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. I was totally pseudonymous online until a couple of years ago, when I decided to tie my wallet name to my pseudonym (with little fanfare, I just put it on my About pages finally). Largely that’s because I started making some income with web work, and I thought clients would have more confidence with a wallet name. But that was totally my choice, and it shouldn’t have to be forced on anybody else.

    There are many more folks online who have a whole lot more invested in a unique handle than I do/did, and who have whole cyberspace reputations built around those handles. It’s ridiculous to think that they don’t know more people under those handles or that more people don’t trust their expertise under those handles.

    Add in all those non-Anglosphere naming conventions that also trip the alarm wires at google+, and it’s just a right-royal clusterfuck. This google VP who wants to die on a hill over this names policy? Congratulations on becoming on out-Zuckerberging Zuckerberg – how sleazy is the movie version of him going to look, do you think?

    Mind you, I am enjoying reading some of the stories/profiles at http://my.nameis.me

  2. I am going to be a cynical & start a conspiracy theory.

    Follow the money.

    Twitter is full of spammers and corporates blasting the social media sphere with SMEG crap.

    G+ wants to both stop the spam & leave the opportunity to sell corporate identities later. And they also want to deplete the volume of eyeballs going to Facebook.

    This involves locking down the naming mechanism, acceptable whilst in beta and mainstream English speaking world centric. Not so acceptable when going worldwide.

  3. A giant fail from Google, to be sure.

    An enormous fail in terms of basic information design. If, for instance, someone in Google had bothered to use their own search engine to search for “personal names web forms“, the first hit (that I see, anyway) is a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) page which does a nice job of outlining the issues with personal names around the world and web forms.

    This is just basic common sense for any self-respecting and competent modern web programmer. I’m gobsmacked that Google, of all companies, could so utterly fail this one.

    And another enormous fail in terms of breaking most of the more fundamental principles of customer relations.

    What a monumentally boneheaded – and, yes, racist – policy.

  4. Well, google haven’t learned ANYTHING from the last time a computer company tried to force people to use their real, full names.

    but for those of you who don’t want to follow the link, the story goes like this:
    computer gaming company Blizzard (owners of the hugely successful (World of) Warcraft, Diablo and Starcraft families of games) decided that they would try to combat internet “trolling” on their forums by forcing people to use their real names.

    In order to alleviate privacy concerns amongst the user base, a blizzard employe revealed his full name. Within hours, other forum users showed the employee his own personal information including his photos, address, telephone number and other such things by providing links to his Facebook.

    Real name + internet = bad news and people have every right to protect their privacy by entering whatever fricking alias they want to use. Definitely an epic fail from Google. I’m surprised they haven’t backed down yet.

  5. I used to be known far and wide as Dunetraveller, Dune, and currently on a favorite website: “DT” for short. I have used that name since 1998 when I first got online. I was even referred to by one or more variations of that name in phone conversations and in face to face meetings, so I am definitely feeling the thread.

    One thing does have me in a quandary. I know of someone whose profile lists his legal name of record, but his posts display another name. I am not sure how this is done. Perhaps it is related to “other names”, and a name listed there can be used as a display. Like I said, I will have to seek out more info.

    As to the start of all this frothing anger… I was highly amused by the whole thing, and don’t think I ever thought Still was wrong for his wording. I like honesty, and it was the very essence of honest. I know these guys have a long way to go to get this right, and it will never be 100% addressed, even if proof is required.

    This is starting to bring back long buried resentment at MSN (back in the early 2000’s) for their pay or else policy for their chat rooms. It was to mollify parents that their chat rooms were safe for their children to be in without constant parental supervision. Guess it was to deter pedophiles, but when you think about it, those are exactly the people that would find a way to pay (under a false name) to keep on showing up. The rest of us honest folk who desired to use a site for free just walked away pissed off. Looks like it could happen to another “well meaning” company….


  6. Ok Madonna – fucking OWN UP you prokaryote

    You’re a fucking sockpuppet for Google+ aren’t you!

    Supercilious cunt.

    (Yes I AM pissed off at them. SecondLife monikers – which follow the usual duonym formation – are sometimes allowed. But not mine, despite being more mineable than the ones they DID wave through. Aborted Monkey-twats!)

  7. Google just dropped the ban hammer on me.

    Like you, I have a one-word name and I cannot give them the name I use in daily life.

    Stupid, and insulting.

  8. :standing ovation:

    Sir/Madam – my most sincerest applause for your wonderful, logical and well based rant!
    I will of course link to this from G+, in the hope that it will encourage some more people to stand up and tell Google where to get off that high horse of theirs (which they appear to be riding backwards).

    Have you experienced the “reasoning” behind the “real names” policy?
    It is there to provide Security and Trust. It’s likely there for accountability and increased civility.
    Unfortuantely – creatigna fake account and impersonating a Google Employee was not only ignored – G have since deleted those comments showing how ridiculous their “reasoning” is/was.

    I’d also like to congratulate you on some of the fantastically fanciful vulgar phrases.
    I haven’t seen anything that inventive in years – true art!

