUT.
I do want to talk about what the “no pseudonyms” policy adopted at G+ means for women, LGBT folk, and civil servants.

There are many, many resources that can explain to Google why adopting this policy is a stupid idea (aside from the obvious business advantage of not alienating early adopters and potential G+ evangelists). One of the best can be found at the Geek Feminism Wiki:

The cost to these people {of denying pseudonym use} can be vast, including:

  • harassment, both online and offline
  • discrimination in employment, provision of services, etc.
  • actual physical danger of bullying, hate crime, etc.
  • arrest, imprisonment, or execution in some jurisdictions
  • economic harm such as job loss, loss of professional reputation, etc.
  • social costs of not being able to interact with friends and colleagues

That page goes on to list, in detail, the various ways that these groups can be harmed.   We know that women experience 25 TIMES the amount of harassment online that men do.  We know that 50% of LGBT teens are bullied online, and many of them consider–or commit–suicide.  We know that women are stalked and killed by ex-lovers. We know that LGBT folk are the victims of hate crimes.

banned from google

Basically, we know that some people are assholes online, and like to target others and make their lives hell. They will do this using their real names; they do this with fake identities.   It’s about BEHAVIOR, not about names.  

If your website is full of assholes, it’s your fault for not holding people–whatever name they go by–accountable for their behavior.  Online behavior doesn’t have to be polite or full of everyone agreeing with each other. Conversations just need to not be bigoted, hateful, or destructive.

If you agree that allowing pseudonyms online is important, please visit this petition and sign. It goes directly to Google.

My personal take:

I was banned from Google+ after happily using it for about a week, because I used my pseudonym as my name.  I’m not the only one–a bunch of other bloggers, all of whom have reasons to want to not reaveal their real names, or who, like Lady Gaga, have an alternative name that they are known by.  I have both professional and personal reasons to want to use my pseudonym Bug Girl online.

I can get my profile re-activated by giving Google my real name, and allowing it to be publicly linked with my profile.  But I’m not going to choose to out myself just because some giant world-ruling corporation demands it.   I have been Bug Girl online since at least 1997; as a blogger since 2005.  I initially adopted a pseudonym because I had been the target of some white supremacist groups in the 90s, as well as experiencing stalking.

Later I discovered that I had become a high-enough level civil servant that I was actually PROHIBITED, by law, from having opinions online.  I controlled enough of the state budget that my activities online, if connected to my real name, could be seen as lobbying.  It looks like my current job in Connecticut is going to be bound by the same rules.

I also only feel free to talk about my disability (I have epilepsy) and my status as a rape survivor under this pseudonym. I don’t want my students, my employer, or my mom to find out these secrets about me from Google.

How concerned am I about keeping my IRL name separate from Bug Girl? I am going to be giving a talk at the Entomological Society of America National meeting under the pseudonym of Bug Girl.  When an academic passes up a chance to pad her vita, you know she’s serious about plausible deniability.

Google is targeting people based on how “real” sounding their names are. Had I chosen a name that sounded more plausible, I would probably still be able to use Google+.  I know at least 5 people who put in fake names that are still happily using the service.  It’s a rule that can’t be applied consistently, and it blocks me from participating in a lot of wonderful online conversations.  Google+ is a really great platform, and I liked it a lot before I was evicted.

Google’s adopted a policy that puts people at risk and silences their voices in this new online forum.  Not because we have misbehaved, but because our privacy is important and we won’t give it up.  Google is a company that profits by serving you advertising on YouTube videos where my friends are threatened with rape and death.  It is beyond hypocrisy for them to say they are concerned about online civility.

I have so many, many wonderful friends online as Bug Girl. I think I could go to just about any town in the world and find someone fun to have a conversation with that knows me as Bug.  I am constantly humbled by how kind and generous people online can be, and the realness of virtual communities.   If you agree, sign the petition and help me share that with others.

And here is the AI:  What do you think? Are pseudonyms important to making people feel safe enough to create online communities? Do you use your IRL name here? Why or why not?

