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< Google+‎ | policy‎ | naming
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Google's "common name" policy of requiring users to use only "the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you" has caused a dispute between users and the management of G+ as well as a few defenders of the policy outside Google. The policy has been widely criticized in the blogosphere as well as by organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Part of the problem is that the G+ management has avoided engaging in dialogue on the issue, preferring to let news trickle out via sporadic official releases and unofficial announcements embedded in other contexts (interviews, conferences).



  • Findability: Google wants to make it easier for people to find each other by name.
  • Civility: Although Google has not stated this directly, a 3rd party reported that G+ VP Vic Gundotra "is trying to make sure a positive tone gets set here. Like when a restaurant doesn't allow people who aren't wearing shirts to enter."


  • Google's enforcement of this policy has been somewhat arbitrary and ineffective.
    • Many users have been suspended even though they are using their legal name on G+ (e.g. Violet Blue).
    • Many users with obvious pseudonyms have not been suspended.
    • It has been shown that the policy's enforcers are easily duped by forged images of legal identification.
  • Google's enforcement of this policy has not always been consistent with the policy as written:
    • The policy says you can use a name that people "usually call you" (for which a known pseudonym should be acceptable), but enforcers seem to be interpreting it to mean "legal name (or variant thereof)"... unless that name sounds too unusual (to their ears) to be a "real" name.
  • Towards enforcement of the policy on G+, Google has sometimes cut users off from access to all other Google services such as Gmail.
  • The suspension process has not been well-documented and has varied a great deal, though it has improved somewhat (there is now a 4-day warning period before suspension, usually)
  • It is not clear what the purpose of this policy is, as Google's explanations so far have not correlated with reality.
    • The findability justification does not make sense because in many cases an alias works better for this, e.g. an author known mainly by her pen-name, or a user with a very common legal name who prefers to go by her unusual alias because it is more recognizable and unique than her legal name.
    • The civility justification goes against many people's individual experience as well as empirical data (h/t with commentary).
  • known pseudonyms vs. legal names -- if the policy is actually to require legal names, disallowing even well-known pseudonyms, then the following objections apply:
    • Many users are known better by their online handles than by their legal names; in order to satisfy the "findability" goal, they should be using those better-known pseudonyms.
    • Many users would be placed in physical danger if they were identified by legal name.
    • Many users are in jobs where they are not allowed to post under their real name.
    • Many users have very common legal names, and have chosen a pseudonym so as to prevent confusion and improve memorability.
    • A pseudonym is typically more expressive of a user's personality than the legal name they were given (by others) at birth, and thus enhances identifiability rather than detracting from it.
    • Geek Feminism Wiki has a detailed listing of who is harmed by a "real-names" policy

Information about users suspended for naming violations is here.