Last issue we started looking at Google’s new social network, Google+, and its “Real Names” policy. We discussed the problem of using a single name as your identifier with all of the various “Circles” you can create, presumably to keep your boss from seeing the postings of your “homeboys” about that little party on Saturday night. But being only able to use a single name isn’t the worst problem.
My friend Pamela Dingle (she’s senior technical architect in the CTO’s office at Ping Identity) blogged about the second problem on her personal weblog, Adventures of an Eternal Optimist:
“… Google started enforcing their real names policy. Obsessively. The fly in the ointment? While Google can state that they require real names, they have no definitive way to determine which names are real. The result is an offensively discriminatory process of identifying names that don’t appear to conform and requiring proof of identity only from those people.”
What, exactly, is the problem?
Another friend, Kaliya Hamlin (co-founder of the Internet Identity Workshop), is better known as “Identity Woman,” the name of her blog and how she’s known by people within and without the identity community. And remember that we quoted Google’s profile policy in the last issue: “If you’re referred to by more than one name, just choose one and place the others in the ‘Other Names’ section of your profile.”
But Google, in its infinite wisdom, won’t let her use Identity Woman as her name with Kaliya Hamlin as an “other name.” They insist that she must use her married name (can’t even use her maiden name) as her primary identifier. Which means, of course, that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people won’t be able to find her on Google+ because they’re looking for Identity Woman!
I’ll give Pam Dingle the last word here:
“The people I want in my social circles prove themselves over time. They say smart things and engage in positive ways. Requiring government identification before engaging in casual conversation would be considered horribly antisocial in real life — why does Google think it’s ok in the social networking world? They are choking the life and personality out of their own service, before it has even had the chance to flourish.”