Google+ ID clamp-down could prompt UK watchdog investigation

Jul 27, 2011
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Google+ ID clamp-down could prompt UK watchdog investigation

Google's clamp-down on pseudonyms and anonymous users has caught the attention of the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), it's been revealed, with the data rights watchdog looking into how the change in Google Profile policies has been handled. Although a spokesperson confirmed to The Register that no formal investigation has been undertaken, staff at the ICO are taking a preliminary look at ID policies on Google+ and other Google services.

The ICO's remit is "to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals," and it's on those terms which the organization will presumably be examining Google. This past weekend, a mass sweep of Google+ profiles using pseudonyms or "unusually spelled" names saw many accounts suspended; meanwhile, Google has said it will delete any Google Profiles that are set to private by the end of the month.

According to Google, "using Google Profiles to help people find and connect with you online is how the product is best used" and it's with that understanding that the company is pushing forward the purge on anonymity and nicknames. Setting up a new Gmail account, for instance, now demands your "real name."

Google VP of Product, Bradley Horowitz, has followed up comments from social chief Vic Gundotra, promising that the company will attempt to make communications with impacted users more transparent. However, he makes no mention of the official pseudonym support Gundotra suggested was on the roadmap, only suggesting that Google+ users should enter any other names by which they're known in the "other names" section and set the necessary privacy permissions to make that searchable.

Horowitz also attempted to clear up a common misconception that having a Google+ profile suspended also blocks access to Gmail and other accounts. In actual fact, Gmail, Google Calendar and other services are supposedly still accessible:

MYTH: Not abiding by the Google+ common name policy can lead to wholesale suspension of one’s entire Google account.

When an account is suspended for violating the Google+ common name standards, access to Gmail or other products that don’t require a Google+ profile are not removed. Please help get the word out: if your Google+ Profile is suspended for not using a common name, you won't be able to use Google services that require a Google+ Profile, but you'll still be able to use Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Blogger, and so on.


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