Game designer American McGee had an unpleasant surprise earlier today, when he discovered his Google+ account had been suspended, after the search engine giant determined the Alice developer's information "doesn't comply" with the company's restrictive Real Names Policy.
The policy has been copping some flak over the past month and a half, by users who argue that being forced to use the name that you are "commonly referred to in real life" as could potentially cause a breach of privacy or personal safety. While Google's policy is arguably there to prevent people from entering nonsensical titles, emoticons and made-up words into the "name" field, protesters explain that using a "real name" could affect abuse survivors, political activists and supporters, and professionals who are known by a different name.
Originally, Google simply suspended any offensive accounts, providing users with the option to "edit" the entered name in order to comply with the Policy, or jump through some very convoluted hoops in order to get the company to recognise that either you have a valid reason - or, as in McGee's case - that the "offensive" name really is what you are "commonly referred to in real life". This can involve sending personal documents over the internet, which (rightly) raises concerns over identity theft and fraud. Now, following a relaxation of the rules, users are given four days' warning before being suspended.
We understand that Google+ and it's Names Policy may not be for everyone at this time. We would hate to see you go, but if you choose to leave, make a copy of your Google+ data first. Then, click here to leave Google+.
McGee, who is currently running Spicy Horse studios in Shanghai, China, has his "hippie" mother to thank for his unusual moniker, the name he's held since birth (when she apparently decided not to name him 'Obnard'). He explains that he's a little disturbed by Google's ultimatum, which includes the detail that if you change your profile name in Google+, it will change across all of your Google accounts.
The best part about this... years ago when I tried to set up my gmail address I discovered dozens of jerky people had already squatted on every imaginable permutation of my name. Weird to email "americanmcgee@gmail" and be told to f*** off by someone who doesn't like you and doesn't want you to have your own name! Where was the censorship and name protection then?!
McGee has apparently spoken to the Powers That Be at Google and explained that he is exactly who he says he is, and has started the process of getting his account back. We'll keep you posted - once he pops back up, you can bombard him with friend requests!
I like video games and music and cups of tea and noodles and beagles and colour-cycling LEDs.
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Jimmy the Geek