At the heart of why I'm writing this (still pointless) apostrophe to you. At stake here is your cleanup of Google+ accounts with false names. I wish there was some sort of official statement I could link to instead of that article, but I can't find one. Basically, those users who either have used pseudonyms on Google+, or have multiple Google accounts, seem to be at risk of being locked out of (in some cases at least, though accounts vary) the rest of their Google account. I admit, this is especially disturbing to me because I technically fall into both categories (if you're from Google, please read on as I explain why I believe this is a technicality.).
Like countless other middle schoolers, I came up with [what seemed at the time to be] an awesome screen name. I made a Google account under that name, and used it for several years. As I got older, the novelty obviously wore off, and I've moved to a Google account registered under my actual name (with the exceptions I'm going to note below). I really tried to keep a single account. Who wants to deal with POP forwarding due to a changed email address, not to mention the other data migration that has to happen? Not me. Still, the long and short of what I found was that I could keep my screen name, or move to an account with my actual name on it. I chose the latter.
I'm gonna come straight out and say that my name is Will. That's the name I've used in real life for as long as I can remember, and that's the name I've used in my digital interactions for most of high school. If I called myself anything else online or in real life, people would have trouble finding me. Isn't that what's in a name?
If my account was suspended could I stand up to your alleged litmus test? According to Kirrily “Skud” Robert, who had her account suspended, said she was asked to "give them [Google] a scan of my photo ID (obscuring “personal information”, whatever that means), or links to places on the web that demonstrate that this is my name." in order to restore her account.
I could link to a few locations on the web that would say my name was Will. There's an odd photo from a seminar I did, there are a few newspaper articles, etc. I might be able to pull that off.
If I couldn't? I'd have to send in my ID, where it would quickly be discovered that my legal name is, in fact, William.
This would probably (and hopefully) be no big deal. But still, there's a lesson here: names are kind of nebulous. Pseudonyms are common, and they aren't always attempts to obscure things. There are times when they're the sincere representations of a person and the legal name isn't.
Google, I totally get where you're coming from here. You don't want Google+ turning into Myspace or Twitter. You want a mirror of the real world, and you want to capture the way people interact offline and bring it into their online lives. I think that's admirable, and I see where fake names (especially total pseudonyms) get in the way of that. Can't you see where pseudonyms fit in? One of the core premises of the Google+ project is that people interact with different groups of people differently. People will adopt separate public personas on Google+. You should want them too, because some of those public personas have a lot more influence than their real ones.
I guess I'm just disappointed. It's reasonable for you to strictly police a limited field trial of your big push into social networks. Though I think your reasoning is pretty naive in some cases, I see why you're doing it. Locking people out of the rest of their accounts? That's different.
I came to Google+ because of data liberation concerns. I hope I don't have to leave it because of concerns that entrusting you with my social data will mean you prevent me from accessing other pieces of data. As of now, I've taken the following steps, which, as a company, I hope you find disturbing:
- I've exported all my Google Docs, and begun to delete all but my shared documents. I intend to avoid using Google Docs at all until my concerns on this issue have been laid to rest.
- I've ensured that I have backups of all my pictures from Picasa, and I no longer intend to use Picasa to share images.
- I've exported this blog with the intent to look into hosting it elsewhere.
- I've exported all data associated with Google+ and Gmail. I will continue to use these services for the time being (albeit with frequent backups).
It saddens me to see one of the few companies I trust act in this manner. I'd appreciate at least a formal statement on the matter.