masks
Under the patent Google+ users will still be required to register under real names, but their public identity can remain pseudonymous.

Google may  finally resolve it’s well-reported pseudonym problem thanks to a patent secured earlier this week.

The patent will allow Google to ensure users are real people, while using multiple personas to conceal their identities in everyday interactions.

Shortly after the search giant’s social network, Google+, launched last year, the network clashed with its users while trying to assert a real names only policy. After strictly enforcing the policy for months, going so far as to ban hundreds or thousands of accounts, Google suddenly changed course, possibly to deter an exodus already in progress. But today, critics still call Google+ a “ghost town.”

Google filed for the pseudonym patent in September of last year, back when much of this controversy was still going on. However, it took just under a year to be approved.

Titled “Social computing personas for protecting identity in online social interactions,” the patent would still prohibit users from using pseudonyms in place of their real names. Rather it would allow them to make one or several aliases visible to other users after signing up with their real name and identity. The patent lists Google+ as an example.

So even if Google knows your name is John Smith, your contacts might know you better as ComicBookFan1. It’s a far cry from Facebook, where a user named John Smith would have to change his name to a “real sounding fake” like John James in order to stay private.

It’s good news for users who want to protect their identities, and it’s good news for Google+, since studies show pseudonymous users participate more valuably in communities.

Photo by Brian Snelson/Flickr

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