Additional links:

Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

67 Comments

  1. Agreed, signed, and posted on Google+. I think that Google, while not being “evil”, often does and says things that extremely short-sighted at best, and morally questionable at worst.

    Here are a few illuminating quotes from Google CEO Eric Shmidt on the issue of privacy:

    “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place,” Schmidt said during an interview on CNBC in December 2009.

    “We know where you are… with your permission. We know where you’ve been with your permission. We can more or less guess what you’re thinking about,” he said earlier this month at the Washington Ideas Forum, according to The Atlantic.

    “There is what I call the creepy line. The Google policy on a lot of things is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it,” Schmidt is quoted as saying by The Hill Web site last month during an event at the Newseum in Washington.

    “I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions,” he said during an August interview with the Wall Street Journal. “They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.” He added that he believes young adults will at some point start changing their names so they can hide from youthful hijinks recorded on social networks.

    “In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you. We need a [verified] name service for people. Governments will demand it,” Schmidt said at the Techonomy conference in April, according to a ReadWriteWeb blog by Marshall Kirkpatrick.

  2. BTW, the online petition asks for your physical address and real name. I would not feel constrained to actually provide it–I didn’t. :)

  3. I agree with you that this is really stupid on Google’s account – just signed the petition. BUT there is a flip side to this, if g+ is pursuing a less anonymous format that means all the trolls will also be less anonymous.
    Far fewer men would be willing to post death and rape threats if it was linked to a public profile, where their friends and family could find out what they are threatening.

    • Except–I don’t think that’s true. An amazing number of people post quite nasty things under their real names. The problem is one of consequences–there are none.
      If you have true “community standards” as Google claims, someone misbehaving, regardless of name, would be penalized or booted out.

      It should be based on behavior. People did asshole things long before the internet, and they will continue to do them. Now we just know about it because it’s digital.

      • I think you are absolutely right, it is a question of consequences. Off the net if you are an asocial asshole, you get ostracised. You can’t just show up with a new identity at next weeks meeting. This leads to self censorship, and changes in behaviour.

        I think what we need is a list that works along the lines of the Adblock Plus list. It is wonderful – a community maintained list of all the ads on the Internet. Despite the huge financial incentives for companies to get around it, at least for the past few years I have been able to browse the net, advertising free.

        So if someone threatens to rape someone in a youtube comment thread it would be great if it gets them put on a blocklist that filters them, not just from that youtube thread but from anyone who subscribes to that list. But to do that you need a profile that is hard to change, public and clearly linked.

        And I say filter not banned, because that way, just like advertises still put up there adverts and pop ups to no effect, all the assholes will still keep commenting, except no one will be reading or responding :D

        • Genius Benjaminsa! That is a really excellent idea. Now you just have to figure out how to monetize that :)

          • lol, you just need to get some programmers interested. I mean Adblock is an open community with one lead developers and a few contributors. It is amazing what community projects can do. Perhaps throw in some startup cash via Kickstarter. I might be naive, I don’t work with net apps or anything so might be insanely more complex than I realise, any IT persons out there? We should ask /. ;)

    • Right, they would just take the ID information from the non-anonymous site to an anonymous site and post their rape and death threats there. If Google’s intent was to drive people away from anonymous sites, that might be a good business strategy. A strategy that sucks because it serves to destroy the small niche anonymous sites.

      But hey, that is the point of business, if you can’t monetize something and extract value from it, then it is worth nothing and should be destroyed because it might at some point be competition.

  4. I think that pseudonyms are important and that there is a place for them online. But I do think that requiring real names creates a different atmosphere, one that also has its place online. The World of Warcraft boards are a bad place for disallowing pseudonyms, but if Google wants this new place to be one that requires real names they’ll just have to acknowledge that it will create a different atmosphere than if they allowed pseudonyms.

    I think the worst thing would be if all social areas of the net had the same policy.

