Right, Google, you stupid cunts, this is simply not on!

[Stilgherrian writes: Oh dear. This post has generated a lot of interest. Thank you for that interest. But if you’re visiting for the first time, I strongly suggest you also read my lengthy response to commenters and the fair warning before posting your own comment.]

I knew this would happen sooner or later. Google, a data mining company in the United States, has the ignorant arrogance to tell me, a citizen of Australia, that my name — my legal name — doesn’t fit their scheme for how names “should” work. Well fuck you, arseholes!

What’s worse, this is how they tell you.

They suspend your profile, tell you your name is wrong, and tell you to change it.

Your profile has been suspended.

It appears that the name you entered doesn’t comply with our Names Policy.

The Names Policy requires that you use the name that you are commonly referred to in real life in your profile. Nicknames, maiden names, and so on, should be entered in the Other Names section of the profile. Profiles are currently limited to individuals; we will be launching a profile for businesses and other entities later this year.

Your profile will be suspended until you do edit your name to comply with the Names Policy: you will not be able to make full use Google services that require an active profile, such as Google+, Buzz, Reader and Picasa. This will not prevent you from using other Google services, like Gmail.

We understand that Google+ and it’s [sic] Names Policy may not be for everyone at this time. We would hate to see you go, but if you choose to leave, make a copy of your Google+ data first. Then, click here to leave Google+.

Listen, Googlecunts. This name precisely fits your Names Policy.

This is the name I’m “commonly referred to in real life”.

Did you even look to see if that were true before acting? No. Slack cunts.

Not only that, it’s the name that I have consistently used on every legal document, from passport to Medicare card, from property leases to witness statements, for thirty… fucking… years!

Oh, you’re worried about me putting a “.” in the surname field? That’s because I had to put something in there because your stupid fucked-up data verification code demanded that I not leave that field empty, even though that would be the morally and legally correct thing for me to have done.

What’s wrong is not my name. What’s wrong is your fucked-up Names Policy.

You stupid, stupid bastards clearly have no fucking idea how names work in the real world. For all your cleverness in building huge data centres to mine every scrap of personal information imaginable, somewhere along the line you’ve failed to Hoover up the fact that names don’t always fit into your neat Americo-centric first name / middle initial / last name pattern.

They never have, and they never will.

And don’t give me some bullshit excuse about how this is “unusual”. You’ve been in business for a decade. You’re one of the richest corporations on the planet. I know damn well there’s lots of good research on naming practices out there. Are you seriously suggesting that you build stuff without first reviewing the basics? Are you seriously suggesting that you’re incapable of dealing with the merely “unusual”?

What you also seem not to have figured out is how to open a conversation with someone about something as personal as their name.

You don’t fucking well start off by asserting they’re wrong and you’re right and they need to change. Show a bit of goddam humility, you cunts, and gently enquire whether things are as they seem. And then, only after there’s been a reasonable period for people to respond, do you start suspending services.

I’ve already written about how only fools would rush in and pour their lives into Google+. Seems I was right.

So here’s what I reckon should happen.

  • Forward me a copy of the email from last week where you indicated that there might be a problem. That seems to have gone astray. Note here that I’m giving you the opportunity to lie and pretend that you did actually send such an email and that you didn’t simply act like cunts and suspend service.
  • Apologise. Profusely. Your behaviour is offensive and you need to make amends. Yes, my behaviour is offensive too, but I’m the aggrieved party. Your first customer service challenge is to reduce my anger. It’s about time Google learned how to do customer service anyway.
  • You fix the entire workflow for notifying people about name problems.
    • For a start, that first suspension notice should offer more choices than just “Edit your name”. You know, maybe the name is right and you’re wrong.
    • Actually, before that, suspension should not be your first action. Fix that. Cunts.
  • Get rid of this stupid “must have two names” rubbish.

Now there’s this other whole thing about not allowing people to use screen names and other pseudonyms. That’s pretty fucked up too. But I reckon we’ve given you enough for one day, eh?

