Second, arbitrarily deleting someone’s account just because they use a pseudonym is plain stupid. How would Google know what your friends or co-workers normally call you? There are better ways to authenticate identities – like sending a PIN code via SMS to your cell phone number, which only one person can own at any one time. The real goal should be to ensure that people use just one G+ account and use it consistently. Beyond that, who cares what they call themselves?
As for deleting people’s Google Data lock, stock, and gbarrel, it may not be related to the names issue at all. But if it’s related to another Terms of Service violation, Google has not been at all clear about what these people did wrong. Hopefully they’re just mistakes that will be corrected; still, Google’s silence on this whole matter is troubling.
On Google+, Robert Scoble posted brief notes from a spectacularly unhelpful 'interview' with Google veep Vic Gudontra, in which he says essentially “mistakes were made,” without ever elaborating on what mistakes and how G+ is planning to make good on them. Per Scoble:
He also says they are working on ways to handle pseudonyms, but that will be a while before the team can turn on those features (everyone is working hard on a raft of different things and can't just react overnight to community needs).
Thanks, Bob, for that incisive commentary. By the way, you got something on your nose. Here’s a hankie.
If a real reporter were talking to Gudontra, here’s what he or she might have asked.
* How many accounts were purged for fake names? Hundreds? Thousands? Tens of thousands?
* How does Google determine that a name isn’t real? Is it a manual process, or one of Google’s gazillion algorithms?
* What kind of appeals process is there? How do people get their accounts reinstated? What kind of ‘proof’ will Google accept for people’s names?
* If you’re working on a system for handling pseudonyms, why kick people out now for using pseudonyms? Why not wait until your systems are in place?
* How many people lost all their Google data? Was this related to the names purge? What kinds of TOS violations would result in that kind of penalty? Why aren’t you telling your users what they did to deserve the boot?
Remember, by mishandling this names fiasco Google is managing to tick off the early adopters – not only the most dedicated users of social media, but also the loudest.
That's certainly one way to ensure your service will never turn into a Facebook killer.