Trapped in the Googlehole.

see the bottom of this post for updates

I was surprised to discover on Saturday morning that my G+ account had been suspended due to what Google perceived as a violation of their user names policy. I quickly submitted my appeal and I’m currently waiting for my account to be reactivated. That was 54 hours ago and since then the story of Google’s massive account suspensions has really been spread around:

Violet Blue’s excellent ZDNet post, which started this thing off. It’s funny how little has changed since this post was published.
Washington Post
The First Post, which mentions me in the same sentence as 50 Cent and Gaga… lulz!
The Examiner
International Business Times
And PC Mag deserves a mention here because I think they may be on to something… This likely isn’t a people issue, but a poorly executed attempt to censor brands.

I still haven’t received any contact from Google regarding my suspended account, not even when they shut it down. I can’t access G+, or back it up using their “Data Liberation” thing. Also can’t use Reader anymore, which sucks because that’s my favorite social site, but Gmail still works for the time being.

According to their Terms of Service, I wasn’t breaking the “Use the name your family/friends/colleagues know you by” rule, so I’m assuming this case will be resolved, but as the days pass I’m starting to get nervous.

If anyone from Google happens to be reading this, I’d to try to offer three points of feedback based on my recent experience:

1. Communicate- As mentioned earlier, I have yet to receive a single message from Google regarding my suspension. If you are going to suspend someone’s account, let them know. Also, sending an automated response after I’ve submitted my appeal (with a case number) shouldn’t be that hard to do and would make the user feel much better.

2. Give it a week- There’s no reason to immediately suspend my account. If you feel someone may be violating your names policy, notify them… give them a week to make that case… then act on the account.

3. Data Liberation– I loved the “take control of your data” idea, but after this recent incident I was surprised that I couldn’t use the Data Liberation feature. I could get as far as backing up my +1s, but the feature got hung up on my G+ wall stream thing, making it really not feel like I was as in control of my data as I had hoped.

4. Don’t touch my Reader!- Okay, so something went wrong and you guys accidentally suspended my account. No big deal, we all make mistakes, but not allowing me to comment and share on Reader is just mean. I’ve been a HUGE Google Reader fan for years, I even have an embroidered Reader badge on my backpack right now… Reader doesn’t have a names policy that I’m aware of, so why block me from it (and presumably Buzz too)?

There are a lot of other issues with a “real names” policy that I’m not even touching here. As a long time Google user, I just wanted to offer some feedback as to how I feel things could have been handled better. Doctor Popular (or Doc) has been my everyday name for 12 years. It’s how people know me in business and at work, and it’s how people know me in my social life. Being “Brian Roberts” on G+ would be like being anonymous. Brian Roberts has no online history at all, well not for me. There are some sports figures and lawyers and whatnot.

I've been Googled

Note: this is a very quickly written recap of what’s happened so far. I’m trying my best not to sound like some whiny asshole. There are probably some spelling mistakes or awkward grammar, sorry. Let me know how I succeeded or any additional questions you may have below.

update: 10 minutes after hitting the publish button on this post, I got my first email from a Google employee. Here is their email in it’s entirety


Thank you for contacting us with regard to the name used in your Google
Profile. We have reviewed your appeal and need more information in order
to verify that the name entered “Doctor Popular” is your common name.

Please reply to this email with either a copy of your government issued
ID, which we will dispose of after review. Once we receive this
information we can review your appeal and come to a final decision.


The Google Profiles Support Team

Okay, right… so I could send them my drivers license, but to what effect? My “common name” is not on it. I’ll ask my boss if he’ll be willing to state that Doctor Popular is the name I go by in my everyday operations and we’ll see what happens. Also; isn’t “either” usually followed by a second option?

update #2: on July 27th, my account was briefly reactivated. I had planned to write about my account reactivation, but it’s already been suspended again. I’ll start a new post for a big update soon, but as of right now (7pm on July 29th) I’m locked out my Google+, Data Liberation, and Google Reader accounts.



Disclaimer: I'm neither a doctor or popular.

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  • Policy FAIL “Use the name your family/friends/colleagues know you by” != “name on government issued ID”

  • Ouch. That is a crazy mess. Sorry to hear about your hassle and I hope they work this out.

  • This is really getting insane. It’s like a new contradiction at every turn.

  • Jura

    Just when I thought the third time was going to be the charm, G+ starts to go the way of Buzz and Wave.

