Much ado has been made over the Google+ “real names policy” (as it is commonly referred to outside of Google), which does not, in fact, state anything about needing to use your “real” or legal name. The Names Policy (as Google calls it) states quite clearly that “it’s important to use your common name so that the people you want to connect with can find you”. This is what I did. The majority of the people I know and wish to connect with online know me simply as Wolfger. In fact, many people do not know my legal name at all, or would have to do some severe memory exercise to recall it.
Yesterday, Google determined in some way that I was in violation of the Names Policy. This clearly isn’t true, and I don’t know what method they used to determine this, but there it is. I immediately (prior to suspension) created a post asking people on G+ who had met me in real life to inform Google of my name. All the same, my account was suspended between the time I went to bed and the time I woke up.
What does suspension mean exactly? At first I just thought it meant I lost G+. No biggie. I’m not as active on social networks as I once was. Then I encountered problems on Buzz, where I could not “like” or comment on anything. I thought it was the workplace firewall catching up with the times, but when I got home the problem persisted. No message pops up to tell me why I can’t do these things, the action just fails and looks every bit like a bug. Google FAIL. Later I tried to change my status on Google Talk after I noticed my last custom status went away. The status appeared to be applied, but disappeared a second later. Two more attempts, same thing. So I’m not allowed to have a Google Talk status if Google doesn’t like my name? Come on. That’s just ridiculous. Who know what’s next… I’m afraid for my phone, which uses the Google Android operating system. If that stops working, I think I will have to see if there’s a lawyer willing to do some pro-bono work. Could be lucrative. (Update 1: Google has also removed my profile picture from chat. Apparently when they decide your name isn’t suitable, you’re no longer allowed to show your face, either.)
I’m in the appeals process, and hopefully some human with half a brain looks at my case and realizes that somebody or some script made a mistake, but in the mean time I’m looking for a replacement for all the Google things in my life. Recommendations (especially where e-mail is concerned) are welcome. Gmail will be the hardest thing to do without.
Note: I am not complaining about the Names Policy, nor am I refusing to comply with it. Facebook has an actual (and completely unenforced) real names policy, and I comply with that. If Google determines, incorrectly, that Wolfger isn’t my common name, I’ll switch to my legal name, and immediately start eliminating Google from my life. I’ve worked hard for my name. I’m going to keep it.