Google defends anonymity rules

Anti-pseudonyms policy on Google+ has some social users up in arms, others offer tepid support.

Mar 3, 2020, 11:41 am*

Internet Culture


Dave Copeland

A change in the Google+ policy that immediately removed people suspected of using pseudonyms from the social network was not enough to placate privacy advocates, abuse victims, artists and others who go by different names.

“Google still doesn’t get social,” Dutch information specialist Twan van Elk tweeted in response to a ReadWriteWeb article outlining the changes.

Initially, Google immediately removed users from Google+ if it suspected them of using a fake name in what the company said was an effort “to make connecting with people on the web more like connecting with people in the real world.”

Under the policy, Google will send emails to users suspected of violating the policy and give them four days to comply before the profile is removed.

“We’re listening, learning, and iterating to give our users the best experience possible,” Saurabh Sharma, a Google+ product manager, wrote in the policy change announcement. “We’re hoping that most affected users will be able to quickly fix their profile name while continuing to enjoy all that Google+ has to offer.”

The crux of the debate was perhaps best captured last month in an open letter to Google+ from Sandra Large, who has operated online for several years under the psuedonymn Technogran.

“The reason why I decided to give myself a pseudonym rather than be known by my real name are actually pretty simple. I am a female. I am also a lone parent and carer, looking after my Down’s Syndrome daughter. I am a senior citizen. As a member of society I very often feel vulnerable,” Large said. “If I say something on the Internet that someone else doesn’t agree with, I need to know that they won’t be able to find out where I live and cause me any trouble. I also want to be sure that no one can use my name via Identity theft. In other words, whilst being on and using the Internet I NEED to feel safe.”

Google was criticized for announcing the policy on the same day it released social games on Google+. Some users felt the news was buried as a result of the games announcement, but others seemed to not be bothered by the policy.

“Does it mean I’m “The Man” since I’m totally okay with Google’s “No Pseudonyms on G+” Policy?” Seattle-based writer Ubura Jones asked on Twitter.

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*First Published: Aug 12, 2011, 12:18 pm