  • Currently the policy asks that your display name is what your “friends, family, and coworkers” call you. Requiring ID contradicts the stated policy.
    I almost messaged you with this, but it only gets worse:

    I dropped in a link to this post in the ID section of the article. I’m so angry.

  • i would NEVER give google my gov’t issued id. that is completely absurd. here’s a list of who has seen that i.d.:
    police officer
    insurance carrier
    electric provider
    random bar bouncers

    and those that required a copy:

    sorry google. i dont work there, your track record on privacy is on par with the CIA and their wiretaps, and let’s not mention your street view information collecting fiasco and mr. schmidt’s lovely quotes on the matter:
    “With your permission you give us more information about you, about your
    friends, and we can improve the quality of our searches […] We don’t
    need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you’ve
    been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.” – Eric Schmidt (CEO at the time)

  • What a ridiculous mess. Are you sure it’s even worth your time? From what I’ve heard, the G+ team went through all of these public pseudonym debacles with their own employees, internally, and still didn’t see fit to change this policy. (See also Skud.)

  • What a ridiculous mess. Are you sure it’s even worth your time? From what I’ve heard, the G+ team went through all of these public pseudonym debacles with their own employees, internally, and still didn’t see fit to change this policy. (See also Skud.)

  • That sure seems like a rushed response to me. The fact that he wrote “either” and forgot to add the second option seems rather odd.

  • Tim

    Yeh, this sounds wierd for most but let me explain a little so we might channel this anger or self identity awareness in the right direction. That being you!

    First, identity on the internet is not a new buzz word. You have been looking for the right name on every site that can register you for years.

    Just because you have a big Google Monster watching you, means you have to lay down and play non-virtual.

    There are many governances that are making headway to protect and put your digital identity into the hands of whom it belongs….you. But give them a break and not give up the farm before the horse gets there.

    My God people, wake up with social medial and that smart phone you carry every day.
    Everyone needs to manage thier identity bridges differently and respectfully, and that is our human right. Not that what is predefined by a bunch of geeks.

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  • Info

    Asking for your “government issued ID” is typical Google arrogance, intended to make you go away. After all, they’re RIGHT, and that PROVES it, doesn’t it? 

    Seriously.. normal arrogance is an everyday issue we all deal with. But Google arrogance is different… they actually believe they are correct when they act this way. I mean, they actually believe you didn’t understand the policy, and so you needed them to spell it out, which they did (with the government issued ID thing). In their eyes, now you have no more excuses not to understand, and they can get on with saving the world from itself.

  • What I find more interesting regarding the name debate is that those of us who have been around the online world for three decades and more were always told until the late 1990’s to NEVER EVER use your REAL name online. You should ONLY go online using a pseudonym.  Several police agency websites STILL offer this advice. When did the policy change? It changed when online browsing habits and data became a commodity to be bought & sold by online companies even if it compromises your safety and privacy.

  • Too late, you sound like a whiny asshole.

  • Too late, you sounds like a whiny asshole. Maybe for once you don’t get things your way. One of the huge points to G+ vs Facebook is that these are real people, not fake names. Unfortunately, due to whiny babies or paranoiacs, Google will probably give in on this issue and we’ll get to deal with “MC Cool Slice” on G+ too. If you don’t want to play by the rules, then you don’t get to play. Everyone is so goddamned self important and quick to be offended these days. Besides, you’re not that fucking important. When you get on the site with your fake name due to bellyaching, make sure and let me know so I can block your stupid ass.

  • Ironically, you totally have your name posted on your public twitter profile.

  • Maybe he was going to ask you for your education credentials proving that you are a doctor as an alternative to the government issued identification. You’ve been entirely too calm and understanding throughout this whole ordeal, I would have smashed something by now. Keep fighting the good fight!

  • Thank you for this post, it really shows how Google is mishandling this situation.  I hope the Google folks are paying attention, especially the point regarding WAITING before taking action.

  • Sabri Aurrelia

    Why must so many of the people who so vehemently advocate “wallet names” resort to ad hominem and cussing?  Are “real” people generally this pissy?  If this is what it means to be genuine and authentic, then I’m glad so many of us are fighting for pseudonymity, because the “wallet name” crowd appears to be very rude.

    As stated, Doc Pop was playing by the rules.  He was OBEYING their Terms Of Service when he used the name “Doctor Popular.”  It says, “family/friends/coworkers.”  And if the majority of the sum of his friends, family and coworkers refer to him as “Doctor Popular,” it’s his common name.