    It’d be great if you could have the best of both worlds, but that’s not possible. So some places should allow pseudonyms and some should be real name only. Then people can choose which works best for them.

  5. In my early days online, I used pseudonyms like Seeker Alpha. Later, I started using my real name everywhere, along with a Circle H logo I made myself. I liked being consistent and true to myself. But I also understand that some people need to have pseudonyms to express themselves, because the name they invent for themselves reflects their true selves more than the name their parents gave them. I actually do this too; I often call myself the Honorable Skeptic. But nearly everyone knows I am Dale Husband too.

  6. I forwarded your problem to the right people at Google. I don’t know if it will make any difference. There might be a loophole for people like Lady Gaga who are only known by a pseudonym, but I’m not sure.

  7. If they don’t know your real name how are they gonna stop you from usiing a pseudonym.

    • You know like if your name is Jenny Myers call yourself Nocole Renie.

      I posted this comment but it’s stranded because Mandydax posted while I was typing.

    • Exactly. So this has turned into a pogrom on people who have funny sounding names, rather than actions taken on the basis of bad behavior.

      • Yeah they’re trying to cut the moderation costs. Hope the petition is successful but if not Bug girl in Gujarati is Bh?la ch?kar?

  8. Have you responded to the banning notice, Bug Girl? I can’t find the first-hand accounts, but a friend shared what another person posted about it, which included this:

    “When you’re suspended, you’re given a link to a page where you can either upload a scan of your ID to show that your name matches it, or you can link to websites where you’re known by that name. A.V. Vlox (a blogger) and Rowan Thunder (someone who I don’t know) did that, and they got reinstated relatively quickly (like, a couple days, I think).”

    I know you in skeptic circles and have met you at CONvergence’s SkepchickCon, and I have no idea what your etymnym is. It doesn’t matter because your public face is Bug Girl, and that is your identity online.

    I’ve signed the petition, but added a comment:
    “I understand that there are ways around this restriction, but it seems clunky and enforced whimsically. Perhaps at the sign-up, you could include a check-box if the name is a pseudonym, and include a place to provide links to where you use that name online. I use the same username everywhere online, and while I’m not shy about using the name on my license, that pseudonym is just as much a part of my identity. If I chose to use that as my G+ name, everyone who knows me from other services or has my Gmail address would know that it was me. You need to streamline and make this more consistent if you ever want to get out of beta. Please allow pseudonyms for anyone who wants one and allow them to be gotten more easily.”

    I hope you follow up and get them to reinstate you as Bug Girl.

    • I did fill out several forms, including links to the convergence program, where I am listed as Bug Girl. No response as yet.

  9. You know like if your name is Jenny Myers call yourself Nocole Renie.

  10. I can see both sides. I, personally, have no problem with linking my real name to my online persona IRL and have done so frequently, including putting up pictures showing my face on all my profiles. I am of the opinion that my online activities reflect who I am, if I fuck up or make mistakes they are there for all to see. Work collegues know my online persona, as do my family, and I am perfectly fine with discussing events that have happened to me, including rapes and abuses I suffered in the past.

    I acknowledge that there are valid reasons for not wishing your name to be known, as higlighted in the article. However, Cyberbullying will happened regardless of whether you use a pseudoname or not, you can be attacked online either way. It is whether they can trace your real name and whereabouts that it becomes important. If that is of concern, google+ is not for you.

    The thing is, google+ has a price. It is evidently not one that you personally wish to pay and thus you are asking them to change it. You do not have a right to use google+ and you are not being forced to use google+. Yes, you might like the format, but you are free to pursue that in other areas. I don’t think they are doing anything wrong and thus will not be signing the petition.

    • +1

      • I see what you did, there.

    • @sexycelticlady:

      “I don’t think they are doing anything wrong and thus will not be signing the petition.”

      The petition isn’t about whether or not Google is doing anything “wrong”. The petition is a way for Google’s potential user base to register their needs and wants.

