Adventures in Identity: Still struggling with Google+

On Wednesday I decided to see if I could finally sort out my Google+ profile, which was suspended around two and a half years ago. I didn’t really get anywhere, but I did discover some new and different frustrations.

First, the back story…

Google+ screenshot 1: see text for a description

As the first screenshot (above) says, “Your profile [that is, my profile] was suspected because it violates our names policy.” That’s because back in 2011, Google required that names consist of at least two words. To get something that looked close to my single-word name (a “mononym”), I’d entered it as “Stilgherrian .” But the full stop (“period” for American readers) isn’t allowed, and the profile was suspended.

I was so frustrated by that, and even more so by Google’s arrogant-seeming error messages, that I wrote an infamous expletive-filled blog post — which got more than 100,000 unique viewers on the first day. Even now, two and a half years later, it sometimes gets a couple hundred readers a month.

Since then, Google had supposedly started allowing people to display their “nicknames” (that is, pseudonyms”), at least in some contexts, so I figured that I’d give it another go. It wouldn’t worry me too much if I was “Stilgherrian Stilgherrian” under the hood, as long as my name was displayed properly.

So I clicked on “Take action”…

Google+ screenshot 2: see text for a description

First impression? I’m happy that Google was softened the opening language:

Stilgherrian . doesn’t look like a name

Personal profiles require a person’s name. Your profile name, Stilgherrian ., looks like it may not be a name. Learn more

And it seems that I have three options.

Provide information about your name
Stilgherrian . is my common name, and this is my personal Google+ profile.

No, my name doesn’t have a dot in it. I suppose I could provide the documentation and explain that their system doesn’t let me enter my name properly. But what else is on offer?

Update your profile name
Stilgherrian . is not my common name, and this is my personal Google+ profile.

This presumably would allow me to try entering the name again. It seems to logical thing to try.

Create a Google+ Page
Stilgherrian . is the name of my business brand, organization, or YouTube channel.

Now I know that a “page”, rather than a “profile”, would allow a single-word name. But I’ve tried very hard over the years to make it clear that my name is not a pseudonym, and creating a page creates exactly that unwanted impression. I might be forced to do it this way, however.

Well, the middle option is the “correct” one. I clicked on it, entered “Stilgherrian” in all of the name fields — and then hit another problem.

Google+ screenshot 3: see text for a description

I’m being given just three choice for how my name will then be displayed, none of which are correct:

Stilgherrian Stilgherrian
Stilgherrian “Stilgherrian” Stilgherrian
Stilgherrian Stilgherrian (Stilgherrian)

As is says, “Changing your name here will change it in all Google products”. See? Great.

Google+ screenshot 4: see text for a description

Now I was tempted to see what might happen if I submitted it anyway, and then followed it up with an email asking someone to fix it manually. But the final screen before submission turned me off that idea.

Google+ screenshot 5: see text for a description

Submit this name for review?
Our team will review this name to ensure it complies with the Google+ Names Policy. If this name is approved, you won’t be able to change your profile name again for up to three months. If this name isn’t approved, your Google+ profile will remain suspended and you can submit another name or submit an appeal.

With no indication of how long the review would take, and with deadlines for real work looming, I decided to leave it for another day.

I’ll probably end up working through Google’s media people, because the lack of a working Google+ profile is hindering some specific parts of my media work. I’ll talk about them another day. But with more than 13,000 people in Australia with mononyms, it really shouldn’t be this hard. Stay tuned.

4 Replies to “Adventures in Identity: Still struggling with Google+”

  1. I tried 5 times to get Google to recognise my professional name, Ms. Naughty. I gave them 20 separate examples of public use. No deal. Got the exact same rejection email every single time. Perhaps it’s because I work with porn? In any case, there is no way to contact a real person at Google+ to discuss it.
    So my Google+ profile is “Louise Lush” – which isn’t my real name, but it *sounds* real.
    Google+ is a colossal waste of time but I wanted to be able to make use of authorship in search results.
    I also deliberately set up a separate account in order to try and make name changes, thanks to that handy thing where they will change your name across every google thing you own. I’ve got old Youtube and gmail accounts that I didn’t want to risk with this exercise. Suffice to say, after this I really despise what Google has become.

  2. @Ms Naughty: The authorship feature is one of the reasons I’m wanting to set up a Google+ profile — or at least why some commissioning editors want me to. I really don’t care myself.

    As I wrote in the original expletive-filled post, Google simply doesn’t understand identity. And while their own policy talks about using the name by which you are commonly known, cases like yours show that that don’t follow their own policy and insist on “wallet names” — at least when a name looks unusual to a Silicon Valley software engineer.

  3. Stilgherrian

    I recently discovered NSW had passed a law requiring the likes of Google and Facebook to recognise pseudonyms in situations such as ours. I emailed this to Google in their ‘link to supply supporting documentation’ and was rejected again

    Then, within a fortnight, without so much as an email announcing they were green-lighting me, I found my G+ profile was approved once more, for the first time since – when was it we were banned? Spring 2010?

    Cheers and good luck

    Dermott Banana

  4. @Dermott Banana: You’re probably referring to the Commonwealth Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Act 2012, which amended the Privacy Act 1988, with those changes coming into force on 12 March this year.

    One of the new 17 Australian Privacy Principles, number 2, specifies that “individuals must have the option of not identifying themselves, or of using a pseudonym, when dealing with an APP entity in relation to a particular matter”, except where required by law — presumably things like when being investigated by the Australian Federal Police — or when it would be “impracticable” to provide the service

    Google in fact sorted out my Google+ profile when I asked them to do so, shortly before I had to moderate a Google Hangout on the new privacy laws — and I realise now that I forgot to blog about that.

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