Google's real names a real disaster

Google demands that users of its Google+ social network be identified by their real names. It's a bad policy that's been badly implemented, but is it proof that Google just doesn't get people?

Google demands that users of its Google+ social network be identified by their real names. It's a bad policy that's been badly implemented, but is it proof that Google just doesn't get people?

Requiring users to identify themselves to Google is reasonable enough. But having to reveal your identity publicly can cause problems for many people. Sociologist danah boyd has gone as far as calling it an abuse of power.

Google's problems go well beyond the overall policy objective. The names policy is poorly thought out, and is ambiguous. Google demands that people use their common name, "the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you" — but then rejects names, because they're not legal or don't conform to a rather narrow idea of how names work.

Google's implementation has been heavy handed and inconsistent. Originally, a Google Profile that seemed to breach the names policy was simply deleted. Now, they give a generous four days of warning — provided you log-in to see the pop-up. Google doesn't do email, it seems.

Developer Kirrily "Skud" Robert, herself a Google employee until earlier this year, has been documenting the disaster. She tells this week's Patch Monday podcast that she's gone beyond the idea that Google doesn't do customer service or doesn't do social. She reckons they just don't do people.

Robert explains some of the more incompetent-seeming name rejections, and why Facebook's names policy, which on the surface appears even stricter than Google's, has been implemented with little outcry.

Patch Monday also includes my usual look at some of last week's news headlines.

To leave an audio comment on the program, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone Sydney 02 8011 3733.

Running time: 34 minutes

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