      Like you, I recognize that Google is a private company and can run their website as they see fit. I have no problem with that. And if Google decides, based on this petition or other information, that it is in their best interests to change their policy, they will do so, of their own free will.

      I signed the petition, not because I think Google did anything “wrong”, but because I recognize the legitimacy of Bug Girl’s concerns, and I, as a Google user, would like to help let them know the full extent of these concerns within their user base, so they can be better equipped to make whatever decision they see fit. Also, it costs me nothing to sign the petition, and I lose nothing if Google changes their policy.

      • I think it is a good idea to have a site where your real name is there and you are forced to be held accountable for your online actions. I don’t know how far they will take it, but it seems a good start.

        • But see, it’s the accountability that is important–not the name. If there are no consequences for bad behavior, that’s what creates a free for all (YouTube, anyone?)

  11. If you look to the left, you’ll see the pseudonym I’ve used since I was fourteen. I really think that it’s now just another name for me, not a false name. Nym, not pseudonym.

    I’m pretty sure Google hasn’t a leg to stand on here. Legally, anyone can use any name they want so long as it’s not for fraudulent purposes. Yes, it’s Google’s game and they can make the rules they want, but pseudonyms won’t hurt anyone and eliminating them won’t humanize everyone. It’s a matter of the distance established by the situation, not the distance established by the name.

  12. A number of my friends are published romance and erotica authors, many of whom post under pseudonyms for a variety of reasons. One is that some do not wish their writing tastes to be used against them in their other vocations. (cf. the Judy Mays debacle.)

    I hope Google+ will loosen up a bit to allow that there are any number of valid reasons for using a pseudonym.

  13. While I see the issues that you have pointed out as valid, and you have every right to let Google know that you disagree with their policy and ask them to change it, I see this as a problem throughout the internet not just at Google, and there may need to be some legislation to address such problems.
    However, until that time Google is a private company offering a private service and as such get to set the rules. If they are unfair, let Google and their potential customers know, but there is little else you can do.
    I think it is a mistake for Google to take this stance and it may well change if the business isn’t growing as fast as they would like, that is the best way to effect change in this situation.
    .
    I would liken it to the policies that Apple uses in it’s app store; I feel they are too restrictive perhaps to the point of censoring views that Apple disagrees with. Would I like to use an iPhone and their apps, sure; but until their policies changes I will not be rewarding them by purchasing their products. I have given Apple my input, which I’m sure was rightly ignored, after all I am one potential client versus the millions of customers they already have. Such is the way of capitalist democratic republic.
    .
    I am signing the petition because it is the best way to let them know, but I wouldn’t expect much to come of it. Disinterest in the product will move them faster than anything.

  14. I use the name spellwight online only because there are millions of Debbie Walkers out there. It’s not hard to figure out who spellwight is IRL. I agree with sexycelticlady in that I am who I am and so far the only cyber crap I’ve gotten is from your old friend Mabus.

    Butt (because it’s a big but) I completely understand protecting your job or personal life by using a pseudonym. I have friends who do and with good reason. I likely have “friends” who I ONLY know by their reasonably normal sounding pseudonyms – such as the authors – and I don’t even know it’s a false name. Celebrities use false names all the time to protect their privacy, is there some shadow-line of celebrity one had to cross in order to get the same leeway?

  15. I agree with sexyceltcilady, if you don’t like what they are doing than don’t use it? It’s like the whole debacle with a group of parents that are trying to get McDonald’s to make healthier food. When they should just not feed their kids shit food from a shit company. And the media blames McDonald’s for overweight kids, when it’s their lazy ass parents’ fault.
    And no, they don’t hate women.

    • Um, of course they don’t hate women. I say that in the first sentence of this post.

      What I’m upset about is that I WANT to use google plus. It is a great product. It is far superior to Facebook and twitter, and before I was booted out, I was connected to many of my friends there. But the price of my continuing to use that service is giving up my identity. And I think that is an unfair price to demand.

