I wrote about the Google “real name” policy on Google+. While I was doing it I thought I was missing something, something that would put to rest the idea that Google is just doing it because they are trying to prevent abuse by anonymous people.
I realized what it was last night.
Google has not only not cared about abuse from their users, but they have a policy of providing anonymity to customers, even when that anonymity is used for abuse.
Most of the free mail providers will identify the IP address used to connect to the website and send email. This can identify the sender of the mail, although that’s not necessarily a given. Google does not, and explains:
IP addresses can be considered sensitive information. As such, Gmail may hide sender IP address information from outgoing mail headers in some circumstances.
Sounds great, right? Google is going to protect your privacy. This policy also means that if you want to hide your identity, for good or bad reasons, you go to Google. It is trivial to create dozens of accounts for harassment. I know multiple people who were being harassed by Google users. They could block the individual email addresses, but all that the harasser had to do was open a new Google account.
Google has repeatedly created and enforced policies to protect the anonymity of their users. Often allowing their services to be conduits for abuse.
I’ve actually spent the last 15 minutes looking for a clear statement on why Google sets up this policy. I haven’t been able to find it. I did find a couple interesting things.
The senior IP in charge of G+ isn’t “using his legal name” on G+. When the service is kicking people off for not using their legal names, and in some cases kicking people off for using their legal names when those names don’t meet G+’s standards, this seems the height of hypocrisy, if not out and out evil.
Here’s my interpretation of Google’s real names policy:
We require you to use your real name on the service. If we catch you using a fake name, we will give you four days to change it to your real name. If you don’t change it, we won’t let you use Google+. The main reasons for our policy are that we don’t want anonymous trolls, spammers and haters wrecking the service, and also because real names make Google+ a better platform for commerce.
This is my own statement of Google’s policy. Google people have never honestly articulated this policy. Instead, Google always couches its policies in euphemisms and misdirection. Their actual policy is so unpalatable that they can’t even say it out loud.
Google has never cared about their users wrecking other services online. But now, all of a sudden, they’re all into stopping anonymity, because anonymity hurts their bottom line. But when it only hurts other people or others’ bottom line, Google will happily facilitate anonymity.