ADOTAS – (UPDATED WITH VIDEO AT BOTTOM) A slew of news reports are hitting the Internets about Google’s seemingly Draconian rules about identity for Google Profiles. Numerous users have had their accounts suspended because the names they submitted violate Profiles’ “community standards.”
That is, those users tried to submit virtual identities. For example, well-known Second Life user (yes, such a thing exists…) Opensource Obscure apparently is not allowed to use that moniker for his Google Profile, although he prefers not to use his given name for online services, he tells Thinq. He claims hundreds of his Second Life connections did the same and are likely to get locked out anytime.
(Of course, I wonder what’s the point of hooking up with Second Life friends through their virtual identities on Google+ — shouldn’t Obscure be demanding Second Life enhance its own features?)
The news of account suspensions follows Google’s announcement that it will delete all private profiles come the end of July. It’s not that privacy doesn’t exist on Google Profiles — the only public requirements for a Profile are name and gender (you can even enter “other”). Users control which groups of contacts can see any additional information.
The suspended accounts also include company-branded accounts, but Google has promised brand pages are imminent. Also, Google services Gmail and Blogger do not require Google Profiles.
But no, you can’t sign up with a virtual identity. It’s not Facebook where you can create accounts for pets, bands, mythical beasts, etc. (one of the funniest — and saddest — Failbooks I ever saw revolved around a Facebook account created for a fetus). You have to give Google your real name, and the company can verify your identity through its Knol service. It doesn’t want impersonators or people posing as others on Google+ — so yes, this is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Check out the statement at the top of Google’s page of rules regarding user identity:
“Google services support three different types of use when it comes to your identity: unidentified, pseudonymous, identified. Google Profiles is a product that works best in the identified state. This way you can be certain you’re connecting with the right person, and others will have confidence knowing that there is someone real behind the profile they’re checking out. For this reason, Google Profiles requires you to use the name that you commonly go by in daily life.”
Opensource Obscure is not a person but a persona, and Google+ is not about presenting a manufactured image of yourself to the world, but managing your online identity.
But how does Google know your name isn’t really Amanda Hugankiss, Seymour Butts, or Irving Preston Freely (Or I.P., as I call him)? The most well-regarded editor of my high-school yearbook was Richard Weed. My dad knew a guy named Richard Head, but apparently he was a jerk.
All jokes aside, what about artists with pseudonyms like Shephard Fairey or Banksy? Could Mark Twain have his own Google+ account or would it go under Samuel Clemens?
Apparently Google is making exceptions to its identity rule — check out the story of Rowan Thunder. Google seems to be giving the OK if your moniker is glued to your physical/actual identity: Iggy Pop won’t have to sign up for Google+ as James Osterberg, Jr., but I think Vanilla Ice should be forced to join as Robert Van Winkle.
What about political dissidents or corporate whistleblowers embracing anonymity for safety?
Well, they probably shouldn’t use Google+. Just like Facebook, Google+ isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of other social outlets that cater to those seeking virtual identities or anonymity — as mentioned earlier, Blogger and Gmail don’t require Google Profiles, like Google+ does.
This leads into what I was saying last week when Google announced the execution of private profiles — more than just a social network, Google is trying to develop an online reputation management tool. What a better company to do it — your mind probably can’t wrap around how much data Big G has in its sprawl. People who use Google+ want to be identified — how much they share with the world is another matter.
The “Google still doesn’t get social!” cries are reverberating around the blogosphere, but I don’t think a lot of people get Google+. It’s not a social network, it’s not Facebook, it’s something very new.
UPDATED, July 13 @ 9:00 a.m.: Second Life user and blogger Botgirl Questi (I don’t think that’s her real name…) shared an “interview” she did with Google on the Profiles identity question.