      • I know it sucks when something so small keeps you from enjoying something. And although I won’t be signing this petition I don have an idea that maybe you’d like to try?

        http://wordsmith.org/anagram/

        It’s a website where you type in your name and it gives you a bunch of anagrams for that name. In this instance I used my first and middle name MICHAEL ANDREW and it came of with loads of quirky names :P (43,000 in total)
        here’s a few
        Radiance Whelm
        Drachmai Newel
        Camelhair Wend
        Chinaware Meld
        Caramel Whined
        Crania Whelmed
        Marinade Welch
        Dahlia Crewmen
        Admiral Whence
        Laminar Chewed
        Airman Welched
        Marina Welched
        Chandelier Maw
        Chaired Lawmen
        Card Meanwhile
        Chairmen Waled

        • HAHA my favourite so far
          Lama Wench Ride

  16. It isn’t just women that Google+ singles out, although they are the biggest and most obvious group to be affected by this, and sometimes indirectly so. I’m “Improbable Joe” because I’m an atheist and a giant asshole, my wife has a semi-high profile job in our community, and she has an ex-husband who has in the recent past hired an private investigator to stalk my wife on the Internet and blackmail her. If it were just me, I wouldn’t care. I can’t bear the thought of my wife being smeared and attacked online and in real life based on anything I say. Therefore the pseudonym, which I use on my blog, a half-dozen forums, every single place I post comments, and for gaming.

    I can’t not be “Improbable Joe”… and it is unfair that it locks me out of large chunks of the Internet.

    • Joe, that’s smart. Sorry about the ex. Unfortunately not everyone has the foresight you have to avoid a hazard. Or the jaundiced view of human behavior. Um, well, sadly I second both.

      Like bug_girl, I’m a civil servant. So, publicly, I always use a pseudonym, even when I’m not addressing my field. I’m also a rep for my union, and we have relied on people being able to tweet or post on FB anonymously in order to keep us up to date on problems we’re monitoring. Twitter has been a boon to us, actually. Naturally, we discussed picking op google+. Now I know there’s no point unless this policy changes.

      • Not hardly foresight when I had to burn a bunch of online bridges, cut ties with dozens of people, and abandon an entire online identity. It was almost a witness protection sort of deal. My wife and I moved and changed banks because some earlier addresses and accounts were tied to some specific email accounts.

  17. Signed. I’ve been using this name since my first public internet account got me stalked (25 years plus). I don’t use my real name online when I post about my life, my illness, my relationships, and I’m not going to start now.

    There are lots of reasons I keep things separate. I’m bi, poly, queer, have chronic illnesses, am a rather hardcore feminist and a rape survivor. And I am unafraid to write about said things under my chosen name, but if I had to use my real name for any of that I’d be much less active online.

    Given that my health makes talking with large numbers of people in the real world almost impossible, it would be a huge loss if I couldn’t continue this. I’m already struggling enough with isolation and broken brain/body issues, I can’t afford to lose the interaction.

  18. A very interesting statement in support of pseudonyms from Will Burns

    Object Interoperability Lead for IEEE Virtual World Standards Workgroup

    https://plus.google.com/109028905526370179147/posts/YTXwDbFFeA6

    “I ask that Google rethink their stance on Avatar Identity as a preferred main identity, and not to force users of your services to divulge birth names when they are legally not required to do so. In the end, acknowledging Multiplicity of Identity in the digital age is vastly in the favor of companies like Google, while continually denying such will build only contention and eventually public backlash – and maybe even a flurry of lawsuits in the future if the situation continues to persist.

    I’d like to believe that Google still adheres to their “Do no evil” policy, and continually forcing users to divulge their birth names when they are legally not obligated to constitutes an evil. Especially when they have perfectly legitimate reasons not to do so, such as life threatening stalkers, by which a Google+ Profile under your TOS would become life threatening.”

  19. As a fictional soap opera pimp, I can discuss things that I would otherwise hesitate to reveal online if I were forced to divuldge my true identity.

