Google Relaxes Real Name Requirments on Google Plus

January 24, 2012

When I posted about new accounts in Google being automatically opted in to Google Plus and Gmail, one of my concerns was how this would affects the ability to create a semi-anonoymous gmail accounts.

In the past, Google has strictly required a real first/last name when using Google Plus, banning accounts that used pseudonyms. Their TOS for a Google Account also states that any provided information must be correct.

However, in a recent blog post by the Bradley Horowitz, who Google’s Product Vice President, he announced changes to the real name requirement, adding support for a Nickname, along side the required Common Name. So, you can still use your real name, but also link your real name to a nickname.

It seems they will also slightly lower the requirements for using a pseudonym. Stating that they “recognize that [Using a Real Name] isn’t always the case and allow for other common names in Google+.”

However, if your account is flagged, you would still need to prove the identity is valid, such as showing a driver’s license or a presence, online or offline, which shows the pseudonym as being legit. Essentially, the name may be flagged and, if it is, the account will be disabled while they check it out. So, an established name on Twitter may, in some cases, be okay, but a brand new one would not be.

They state the name must still represent the actual individual and “not an avatar or other secondary online identity.” As well as, “your name may not represent a family, business, avatar, gaming handle, or other group of people.”

Google’s Official Name Policy.

So, while Google is certainly moving to relax the identity requirements in Google Plus, it has the effect of linking other aliases to real name on Google Plus, or linking an established online identity to a Google Plus Account. Creating a new semi-anonymous Google Plus account would still violate their TOS, so for political and other discourse, Google Plus would, in many ways, still not be a good choice. The barrier of proof still remains to be seen as well and how lenient they are on this requirement.

How much proof will need to be required to show an online identity as valid is also not spelled out, so this is probably somewhat subjective. However, since they state links to social networks and adding a link on a website can show this, the barrier is certainly lower than it was before when they were banning people for using pseudonyms.

You are also trusting the company that, in the past banned even very popular people that used pseudonyms, will not change their opinion later. While it is spelled out in the Q & A section, it is by no way a guarantee that they will always honor this policy.

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