Google Confirms: Non-Real Name Google Profiles Risk Suspension (I.E., Google Still Doesn’t Get Social)
If you created a Google Profile named after your avatar or another pseudonymous name, your account risks suspension. Instead, you should consider creating a Google Profile which is based on your real name, and if you like, add your avatar name and other non-real names in the About section of your profile.
To do that, click “Edit Profile” and enter those names in the designated fields, as pictured at right from my own profile, which has my SL avatar name, “Hamlet Au”, along with variations of account names I use in other gaming/virtual world/social media settings.
My advice comes after a long e-mail conversation I recently completed with Google spokesperson Katie Watson, Senior Manager of Global Communications & Public Affairs at the Internet giant. The thread began when I tried to confirm the suspension of a Second Life user who created a Google Profile with his avatar name, Opensource Obscure (see below.) However, our conversation more generally applies to anyone who’s created a Google Profiles account named after any kind of non-real, online name -- even an account name used in a Google product, such as YouTube.
For the last couple years, it’s been a mantra in Silicon Valley that “Google doesn’t get social.” The introduction of Google Profiles and its truly impressive Circles feature strongly suggested that the company had made a massive shift in corporate culture to compete with Facebook and other social networking systems. However, the fact that Google hasn’t crafted a coherent Profiles policy that’s more in line with how people actually use their identity in the digital age... well, to me that shows they are still abundantly full of Not Getting Social.
To take a single example (there are others), a Google Profiles support page says the name you use on the system should be one “that you commonly go by in daily life”-- which doesn’t acknowledge that a large amount of people commonly do go by an Internet-based, non-real account name in their daily life, and are often known to more people online by that pseudonym than they are by their real name. Hundreds of millions do this every day on YouTube, Flickr, Deviant Art, Reddit, Slashdot, Gawker, and many more systems, not to mention all the online worlds and games with naming conventions of their own.
That said, Google Plus and Profiles are already showing tremendous growth and impressive social sharing power, and if you don’t want to risk losing that, you should probably play by the company’s stated rules, as contradictory or incomplete as they may currently be. However, the mere fact that they’re incomplete suggests they may change, so keep your eyes apprised of that.
Read my full, lightly edited e-mail conversation with Google’s Ms. Watson after the break, and do note the point where she’s unable to directly answer my questions. I say this not to criticize her (she’s only relating existing policy), but to suggest the place where Google as a whole could better explain itself -- and provide a really meaningful, competitive alternative to the real name-obsessed giant called Facebook.
Does Google plan to suspend avatar-based Plus accounts, and if so, why? This Second Life user apparently had his account cancelled for that reason.
Google’s Katie Watson: We actually worked with this person to reinstate their profile. They changed their profile to include their real name, and then used their "avatar-based name" in the field that asks for other names. [See Update below.]
Google Profiles are designed to be public pages on the web, which are used to help connect and find real people in the real world. By providing your common name, you will be assisting all people you know - friends, family members, classmates, co-workers, and other acquaintances - in finding and creating a connection with the the right person online.
Does Google plan to have a special or separate means for + users to manage their game/MMO/virtual world social networks?
Google+ is an ongoing project and this is just the beginning. We plan to add a lot of features and functionality to Google+ over time. We’re just excited to get started.
Just to make sure I understand, are you saying that pseudonymous Google+ profiles that are not associated in any way with a real name, but just use a game/online community/avatar account name, are not allowed?
Yes, we do ask for people to include the name they are commonly referred to in their Google profile. But we do have a field for them to enter a different name they are known as.
Again, Google Profiles are designed to be public pages on the web, which are used to help connect and find real people in the real world. By providing your common name, you will be assisting all people you know - friends, family members, classmates, co-workers, and other acquaintances - in finding and creating a connection with the the right person online.
OK, so if I understand you correctly, you're saying that anyone with a pseudonymous Google profile should instead create one with their real name, and add their pseudonym(s) in the alternate field. Otherwise, they risk suspension. Let me know if I'm misunderstanding that.
Here is our Help Center article, which is best to reference.
This link doesn't specifically answer my question. How does Google define "the name that you commonly go by in daily life"? Does that mean people who use an Internet community username in their daily life (in a social network, a forum, an online game, etc.) can use that name? For example, can someone who is well-known by their account name on YouTube use that?
Unfortunately, I cannot go into more detail aside from what's included on this site.
Google Profile screencap from Obscure's Flickr account.
UPDATE, 5:08PM: In Comments a few hours ago, Mr. Obscure claimed that he was not contacted by Google. In an e-mail I just received, Google's Katie Watson addresses this point: "I cannot confirm specific profiles we have reinstated, as I'm not part of the review process. I was trying to say that we are generally working with people to change their profile to include their real name, and then use their 'avatar-based name' in the field that asks for other names. I'm sorry for any confusion."