    My family was stalked when I was at a young age by my estranged father who had lost custody of us due to his irresponsible behavior after he lost his sobriety, so I can empathize with folks who have gone through that sort of thing (nothing like getting a death threat in the middle of the night that you have to take seriously).

    For now all is well in Pine Valley.

    \BCT

  20. Requiring a real identity might be a condition of doing business in countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, and other repressive regimes. I think that many of them saw what allowing anonymous posters on social media can do to spread real information and they are simply not going to allow that to happen.

    Google may want to not be evil, but if you lie down with evil people, some of that evil is going to rub off.

    Also, Google wants to monetize the information the way that FaceBook has. Information tied to a real identity is a lot more valuable than information tied to a pseudonym.

    • They could require a real name be attached to the account, while having a privacy option to display a pseudonym.

  21. I think this will be an interesting experiment to see if lack of pseudonyms cuts down on nastiness. I can see good arguments on both sides, but data will be more valuable. I think I’ll skip the petition for now to see how this plays out.

    “Google’s adopted a policy that puts people at risk…” this, however, is manifestly untrue. Joining Google+ is voluntary. Had people joined under a pseudonym and then been slammed to their real identity this would have put people at risk. At it is Google is just discriminating against people who for one reason or another choose a pseudonym. Whether this is fair or smart is a whole other discussion. I agree with what you said about the stupidity of requiring a real sounding name, but not verifying it.

  22. I’ve read and heard on the radio that older people are more sensitive to privacy than young people.
    I am 68 years old.
    I use my real name on the internet for confidential transactions, e.g. my bank and purchases with a credit card.
    I’ll be damned if I use my real name anywhere else on the internet.
    Regards, Bob (Oops!)

    • I’m with you even though I’m much younger (63). I have nothing to hide, and I don’t harrass, but I do everything possible to keep my personal information off the internet. I don’t use facebook and even try to keep my email id private. I don’t even want my information used anonymously. I avoid Google because of their admitted massive data gathering (I use Yahoo as first choice, though I’m sure they also gather info, but hopefully not as well). When sites require registration I use anonymous, temporary email – I don’t need more spam. And I don’t want all my activities linked together. It’s no one’s damned business, and I don’t want strangers making money off me or my personal info. They can make money by irritating me with their ads. TV and radio (and most internet sites) do just fine with that model.
      Ron (also oops).

  23. I just started doing the twitter thing so I can’t imagine adding any other level of connectedness but like most things that will probably change. I’ve liked using pseudonyms because I also work for the government but of late I’ve been more willing to use my real name. However I would like the option to not be identifiable if I choose to. However like others have said if Google says you can’t then making it work in a manner that keeps you(happy)and Google(ignorant) happy seems the only option.

  24. I try to be using my real name as much as possible, but it is true I have nothing to hide, and no one to harass me (at least not yet). It is now undeniable that social networking will not be given up on. Right now, we have two options: Facebook and Google+. The question is, overall, is G+ an improvement over Facebook? Where do you think the competition between the two will drive them? Can they both survive? And more to the topic, is forcing people to use their real name also makes them more accountable? Isn’t it easier to do something against harassment when you know from who it is coming from?

  25. Signed the petition. As several people have pointed out, what Google is doing is legal, it’s just a bad idea. I’m going to tell myself that it is a bad idea born ignorance through privilege (I’m a rich, white, upper class business manager and I don’t need a pseudonym, why would anyone else?) and not something more evil (We’re going to track these fuckers and sell ever byte of data on them). Bug Girl, if you can tell without revealing too much, how did an entomologist end up on a terrorist organization’s hit list? What do they have against bugs/bug research?

  26. I signed the petition (and Twittered it on, thus encourageing both my followers to do so as well).

    As far as I’m concerned, you are Bug Girl. I mean, I don’t know you personally, I only know you from your blog. We’re not close personal friends so I don’t know your real name.

