The apology letter Google SHOULD used to announce the end of G+ "Real Names"


While the issue of allowing people to choose how they identify online is very important, Google+ is not. History indicates that Google will lose interest in it in a couple of years and allow it to die as they have done with almost everything else which isn’t organized around grabbing people’s information and selling them stuff.

Google+ has been a failure in terms of social networks and will be gone soon. Quite rightly, given how clumsily they have dealt with this identity issue.


I know, right? This could have mattered, what, two and a half years ago. I wish it still mattered, because as much as Google isn’t a company inexplicably staffed by archangels, I really do believe they’re a helluva lot better than facebook…


“Everyone is entitled to be themselves, without… having to contort themselves to meet arbitrary standards.”

Is that true? What’s logical to one person can sure seem arbitrary to another.

I’m a badass /s, been using a not ‘real name’ on G+ for a couple of years.

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“My name. Is. Neo!”

I remember working overseas and having to take down people’s legal names for a form (obviously designed by someone from the U.S.) to receive services. I’d ask their real names, and they’d tell me. Eventually, I was like, “YOUR name is Alexander? Really?” And they’d explain this was for an American thing, so that was their American name.

People would change, alter, or make up their “real” names ALL the time. For English language things, for big life changing events, for the hell of it.

I eventually learned to ask, “What is the name on your birth certificate?” And then I’d finally get what the form’s designers considered their legal names.

The American way is not the only way to do things. Including naming people.


When we launched Google+ over three years ago, we had a lot of
restrictions on what name you could use on your profile. This helped
create a community made up of people who matched our expectations about
what a “real” person was, but excluded many other real people, with real
identities and real names that we didn’t understand.

We apologise unreservedly to those people, who through our actions were
marginalised, denied access to services, and whose identities we treated
as lesser. We especially apologise to those who were already
marginalised, discriminated against, or unsafe, such as queer youth or
victims of domestic violence, whose already difficult situations were
worsened through our actions. We also apologise specifically to those
whose accounts were banned, not only for refusing them access to our
services, but for the poor treatment they received from our staff when
they sought support.

Everyone is entitled to their own identity, to use the name that they
are given or choose to use, without being told that their name is
unacceptable. Everyone is entitled to safety online. Everyone is
entitled to be themselves, without fear, and without having to contort
themselves to meet arbitrary standards.

Further, our Google Real Identity technology has gotten advanced enough to the point that no matter who you say you are, we can connect with who you really are.

Everyone is entitled to safety online.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, no. This isn’t a legal right and it isn’t a moral right. If you walk around outside, I take a picture that has you in the background, I share that picture online, and your abusive ex finds you from that, it’s a bad thing. But your safety and my rights butt up against each other. To put your real name on the internet is a risk. It is a riskier risk for some people than for others. But to say that no one should offer anything on the internet that requires any level of risk of its users… that’s ridiculous. I totally agree that this was a shitty policy, and I totally agree that it’s great that it was ended. But the arguments in this letter are not just weak: they have implications of which I don’t think even the author would approve.


I had my youtube account before I had a google account and I repeatedly dismissed the option to link to my g+ account.On the same day as this announcement I went to sign into yt and it showed my gmail address instead of my yt handle and when I clicked on setting it went to my g+ profile. It says that I am not linked to g+,but all the info is from my yt handle is gone.So you don’t have to use your real name on g+ but we’ll backdoor you YT account instead.Also now if I sign out of my YT account it signs me out of many of my accounts that are linked to google.When I sign back into any other of these and then go to YT I find I am already signed in.It never worked like this before yesterday and I know I did not click OK on anything to change the way my account functioned.

I never actually understood the policy of ‘real names’ considering that absolutely NO google account of mine has ever had my real name. And ALL (or however many) G+ accounts are based on my gmail accounts. As best I can figure, they never got around to seeing if I ever used or even had a ‘real’ name. So the entire brouhaha is just … puzzling. Well, other than the fact that creeps keep thinking they can monetize this shit.

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What I thought was cute was the repeated use of the word “entitled.” It’s almost like an intentional clue she’s being ironic… except the intentional part.

Strangely, I thought this until the real names policy fiasco and no longer think it.

It’s an aspirational right. Obviously in the real world death is inevitable and none of us are safe any time. That doesn’t mean we should take a piss on people fleeing abusive spouses.

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This is interesting. I missed the policy and the discussion earlier and before now I would not have guessed that requiring real names might be problem for some individuals. It makes sense, though.

Now, I’ve long been a proponent of not using my real name on the Internet. But I’ve assumed this is mostly because I’m old fashioned. In my mid 30s, I’m just old enough that my computer upbringing included pre-Internet BBSs and lots of web forum, where pseudonyms were normal, especially in ‘computing enthusiast’ culture. (Think The Matrix). The trend today seems to be for people to tweet and network with real names, or at least openly publish the link between pseudonym and name. This still seems odd. .

I work in database development for a non-profit that interfaces with several government partners, and verifying identities is a really interesting concept when deconstructed. We’re in a major, multi-cultural metropolis so we see multiple names for people, multiple spellings and name changes for all different reasons and in all different styles. Even unpacking the ideas of “maiden name” and “previous name” just deconstructs these concepts that you have to hold firmly to in order to deliver what is requested. My wife just went around and around in circles with the social security office and the birth certificate office around a misplaced multi-syllabic with dash vs. middle name situation from a misreading of her hand-written birth certificate. When you go in deep enough you realize that identity is a bizarre construct built on the interacting trust between various authorities with interest in defining a person as they see them. Basically, It’s turtles all the way down.


Wait, doesn’t Facebook also have a real names policy? Or is it just a real names strongly encouraged policy? I seem to remember something like that when I signed up, but that was back in the ‘students only’ days so maybe they backpedaled, or at least decided not to enforce it.

Ok, it appears it is a ‘real names but we don’t enforce it’ policy:

When I tried to make a “Humbabella Glitchen” Facebook page some system noticed that that did not appear to be a real person’s name and didn’t want to let me do it. I have a completely fake facebook account with a name that is a common first name and last name combination and they certainly don’t try to make me prove it.

They certainly do have a real names policy; the reason I don’t mind it so much is that all they can take away from me is my facebook account.

I have too many eggs in the Google basket - if they decided they didn’t like the looks of my name, they could scew up or take away my email, calendar, a fair chunk of my documents, etc. etc. In the early days, ISTR stories of people finding even their Android phones wiped when some Google functionary decided their G+ name looked bogus.

It’s a shitty aspirational right, though, because any vaguely conceivable definition of it causes more problems than it solves. You have a (not entirely inalienable) right not to be punched in the face, for example. You have a right to know (most of) the ingredients in stuff you buy to eat. These are rights that make sense and can be conceived of and enforced without fucking over third parties. But a right to be safe on the internet? Nope.

I’m not sure if we’re discussing whether or not the word “right” was a dumb word to use, or whether or not we should generally, as decent people, try not to make other people unsafe (and as a corollary whether we should be perturbed when other people do make people unsafe or show callousness towards making other people unsafe).

Obviously the right to be safe on the internet is not an actual right because there are legal documents listing those and it’s not on the list. I’m pretty sure “a right” was just meant as a strong statement of just how perturbed the author is when people are indifferent t the safety of other people. If your complaint is with the broad western cultural tendency to exaggerate emotional claims with invented facts or fact-like statements, I understand and share that frustration.

Let’s perhaps start with properly defining “safe”/“unsafe”?