Google Pulls Back on Heavy-Handed Google+ Name Policy

In an effort to stave off criticism over its "real names" policy, Google said late Monday that it will stop disabling Google+ accounts that violate the policy--without warning the user first.

Some Google+ users who recently found their accounts disabled because of the policy criticized the search company for being too heavy handed. Others argue that a level of anonymity should be afforded to users for a variety of reasons, including personal, work-related, or even political.

Google's Bradley Horowitz shared the company's new policy on real names in a Google+ post on Monday night. "We've noticed that many violations of the Google+ common name policy were in fact well-intentioned and inadvertent and for these users our process can be frustrating and disappointing," he admitted.

With the next update to Google+, accounts would no longer be disabled for violations of the policy. Instead, Google would send a warning to the user giving him or her time to fix the issue before the company suspends the account. It would also change the signup process to alert users to possible name issues right away.

Horowitz added that the company noted that users edit their profiles to make the name show a nickname, maiden name, or personal description. He asked that users move these names to the "Other Names" field of the profile, where they will still be searchable.

Those with suspended Google+ profiles should know that only Google services that require a Plus profile will be inaccessible, while services that don't -- Gmail, Blogger, Docs, and so on -- will still work.

"We'll keep working to get better, and we appreciate the feedback-- and the passion --that Google+ has generated," Horowitz wrote.

I still don't think this change fully addresses the issue. Like my colleague Sarah Jacobsson Purewal argued earlier Tuesday, there are many valid reasons for why somebody wouldn't want to reveal their true identity on Google+, or any other social network for that matter.

If these folks are not doing anything illegal, or using the account maliciously, why should Google care at all? What's the purpose? I'm not seeing one.

For more tech news and commentary, follow Ed on Twitter at @edoswald and on Facebook.

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