    This means that if you were to use your real name on G+, I wouldn’t be able to find you, nor would much of anyone else. If you’re Bug Girl, I can find you and add you to my “followed” circle. If you’re Buxia LeGirl (as I imagine your real name probably is*), I can’t.

    I can think of many objections to Google’s “no pseudonyms” policy, all completely reasonable. I mean, what if I’ve legally changed my name to something weird-sounding? Surely, it’s not up to Google to require me to verify somehow that something is actually, honestly my real name. Perhaps I might legally change my name to Rei Malebario** – I can’t see how it’s any of Google’s business to confirm that I legally changed my name.

    * My apologies if this is, in fact, your real name and I’ve accidentally outed you.
    ** Yes, Rei Malebario is a pseudonym.

    • Agreed! I found her on Google Plus precisely because her name was Bug Girl. It kinda happened like this:
      Me: look at list of recommended contacts.
      “Eeeeeeeeee! It’s Bug Girl!”
      Me: add Bug Girl to atheists circle.

  27. I did not know this. I think facebook has the same policy no? However with facebook since you can make your profile private this allows you to be OK with the “no public posting policy”?

  28. If they have such a policy on FB, they’re not enforcing it.

    • They do have a “real name only” policy on Facebook, and they’re not enforcing it, most likely because they have too few employees.

  29. Note that Google is now freezing and deleting accounts wholesale, and not just Google+ accounts but the related Gmail accounts as well.

    http://www.zdnet.com/blog/violetblue/google-plus-deleting-accounts-en-masse-no-clear-answers/567

    To y’all who are arguing “You chose to sign up with them”, I for one did not agree to have my email accounts of many years held hostage to Google Corp’s latest experiment in online privacy violation.

  30. http://www.facebook.com/terms.php

    Facebook users provide their real names and information

  31. Related to problem: G+ deleting Hong Kong users because they don’t believe their names are real.

    http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/gmail/thread?tid=40356d87de8509c0&hl=en

  32. Isn’t there something inherently self-contradictory about signing a petition to preserve privacy? :-)

  33. I’m a bit worried about how this might impact those of us who are living by entirely different names than our legal ones, often for very good reasons, but haven’t yet legally changed them. Like… trans folk are a pretty large group of people who typically go very long periods of time living under names other than those given to them before finally being able to make it through the labyrinthine process of having it officially changed.

  34. You wrote a good piece, but honestly I think that using a headline like “Does Google+ hate women?” just to get our attention is a bit of a cheap shot and automatically lessens how seriously I’m going to take the blog. It’s a shame, because I think it’s an important issue, but being told in the first line that I was brought here essentially under false pretenses just meant I was reading the rest of this piece with a frown.

    • Fair enough. That is a valid criticism.
      I drew a complete blank that afternoon when floundering for a title that would convey that google had, once again, implemented a policy that would harm women and LGBT folks.

  35. I’ve been reading about this debacle for a while. I think it’s terrible, and when I got on the internet in the late 90s, I remember being told not to use my real name, so I never have.

    It’s why I’ve never signed up with facebook or anything, even if they aren’t enforcing their policies.

    I have my own personal reasons for using a psudonym, one of which is I don’t want my estranged abusive father to find me. He may or may not even be looking for me, but why give him the opportunity?

    Also, I don’t go by my first name, so what name am I supposed to use in these things? Nobody knows me by my first name. Thanks google, for assuming that everyone’s happy with the name our parents inflicted us with.

  36. I do have to admit, I use my real name on G+ because overall I tend to have a low exposure and I’m male. I’m not politically and philosophically very “loud” on the world stage. Therefore, I’m not too concerned with any strange backlash of hatred from people I don’t know or receiving inappropriate cat calls from strange guys saying how hot or ugly I am.

