Google’s New, Really Awful Real Name Policy

Early adopters of Google+, myself included, have been drawn to its clean interface , user-centric privacy and content controls, “Circles” model of friendship networks and general user-friendliness. It’s not open to everyone just yet, and they’ve recently decided to make it less appealing for everyone else – by instituting a draconian Real Names Only policy.

Use your full first and last name in a single language.
If you use your full name, you’ll be able to connect with people you know and help them find you. Names that consist primarily of initials or those that include indications of membership in professional, educational, societal or religious entities, such as “Dr.”, “Rev.” or “JD” are not allowed in the first or last name fields. Names that include more than one language script aren’t allowed either.

Violation examples: Doctor Stan Livingston, Bill Smithwick DDS, Rev. Jim Copley, 蔡玉娴 Archer, S. P.

Put nicknames or pseudonyms in the Other Names field.
If you’re referred to by more than one name, only use the one that commonly identifies you, and place the rest in the “Other names” or “Nickname” section of your profile.

Violation examples: Timothy “TK” King, Jonathan Richards (JonnyBoy), PunkRockerSF

Avoid unusual characters in your name.
When you create your profile, our system will check the name you submitted for unusual characters. For example, numbers, symbols, and obscure punctuation are not supported.

Violation Example: John246 , ★★Shelley★★, J@SON W@T$ON, ‘Rachel Smith/

Your profile and name must represent one individual.
Google+ does not support profiles for couples or groups of people. Additionally, you cannot create a profile for a non-person entity such as a pet or business.

Violation examples: Jones Family, Jeremy & Mel Mason, Vegas the Dog, Brooklyn Bagels, Northern California Conservation Society

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. If someone is pretending to be you, go to their profile and click Report this profile.

I’m all in favor of not stealing someone’s identity, or allowing corporations or conglomerations of people to set up profiles, but a strict reading of the “full first and last name” rule puts my profile squarely out of compliance. I’ve gone by J.W. for a very long time. It’s the name that’s printed on my business cards, all of my personal and professional profiles, anything I’ve written including this blog, and it’s what 100% of people I know call me.

Leaving aside the fact that anonymity is of incredible importance on the Internet, especially in the face of a creeping security state, Google’s real name policy disregards variations of people’s legitimate real names. They can suspend my account if they feel like, but I’m not going to change it – I’ll delete it entirely and revert to pre-Google+ status.

Google+ makes connecting with people on the web more like connecting with people in the real world. Because of this, it’s important to use your common name so that the people you want to connect with can find you. Your common name is the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you. For example, if your legal name is Charles Jones Jr. but you normally use Chuck Jones or Junior Jones, any of these would be acceptable.

Makes sense…but my common name is primarily initials, falling squarely in violation of their first guideline. Rather than making it easy for people who want to connect with me to find me, using my legal name would virtually guarantee I’ll never be located.

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