    Teh same appleis to many of those posting comments here – thoroughly enjoyable terms/slang/conjoining!


    For those of you that are interest … PLEASE … come and post a comment on G+ to show support.
    Well – those of you that aren’t currently banned due to Google Corps stupidity.


  9. Seriously….. There is a bug in a BETA TEST for a FREE PRODUCT and you scream and bitch and cry about it like it was something major.

    Please grow up.
    Not much more to say than that really.

  10. It was only a matter of time Stilgherrian, but I too have fallen foul of this silly rule.
    Like you, I used my legal “wallet” name. But because some minion in an office 10 timezones away doesn’t like it, I’ve been blackballed.
    I think the only choice is to play elsewhere. For even if you, with your public profile much bigger than many of the rest of us, manage to get Google to allow you to use your legal name, do you want to? They’ve been quite disrespectful of you as a person and maybe it’s time to hang out in some other pond.
    The nym wars I think are a screwup on Google’s part. I’m starting to wonder if Google have lost their way a bit.
    As xkcd pointed out when G+ was launched, all they had to do was not be Facebook. And what happened? They ran around shooting themselves in the feet, and now G+ has all the feel of an abandoned town with tumbleweeds in the main street.
    Or was that a business strategy? Was the Buzz fiasco? Was the failure of Wave?

  11. So when you get that one sorted out, can we get all the programmers out there to realise that some surnames include spaces? Like “De La Rue”. And many others, in many parts of the world.

    Programming languages have been capable of handing strings with spaces for at least 30 years. I know. That’s about the time I learned to code in Pascal. So why do so many systems today still seem to struggle with recording the surname with spaces? And then if they do, why don’t they support searches that find the name when a keyboard operator types it in without spaces?

    Further, the whole this is the surname. If a mail merge program is wanting to include a title and surname in a salutation, then it needs to use the whole surname, not just the bit after the last space. If I must be referred to as “Mr”, then it’s “Mr De La Rue”, not “Mr Rue”.

    Enough already with the lack of proper data analysis.

  12. Oh, and another thing. From now on, we are all going to have to ensure that our children have unique names, aren’t we. Are IANA going to coordinate that?

    I’m so glad that my parents were thoughtful enough (in the 1950s) to give me a Scottish first name and a French surname. Even if computer programs can’t get it right.

  13. 1. Google is way to too influencial, has access to way too much information, and way too necessary for business and indivuals to be written off as “you dont have to use google+ if u don’t like it”. For now, we have to live with google, they have massive influence. If we want to succeed in these days, we need to use google, it is no more a choice than medical insurance is.
    2. Dropping the ‘C-bomb’ is innapropriate, regrdless of how justified your anger is. Show some self control mate.

  14. Wow. 127 comments and counting. My editor at Crikey asked me to write a piece yesterday, To Google, we are data fodder, and I am an unperson. The story was picked up by an American political blog and linked to by The Wall Street Journal. This post has been read at least 6000 times and has been seen and tweeted by broadcasters and people who study online identity for a living.

    And now I suppose I ought to try to respond…

    I won’t be able to reply to every issue and commenter individually. Nor, in general, will I repeat points I’ve already made. If you were too lazy to read it to first time, well, repeating it wont help.

    But here are a few random thoughts.

    • I suspect that most people with typical Anglo-American names living in a typical Anglo-American community — which, we must remember, is a small minority of the planet’s population — have never really thought about identity. I mean really thought about it. I’m trying very hard not to think of such people as stupid. They are merely ignorant, and ignorance is easily cured with knowledge — provided they’re willing to STFU, listen and learn.
    • If you’re having trouble understanding what it feels like, well, imagine you’re David or Dianne, but every time you go to enter your name someone says “No, that’s wrong, you have to write ‘Daphne’.” Substitute your own name for David or Dianne if you have trouble with abstract thinking.
    • Quite a few people seem to think that because people’s names are “unusual” that it’s their fault for running into problems. This is nothing but the bullying of those who are different, oppression by the majority. Blaming the victim. You had it coming to you. This is made significantly worse by Google’s inept implementation of a stupid policy. Names can only be exactly two words, with no “unusual characters”? WTF?
    • Quite a few people seem to think that because Google is “free” we should just accept how they behave, that we have no right to complain. Well, as I’ve already pointed out, Google isn’t free. We pay for it with access to our personal information, and it’s made Google rich. But whether there’s an exchange of money, personal data, or six dried fish and a handful of shiny beads is irrelevant. The core issue is treating people with respect, no matter what their background. And besides, Google wants me to sign up so they can mine my data. How will this be encouraged by giving me a bad experience?
    • Some people reckon that Google+ is only a beta product and this is just a bug. No. The way names have been set up is so fundamentally flawed that this isn’t even an alpha-level problem, it’s worse than a beginner’s mistake! This isn’t some undergraduate programming exercise marked out of 20. This is the core name-handling code of a significant new product from an 10-year-old global corporation with cash reserves of tens of billions of dollars — and they get it this wrong? So many other organisations get it right, and get it right every day. FFS, this is serious incompetence! Why are you apologising for Google’s incompetence?
    • Some people think I shouldn’t use the word “cunt”. I disagree. The English language provides a glorious spectrum of tools for expressing our anger, if anger is precisely the right word here — we also have fury, rage, outrage, ire, pique, vexation, wrath etc. I chose the word quite deliberately because this is for me a fundamental, nuclear-grade screw-up on Google’s part.
    • A separate, special mention for Drenzul, though. You really are just a fuckwit. An ignorant, lazy, self-centred fuckwit who clearly didn’t bother to read or even attempt to understand the issues here. Where the fuck did you just wash up from?
    • Yes, I’m a hypocrite. But this is a FREE SERVICE and you scream and bitch and cry about it like it was something major. Please grow up. Not much more to say than that really.
    • See what I mean?
    • No, I suppose you don’t…
    • Finally, there’s the small matter of legality. If Google is recording personal information, then at least under Australian law they are required to get it right. It’s not us that need to submit to their arbitrary rules, but the exact opposite.

