Google is under fire for a spate of account deletions and its account-name requirements on the burgeoning Google+ social network.
Google’s community standards state that you should “use the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you”, in order to “help fight spam and prevent fake profiles”. However, critics have argued that this can lead to vulnerable people becoming targets.
Dave Winer has argued on his blog that Google’s real motivation for effectively banning pseudonyms and unobvious nicknames is because usage of real names enables Google to “cross-relate your account with your buying behavior with their partners, who might be banks, retailers, supermarkets, hospitals, airlines”. In other words, it’s all about the money.
But according to ZDNet, even those using their real names aren’t entirely safe, and a number of users with unusual names and spellings have had their accounts blocked, including Dr. Kiki Sanford and Limor Fried; Fried featured on the cover of Wired magazine and that account has since been reactivated. Google urges anyone in a similar situation to appeal.
Such account issues pale in comparison to what’s been suffered by ‘Dylan M’/@ThomasMonopoly. This long-time Google user recently found seven years of his online life flushed down the digital toilet, after an automated Google message informed him that it had “perceived a violation”.
The user's chilling report is available on TwitLonger and notes that he’s lost seven years of correspondence, thousands of photos and videos, many messages, hundreds of articles saved to Google Reader, and more. While he has some information backed up, any integration between items or the wider web is gone, and Google had as of this past weekend failed to respond in any meaningful manner.
These incidents should serve as warnings regarding the ownership of social networks and data, and the fact that giant corporations can crush your virtual life with the flick of a switch. At the very least, always ensure you have copies of all important data out of their reach.