    That being said, I think Google should go ahead and allow the use of pseudonym names as an alternative to real names and discipline users based on (logged) behavior. While on certain occasions, it may be personally frustrating that one may not have a face and/or a real name to go with the online identity, that person may have good reason to fiercely protect their “offline” identity. Unfortunately, females, the LGBT community, non-Christians and others I failed to list tend to be the target of Internet assholes and would be more than happy to smear their real identities whenever possible.

    I could understand if G+ disallowed pseudonyms early on to see how many “real people” (using supposedly real names) registered to use their service. This can potentially reduce the number of “pseudonym spam” accounts designed to merely harvest social info and/or harass others. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

  37. Excuse me, but please tell me once again, what do you need that Google+ account for?.. It seems completely useless from here (and yes, same story with Facebook).

  38. I think this can be ascribed to naive good intentions on Google’s part rather than to malice.

    I can see that they don’t want lulzsec or anonymous (or other groups that might misuse the service) to have a google plus presence, but their way of trying to stop this is inefficient and ineffective.

    I’m wondering if there might be value in the idea of “verified anonymity”, where you can get a pseudonymous / anonymous google plus account by providing to Google the same level of credentials that you would give to them to get a named account (or possibly a little more), so they have a name for you, on the understanding that this name will only be released to legally empowered authorities with a warrant. That way, those who want to use google plus anonymously can do so, while at the same time, those who misuse the service can still be identified.

    Does this make sense, or am I being hopelessly naive?

  39. I think some of this is due to some miscommunication on Google’s part. G+ is in limited release, open testing right now. The features that are out right now are designed to be used for personal contact as a supplement to “real world” interaction. Hence, the limiting of these features to members who are identified as “real people.”

    They plan a release later this year for “branded accounts”: small or large businesses, bloggers, organizations, famous personalities (and their pseudonyms), etc. These will have different features and will be separate from your “real” account.

    This has less to do with accountability and the desire to minimize trolling and more to do with keeping distance between your personal conversations and your business contacts. Like you stated, you don’t want to mix your blogging and Bug Girl persona with your conversations with your parents. You might also be like myself and wish that you could separate the following of businesses and interest groups that you support from your family and friends conversations. I know my Facebook feed is full of coupon offers and notifications from businesses that I support. I have to hide them (defeating the purpose of following them in the first place), or put up with it. G+ later features will hopefully have some solutions to this issue.

    It would be completely unreasonable for Google to be held responsible for policing the behavior of all their users. It would be like trying to moderate a forum with 10 million users… and that’s just the small amount they have in their testing phase, which is about 2% of Facebook’s total users. I don’t really want to confuse the issue, but it is important for users to only add people they know or want to talk to into their circles. (Which is the whole point of those circles, keeping your social spheres separate). I’m not clear on the features the branded accounts will have, but I imagine those will be designed around allowing communication between any of your followers and will be handled differently and distinctly from your personal account.

    G+ isn’t trying to forever ban pseudonyms per se. But this is the earliest release point of their product and is not yet a finished product and so shouldn’t be judged as such. They should be a little more clear about their intentions, I agree. It seems that only the tech news shows and blogs are really being clear on this point.

  40. I agree with vasheba that »g+« is a work in progress. But as a demonstration as to how even Google employees are affected, see HappyCabie’s 1-hour long YouTube vid »Google Exposed«. (I won’t try to put a link here, becasue this is my first post, and I don’t want to spam.)

    HappyCabbie shows how Google’s very own Security Center and their partners’ website are still recommending *never* to reveal your real name online; how some folks at Google and VIPs like Shatner and Lady Gaga are getting special treatment in several respects; how there still are unblocked g+ fake accounts, even with pornographic postings; that names like »HappyCabbie« (and of course »bug-girl«) are in fact real-life names your peers know you by; and that by using g+ the way Google engineers intended it to work, you can post them personal messages (something Google tried to avoid since the begin of its existence).

  41. Eh..let the market decide. Sounds like G+ is already taking steps to change their policy. It’s clear that there is a host of reasons why people want to keep private while being social. Those reasons both legal and illegal.

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