There’s been a few developments this week in my battle with Google over my name. More communication. And more media coverage.
On 18 August I responded to Google’s boilerplate email thusly:
My full, legal name is a mononym, “Stilgherrian”. It has been so for 30 years. This name has been used consistently throughout that time on every official document, in every credit line in print, on radio and on television, in everyday use… everywhere.
Dare I say it, a Google Search will soon reveal that.
My only photo ID is my passport, and I am unwilling to send a copy because I have security concerns.
I can’t edit my name in Google Profiles to match my “real” name, because it won’t let me leave the surname field blank.
How do we fix this?
Google’s reply arrived on 20 August.
Thank you for your appeal. We are sorry for the inconvenience.
In order to help us in verifying your name, we would appreciate you providing any of the official documentation to which you refer that show Stilgherrian to be your name and not a pseudonym or pen name. This can include documents which feature FNU as the first name. While helpful to avoid impersonation, we do not require a photo to be associated with any submitted documentation.
If verified, we will update your profile name to be your mononym followed by a dot (.). We are looking into how to improve the process for mononyms moving forward.
The Google Profiles Support Team
FNU stands for “first name unknown”, and it’s how the US government copes with mononyms in official documents like my US travel visa. Your mononym goes in the surname field, “FNU” in the given name field, problem solved.
Except that it looks bloody ugly.
And except that “FNU” and “LNU” are apparently how US law enforcement agencies record the names of suspects under surveillance before their real identities are known.
I have yet to gather any evidence for Google, because it’s actually not urgent and I’ve got plenty on my plate at the moment.
Meanwhile my friend and colleague Richard Chirgwin wrote a piece for The Register. And Information Week ran a story, 5 Reasons Google+’s Name Policy Fails, but they were too gutless to link to me. And in Germany, DRadio Wissen ran the story.
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[Photo: Google Ice Sculpture, by Melanie Phung. Used under a Creative Commons BY-NC license.]
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