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Google to Internet: “Papers Please”

I don’t dislike Google. Many of the company’s products are incredibly delightful to use. I support a fair amount of the company’s public advocacy work, though not all of it (caveat: the same could be said of almost all organizations I’m sympathetic towards). That said, I think think that their policy regard real names and pseudonyms if fucking absurd. As noted by Ars:

On Monday, Google Product Vice President Bradley Horowitz wrote on Google+ that the company will roll out its name policy changes this week. One change is that anyone will be able to add nicknames in addition to their real names. The more significant change, however, is that Google will also let people use pseudonymsinstead of a real name, but there are caveats. Horowitz indicates that the pseudonym must be established and well-known in order to qualify for a Google+ profile.

“Starting today we’re updating our policies and processes to broaden support for established pseudonyms, from +trench coat to +Madonna,” Horowitz wrote. Google may flag the name that a person intends to use and ask for additional information to confirm the person’s identity, including “Scanned official documentation, such as a driver’s license” or “Proof of an established identity online with a meaningful following.” This would seem to raise privacy problems for those who need pseudonyms for safety reasons, but a post in Mashable says “Google will destroy all documentation you send them once the account verification process is complete.”

Seriously: your pseudonym has to be “established and well known”?! By who’s standards? If I have an offline pseudonym does that count? What if my pseudonym is ‘common’ and used by a lot of people – does that impact how well ‘established’ it is?

Google is actively trying to force people into their social network and they’re just being horrific to their end-users in the process. Demanding that people provide official documents to join a social network?! Ridiculous.