255 Replies to “Right, Google, you stupid cunts, this is simply not on!”

  1. While I certainly empathise with Stil’s incandescence over this, there’s a simple set of assumptions from a customer/user experience basis all the “Stil is an idiot” clown pack here aren’t getting.

    It simply doesn’t matter whether he/you/I pay for a service or not, if it’s offered up out there in the wild on a basis that it includes a wide user base and geography, it should meet or exceed the expectations of the user in its flexibility and capability.

    It’s completely reasonable to expect, for example, that name fields should not only not ask for First Name and Last Name (rather it should be Given Name and Family Name to allow for cultural and language variants), but that they should also allow for mononyms (a single name, common in certain cultures) and pseudonyms (which many of us use online).

    For example, I’m widely known as “trib”. It’s etymology is largely lost in the mists of time, but it’s used by my family, friends, colleagues and at least one Senator. Should I choose, why shouldn’t I be permitted to use it, so long as it can be tied, in a private exchange between a service provider and me, to a verifiable identity?

    Google’s blind insistence in the case of Google+ that names not only be in a standard English form, thus failing legally mononymous folk like Stil, but that they also not be pseudonymous treads a line that fails to protect any number of people who conduct their perfectly legitimate online lives behind an alter-identity, for a wide-ranging set of reasons that have more than adequately been discussed, at length, elsewhere (may I take the liberty of pointing folk at danah boyd’s post on the matter). Beyond that, it fails any number of reasonable user experience expectations that, as an application, Google+ be flexible enough to deal with its not insignificant user base, no matter how their name is formed.

  2. I just saw this posted on G+ and, after having tons of friends suspended for using their “fake” Second Life names (which they have used in public since many, many, years as artists, content creators, organizers, consultants, etc….), let me just thank you for exactly the right tone and language necessary to call attention to this incredibly fucking stupid name policy.

    First of all, I’m sick to death of people defending Google on this. It may be their site, but Google does not have the right to choose my identity. It is not their “right” to say that I am not whom I am, and it is not their “right” to play a tyrannical government who says that I have to provide them with a government issued identity card to prove that this is my name.

    Yes, it’s their playground, but they provide public services since years and should observe legal protections for people – and it is not just Pseudonymous users saying this. There are many people who are using their “legal names” that are completely against this draconian behavior on Google’s part since G+ opened up. This was never an issue with them before and it is appalling how quickly they suddenly changed their tune.

    Also, before anyone throws the following in my face as an excuse for Google: I AM a paying customer of Google, since years. In fact, I paid for my services under my Pseudonym, using a credit card registered under my Pseudonym, with real money that they were perfectly willing to take under that identity. I am a paying customer and I have every single right to speak my mind about suddenly being told that I am no longer welcome at Google, and threatened with the suspension of my services – some of which, again, I have PAID for. That, they have no right to do.

    People who keep defending Google on this are complete and utter idiots and morons. This is a civil rights issue, and choosing your own name and identity should be a fundamental human right accorded to everyone. Google should not be the judge of this.

    I used to support Google wholeheartedly. I own an Android phone and recommended their services for years to my friends and to companies. I have stopped doing that as of a few weeks ago. I cannot trust Google anymore. Their whole policy stinks to high heaven, they’ve had over a month of lying to us about their promises and solutions, and they have done nothing to fix this situation whatsoever.

    And the fact is that Google is also a monopoly and, as such, should be subjected to anti-trust laws which protect the people. I am completely for Google making billions more – and more power to them – but not by dictating to everyone who qualifies and who doesn’t when the rule is so blatantly prejudiced against people who don’t fit into their cookie cutter molds.

    So, Silgherrian, thank you for writing this. You’re absolutely correct and your tone was even tepid compared to what I’ve said to them about this.

    And to Madonna and the rest: Fuck off. If you don’t want to join in, then it’s not your fight and it won’t affect you. Bugger off and leave the rest of us alone. If you don’t want to see us on G+, then fucking mute us in the exact same way that I sure as hell will be muting you when I see you spouting off stupid defenses about how Google is so fucking pristine.

  3. Stil unlike many of your commentors I found you anger very refreshing, I killed my account last week because I didn’t want to loss access to my gmail address.

