Want to be anonymous on Google+? You are out of luck.

One of the major issues surrounding Google+ is that it does not allow for pseudonyms.  When the Web first became popular, pseudonyms were pretty much the name of the game. People simply got used to knowing each other by odd names.  This was just the culture back in the 90s. As the Internet has gotten more popular, however, real names have become more common. Especially on sites such as Facebook, which requires real names. Generally speaking though, for the most part, you can get away with using pseudonyms on Facebook, because despite the fact that the terms of service require real names, Facebook rarely acts to delete or suspend people for pseudonyms. Not so much on Google+

Google+, pretty much from day one, has been rather…draconian about enforcing its no pseudonym policy. For a summary of what has been going on, check out this post at the Guardian. In essence though, with little or no warning, people, for various reasons have found their accounts suspended or outright deleted for names Google believed to be false. A lot of famous folks have gone through this on Google+ due to concern that their accounts were fake. Unfortunately, in many cases, the accounts were real. In addition, some people are simply known by their pseudonyms, they act more like nicknames. In other cases people have pseudonyms for reasons involving fear of oppression or physical harm. Activists, victims of domestic violence or other crimes, the list goes on and on.

Google+ has responded (video) to the controversy by stating that the rule will stay in place, but it will give people 4 days to cure the problem instead of just deleting or suspending the account. Also, people can use nicknames, but must associate those names with their real names.

While better than outright throwing people off of Google, the issue still remains, there are some people who must hide their true identity online, for various legitimate reasons. So is it a good idea to prevent people from using pseudonyms? Many bloggers and security experts think that Google is making a big mistake having such a strict policy.

I find, on the Internet (as often is the case in life) strict policies rarely work very well.  There is often a need for an exception. Hopefully Google will realize this and respond accordingly in the near future.

Unlike others, I don’t think the failure to allow pseudonyms will cause big problems for Google, but as an organization that claims it “do[es] no evil,” it might want to remember that there are others in the world who do. And sometimes, as a result, people need to remain anonymous.


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