    Also, I notice you, too, seem to be pretty quick to be offended, what with your language, self-important attitude and sense of entitlement.  It all seems to say, “I get what I want because I bitch and cuss at people when I think they’re wrong.”

    I’m on G+ with my “fake” name.  Block me.

  • Sabri Aurrelia

    Additionally, you can still be a real person with a “fake” name.  But you probably wouldn’t open a book if it had an ugly cover, right?

  • Gordon Shumway

    Exactly the same thing happened to me on Facebook.

    I was banned from using Gordon Shumway (which is little more than a combination of my name and an obscure 80s TV reference) and was told by FB to send a copy of my ID.

    Funnily enough, they allowed me to use Shumway Gordon

  • A poorly executed attempt to censor brands? Poorly executed indeed!

  • “One of the huge points to G+ vs Facebook is that these are real people, not fake names. ”  Uhhhh…WHAT?! SOOOO Chuck DeNomolos, if that is your REAL NAME, who do you have as a facebook friend that you DON’T KNOW? There is a HUGE difference between pseudonym and anonymous. Google tells you to use the name that people know you by. NOBODY that I WANT to talk to knows me by the name on my drivers license. Like he said in his post, he doesn’t WANT to be anonymous, and using the name on his drivers license would being doing exactly that! 

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  • At least your pseudonym has a first and last name and doesn’t comtain numbers. I’m pretty screwed, imo

  • Nicholasryan1980

    Apparently no body here even has clue “WHY” Google is requiring all of this. If you did some research you would find that googles reasoning behind this is actually to the benefit of the account holder to help protect that person in several different ways. Google is trying to protect its customers. Unlike Facebook who could care less. You should really look into it. For that matter I would thank Google if I were you. Doc popular is fucking retarded in the place. Little full of ourselves are we? Douche

  • Y’r probably right, I am a douche, but I’m also using G+ within their terms of service.

    It’s interesting to see someone using their online name (which they use on Pandora, flickr, etc) complaining about someone using a name online that is the same as their day to day name.

    I bet you are right, if you had been commenting as Nicholas Ryan Bonifant you probably would have been more civil.

  • That’s actually a good point that I wasn’t even thinking about before. When the hell did it go from “don’t share your personal info” to “you must share your info to use these Google sites”?

  • Info

    Wow.. what an awesome response! And such colorful language.

    And the links out to those places that clearly show Google’s “reasoning”  and how they are actually protecting us were very much appreciated.

    Links or it didn’t happen.

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  • Jim

    @Chuck DeNomolos … Do you work for Google or you are just a brownnose ? 

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  • Anonymous

    Oh yeah, and when the teenagers get there, are they supposed to pony up their real names, too?

    From one of my favorite twitter hashtags ever, #awwhellno

  • J Biker

    I will never post my personal, full name anywhere on the internet.  Never ever ever.  Even if they take my google away because of it.  I have a professional brand on google, and I also have my personal brand on google.  both are names I am known by (my business colleagues and customers know me by my professional brand, my friends know me by my personal brand).

    I have a feeling google will lose alot more users if they continue this real name crap.  They will definitely lose my personal and business accounts if they keep it up.

  • J Biker

    It’s not about being important, it’s about having your freaking identity stolen.  Do you know how easy it would be for any jerk to open a credit card account in the name of Chuck DeNomolos?  If they can access your birthdate as well, it’s all over.  You are now the proud owner of a bunch of new debt.  Hope you’re happy with it.

  • J Biker

    I don’t need anyone’s protection, thankyouverymuch.  You can take your protection and shove it!

  • J Biker

    I got trapped in the googlehole myself.  Read about it here:

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  • I often get mail from “Geoff”.

  • Now I’m jealous… I rarely get responses from Geoff.

  • spinflux

    I have an insane ex who has been harassing me since we broke up in 2001. Ten freaking years. I use a pseudonym to protect myself everywhere online, and it’s worked out fine. Everyone that I want to know, knows my by the pseudonym. I haven’t legally changed my name yet, but I will in the future. 

    But none of that matters, because you’re wrong: The reason G+ wants your real name is because it’s kind of hard to sell your information to everybody if that information isn’t “true”. It’s a money and marketing thing, and anyone who thinks it isn’t is a new fool.Plus when I signed into G+ and saw my contacts being recommended to my other friends, with no way to turn it off! Hell no! I have since deleted my account and profile and have thanked stars I never used any Google services except YouTube. The minute I heard their motto, “Don’t be evil”, I knew not to trust them. I saw this coming years ago.

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