    Yes google’s model is ad supported, if they mess me around I remove myself as a product they can sell to there customers, advertisers

  4. To use another Americo-centric expresion: “I feel you dawg!”

    Google’s real name policy is a mess, but cut them some slack – they’re still testing and change it.

    1. No, the site is beta. The names policy appears to be something they’re very fixed on and won’t change.

      In internal testing, (I am reliably told that) they had hundreds of Google employees tell them how utterly fucked up from top to bottom their planned names policy for G+ was, complete with detailed explanations (this is mandatory reading for the idiots defending Google on this post, and was widely circulated). Everything happening now was predicted in detail beforehand.

      (They also knew that their claim that “real names promote civlity” [presumably they mean WASPonyms] was actually shown to be false before they started claiming it. But that’s a different matter from refusing to understand how legal names actually work in the real world.)

      But someone high up in Google has determined that this shall be his crowning glory, the policy he makes his name on. Well done.

  5. Google? What the hell kind of name is that? If you want to be a real company, use a real name, like Page & Brin.

  6. The fuckup value of Google’s name policy is really quite incredible.

    All they had to do was not be Facebook. People hate the Facebook company even as they use the app. All they had to do was not be Facebook.

    Now it’s all popcorn all the time.

  7. As I’ve said elsewhere: Google’s policy is stupid, and if you agree with it, you’re stupid too. Yes, really. Hey there, gentle reader! Do you agree with Google’s policy on names? Then you’re stupid! No, no exceptions. Stupid. You. Yes, really. Sorry if that bothers — no, actually, not sorry, because I don’t feel sorry to tell you that you’re stupid. And you are. I promise. I’m not, in fact, wrong about this, in case you were thinking maybe that was a loophole. Agreeing with the naming policy = stupid. Can I be any clearer about this?

    Currently downloading all 800 fucking megabytes of my GMail so I can kill my Google Profile. They claim it’s possible to do that without messing anything up, but I suspect that’s another lie. Fuck them all. I’d call them cunts too, but I why name them after something I like?

    1. @Eric. I agree totally with that last. When called that in a professional context I tended to reply with “you are what you eat”. The looks I’d get were priceless.

  8. I know Stil and see his viewpoint. It’s likely that the Googlers who made this call are probably people with limited real-world experience beyond programming or mathematics. In a few countries, notably Indonesia, many people have a single name and no surname.

  9. I am a single name – Zero – have been for about thirty years. In all my dealings with bureaucracy I have had to provide a second name. So I devised ‘Blank’. The b is silent, the l is silent, the a is silent, etc. Google+ have so far allowed it to pass. We shall see. Join the gang – or rather granfalloon – become ‘Blank’!

  10. First, I absolutely effing love you and your frank language. I would not want you to be pissed at me. Second thank you.

    third, please don’t blame americans for this twisted 2 name field nazi insistance. google IS an american company, however on the web I am a world traveler and constantly face this situation. Even in australian sites (im a web designer, I work world-wide and with australians).

    lotta americans have been suspended for not having “real” sounding names. Im just waiting for the two I use who are known publicly by their psuedo-names to vanish. I havn’t a clue why they missed me in the first wave of cuts.

    Its not just google that serves up this invasion of privacy though. Facebook does it as well. and to the point that someone scary found someone I loved via facebook. the someone I loved has left facebook in fear that the creep will mine her friends lists and find her real address. its not that hard to do.

    Advertisers, marketers, they dont need your real name to track your habits and learn what they need to improve their business. only people who want to hack you and stalk you need your real name.

    I hope more people will speak up, “golden-language” or spoken through clear rain water…I don’t care. just speak out. speak up. Our information is our world. Let’s really own it.

  11. Of course you could always say fuck Google and go join Diaspora, an opensource, distributed, privacy focused social network where they don’t give a damn what you call yourself and isn’t owned by a megacorporation.