    Well that covers it for now. It’s just gone 0540 and I have real work to do.

    Oh, except for one thing. Here’s the response I got from Google.


    Thank you for contacting us with regard to our review of the name you are trying to use in your Google Profile. After review of your appeal, we have determined that the name you want to use violates our Community Standards.

    You can review our name guidelines at

    If you edit your name to comply with our policies in the future, please respond to this email so that we can re-review your profile.

    The Google Profiles Support Team

    I have yet to bother trying to find out if there’s any differences between the Names Policy and the Community Standards. But the core message it there again. You don’t comply with our standards. You must change your name to comply with the stupid, fucked-up policy.


    1. i can’t even complain. or, having entered my ‘real’ name, get them to unsuspend my account.

      why? because i’m using the uk english version of firefox (i have a huge soft spot for real english, even if this persona usually only uses lowercase).

      it has taken me ages to figure out why i get:

      Thank you for your interest. If you would like to contact us, you will need to do so in one of the languages below. We are unable to provide email support in your language at this time.

      when the page claims to be a form for contacting someone, anyone, at google.

      turns out, english (gb) isn’t one of the languages understood by google:

      Português (Brasil)‎
      English (US)‎
      Português (Portugal)‎

      *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*

      [inside i’m laughing *and* crying in equal amounts. these are *such* first year undergrad’s mistakes that to see it in a live system, forcefully defended by a billion-dollar company, is … well, you’ve already said it.]

      The community standards and the name policy are different. one is a terse list of thou shalt not’s, the other one of your name shalt not’s.

      what we say you’re allowed to say, and who we say you’re allowed to say you are.

      1. Haha, that could only be better if they listed “American” as an approved language (or just “US”, like LEGO and other sites do)

      2. I had the same problem [and also the part where they don’t like my name, even though I’ve now written and released a book on the subject, and linked them to it]—they don’t reportedly speak English at GOOG, which nearly explains something, to me.

        I got around it by guessing—changing the URL’s ‘gb’ bit to ‘us’, or whatever. It still didn’t do a lot of good.

        1. “There is no such thing as ‘American English’. There is English and there are mistakes.”

          1. “There is no such thing as ‘American English’. There is English and there are mistakes.”

            That’s patently incorrect. The American government changed the spelling of certain words (after a debate about whether their official language should be German or English, having just had a war with the English it was close vote).
            Americans have their own official dictionary.

            Australia has its own standards of English, too, and we have our own Dictionary – the MacQuarie English Dictionary.

            However, I do find it ironic to see websites showing flags for Language selection, with the USA flag for English.

  15. I registered to Google+ under the name, Syl Mobile, knowing that at some point the Google algorithms will eventually scan me and deem me an unperson too.

    Of course, in my case, Syl Mobile isn’t my legal name. What’s more, it is an ironic twist that Syl Mobile is a recast of my preferred online handle, sylmobile. Lower case. One word.

    Look, I’ve given Google my real name in connection with the email address I use for Google+ for other commercial services of theirs. But for a social tool, I wish to use sylmobile. People on twitter, for example, know me by that name. People down the pub call me all sorts of names – none my legal name – but they know who I am.

    It is reasonable, I think, to question social tools that don’t let people be social under their own terms.

    It is reasonable to question businesses which makes any kind of demand on our own identity.

    It is reasonable to push back forcefully and demand businesses to justify their practices around the use of peoples’ personal data as well as to promptly modify their practices when they are relieved off their ignorance in this domain.

    I hope this makes sense. I typed it on my slow phone from bed before coffee…

    Thanks for making a forceful stand.

  16. You’re dead to rights, though trust me, it’s not “just” an America-centric foul-up; actually, it is fouler to US than you can imagine, as I tried to politely outline early in my own efforts:


    Needless to say, I have since reached the same conclusion as you and am presently struggling to extract myself from the now-tenter-hook-laden grip of this company.

    I feel foolish, really; that I actually thought to place my trust in a company… let alone my identity and content.

    Lesson learned, at last.

  17. FAIR WARNING: If you post a comment here which clearly indicates that you haven’t read the discussion and thought about it, I will treat you with contempt. I’ve run out of energy to deal politely with stupid people.

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