Google is continuing to experience problems with its policy of requiring Google+ users to register only with a real name. But it’s sparked debate about whether such a policy is valid in the first place.
The company requires that users sign up with a real name rather than a pseudonym, but doesn’t initially verify that information, instead deleting or freezing accounts later. Once an account is frozen, the user has to either send a scan of physical ID, or send a link to a webpage showing their name is genuine (Google staff presumably having no way to look for such information online.)
Although some of the higher profile web users who’ve fallen victim to the policy have uncommon names, such as Limor Fried and Kirrily Robert, it doesn’t appear that’s how they fell foul of the rules. That’s fortunate as a “no funny-sounding names” policy is a racial discrimination complaint waiting to happen.
Instead both violated what looks to be a policy about the formatting of names, the former signing up as Limor “Ladyada” Fried and the latter simply as Skud. Ironically “Skud” worked for Google for around a year after it bought out a startup where he worked.
From comments by a Google executive it appears the company has taken a simple policy and applied it too rigidly. Supposedly the intention is merely to avoid obviously fake names, or those deliberately spelled with unusual characters, and that it’s fine to use the name you are known by in everyday life rather than the one on your birth certificate.
Whether even this looser policy is needed depends on how you see Google+. If you think of it more like LinkedIn or Facebook, using real-life names makes sense as it limits the chances of spoof accounts and may make people think twice about posting inappropriate material. If you think of it more like Twitter, then there’s a strong argument for allowing people the freedom to blog anonymously.