  12. Onya Stil.
    OMG what a depressing set of comments you’ve triggered. In the informopolies’ Brave New World, they don’t need to feed us Soma when the populace has been lulled into thinking Google “is just a website” (Madonna).
    It’s deeply deeply insidious for Google to force people to name themselves in a formal way. I’m shocked Googles’ countless ovine apologists don’t get that the Real Names policy is a commercial tactic, to aid their aggregation of Personal Information.
    Their long standing ambition is to “organise the world’s information”. Truly, Google’s mission is to organise the world.

  13. More power to you. You’re not the only person writing under a non-traditional name. (Got a Latin dictionary? Check out the meaning of my last name… 🙂 ) Just waiting for the googlebots to bounce me so I can rip them to shreds in my blog…

  14. Wow. So many comments overnight my time, thank you. It’s just approaching 0600 AEDT and I did get up early to do something else. However I have skimmed through all the comments and will write a follow-up post later today.

    As a teaser, let me just say that I’ve received a boilerplate email from Brian at The Google Profiles Support Team that’s really quite inadequate. I’ll certainly post that too, once I’ve considered my reaction.

    Meanwhile, people have mentioned Skud’s research into this. Google+ names policy, explained is certainly worth a read. It dispels some of the false rumours, but also points out some of the terrible, terrible hypocrisies about the policy and Google’s implementation.

  15. dizeyner – I’ve had the same problem with facebook…that’s how I became jane cerva to begin with. Used to blog under “jane doe” but facebook wouldn’t allow the name when I tried to set up a facebook account for my followers…and thus jane cerva was born.

  16. I too did wonder how long it would take for your name along with a friend (who also legally uses a single name in Australia) to get picked up by the normative naming police. Makes me angry how inflexible corps can be with naming requirements. One of my exes had a two-word last name and he had all sorts of trouble with banks and even my local library entering his name on the system. Ended up having to use a hyphen or join together as one word. My name on Google+ is currently “Chrissie M.” – I guess I am not far off getting picked on for that. At least I don’t use “crispynoodles” anymore. 😉

  17. First they came for our our surnames
    I remained silent
    Because I have a surname.

  18. Oh, Stilgherrian. This one is champagne popcorn, mediapathy central:

    G+ have got Robert Scoble to shill for them (Vic Gundotra, the idiot Google VP who’s bet his career on this names policy, is an old boss and friend of Scoble’s). Scoble is 110% in favour of the names policy, whatever the hell it actually is.

    Scoble’s justification? The names policy is more aesthetically pleasing.

    Note that we’re talking about a policy that has Hong Kong users locked out of their GMail unless they invent a name American reviewers like, and suspending an Asian-descended Google employee whose name is “Ping”.

    “Don’t be evil, just racist.” Are we allowed to call excluding whole countries because you don’t think their Johnny Foreigner gibberish names are pretty enough “racist”, or is that going too far, d’you think?

    Man. At this stage I hope they double down even more and absolutely ride this policy right into the ground.

  19. Surely this isn’t the first time you’ve had problems with systems requiring a surname.

    You’re the stupid twat for only having one name.

    Fucking self righteous Aussie pricks.

    [Stilgherrian writes: I’m going to leave this comment stand, even though it clearly violates the comments policy, because it shows the sheer moronic level of stupidity of this customer of virginmedia.com. They’re in Croydon, UK, I think. And they obviously haven’t bothered to read anything here. Arsehats.]

    1. Here is a question for Brits who think that only having one name is for Twats: what about the Head of State, and the first three in line for the Throne? “Wales” certainly isn’t in compliance with Googles TOS…….

        1. Also in the Army. However, it is not either his “Legal” name, nor the name by which he is commonly known.

        2. Interesting, since his correct name [shortened like he seemed to have done it] is William Windsor. Windsor is the family name.

  20. DUDE! Madonna posted on your site! that’s so cool! how could you disagree with Madonna?

    I haven’t got blocked, yet, I expect it every time I check in on the G+ page, I’m not truly concerned either way, cause it’s such a loopy item, Lady Gaga. Crowsheet is simply a less offensive version of Crowshit my actual name, but either one is not a legal name. I use both as an artist and am looking forward to whatever cockamamie reaction google finally puts forth.
    I liked your discussion of this alot though sir, I’ll try to keep up and check back on your site. Your points about google needing to learn customer service are spot on.

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