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July 26, 2011

Google+ Calls for Real Life Naming, Users Balk

The new Google+ social networking tool is already facing a problem with naming. No, they do not want to change their name, they instead want to make sure you do not change yours.

gplus.pngApparently, the use of pseudonyms is rife on competing social networks (cough, Facebook, cough) and Google is demanding that people use bona fide Google accounts with their real names when they sign up. The company has been suspending accounts with business names and fake names. Users are also complaining that Google is suspending accounts with nicknames or strange punctuation.

Google is heading for trouble, it seems. First of all, they want you to use your "common" or "real life" name, so people will know they are connecting with the right person.

Google's own Vic Gondotra, does not use his full, legal name everyday and would use the name "Vic" to log on.

But what about Internet celebrities like Kirrily Robert, of "Skud" fame? Many of us have a different online identity than our real life identity, meaning that online friends may be more interested in the virtual you than the real life you. Google is now contemplating making people produce government issued ID before registering.

The problem goes deep into why we use social media. Consider the dilemma of the person who is hiding from an abusive family member, or existing online as a different gender. Google says using your real name is just a courtesy, like wearing a "shirt in a restaurant."

But dissidents in certain unstable countries or people in law enforcement would much prefer to shield who they are when online. And while many people think that it might be good if people are held accountable for what they do in the social networking sphere, others say it is the relative anonymity of the Internet that gives certain users the freedom to criticize news articles or indeed other users. To, in other words, be themselves.

GplusSite.pngThe problem has led David DiSalvo to wonder if Google will "die the death of a thousand pseudonyms."

Some writers, for instance, do not want to be found online by people who disagree with their views, many female writers, for instance, feel safer existing online as a genderless entity. "If a writer or anyone else feels more comfortable under a pseudonym, then why prevent them from using one?"

One thing seems for sure. Google was not expecting this to be such an issue. There are thousands of posts out there accusing Google of violating people's privacy and defending people with funny names.

Other people in the blogosphere defend Google's choice . Joe Wilcox at Betanews says this: "Google's policy of real people associated with accounts is a sensible one. Time to enforce such policy is now, while the service is invite-only and restricted to people 18 or older. It's about time somebody put the kibosh on anonymous accounts and started making people using the web to be identifiable and therefore more accountable for their behavior."

A place where people need to reveal their names will be more secure and less of a lure for trollers, goes the logic. This may be so, and may make Google+ run a more honest shop than its competitors. But it will certainly cut down on user numbers.

The main problem here is that Google is forcing us all to toe the line and behave while in our free time. Are we ever truly ourselves in the cyber-social world? If so, where's the fun?

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Posted by William Lozito at July 26, 2011 9:08 AM
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