I Am the One You Warned Me Of

Posted on 27th September 2011

To the right you'll see the identity page of my current UK passport. This is an official UK government issued photo identity, despite what any website may think. As you can see quite clearly, the name 'Barbie' does indeed appear as my name on my passport. Other names and numbers have been redacted, but these are considered private and not required to prove my identity except when required to do so by law.

Rules of a website are not law, but complying with their requests, I have submitted this to both Facebook and Google+. As I mentioned last week, Facebook have decided that they no longer consider this to be my legal name, and rejected my passport. As to why is a little confusing as they either don't consider the UK government to be a recognised world power, or don't recognise the passports issued by them. Despite several attempts to get a response, I am now being stone-walled and all attempts to contact them are being ignored.

This week, Google+ decided that they would follow suit and issued a suspension notice. Their link to lodge an appeal fails with an error message, and although the additional information form appeared to submit my passport and additional supporting links, I received no communication (either through my gmail account or my personal email) as to whether it was received. With such poor communication methods to appeal, I am not hopeful that my evidence even got through.

I still question why any social network requires anyone to expose personal information in order to use their site. It isn't required to provide functionality, as I have been using both sites for sometime now (Facebook for over 4 years, and Google+ for about 3-4 months). It isn't a legal requirement, as there is no such restriction for those registering profiles with fake names.

Google+ state that "The Names Policy requires that you use the name that you are commonly referred to in real life in your profile", which I do. Barbie is the name I am commonly known by. Of the several hundred people who follow me or know me offline, few have ever known my full name. In many cases now, if asked many will get my full name wrong. However, they all know me well as Barbie. CEOs, MDs, colleagues, friends and family have known me as Barbie for nearly 30 years. That's at least 15 years before I had a presence online.

Having an unusual name worked in my favour as people remembered me. As a roadie and lighting engineer for bands, I got asked to work gigs because people remembered me. Had I had a "normal" name I doubt I would have been so memorable.

Since Google+ opened up to the general public, it is noticeable how many spammers and scammers have suddenly joined with legitimate looking names and have started hassling users. Some have even got so sick of the spammers they are considering leaving Google+ anyway. It really is a sad state of affairs when Google choose to eject and alienate legitimate users, who can make Google+ the kind of place they want it to be, but welcome spammers and scammers with open arms, who are only likely to give those 750 million Facebook users a reason not to join.

In the case of Google+, what makes this even more gaulling is that Google have previously dealt with me personally as Barbie on several occasions. Firstly to handle sponsorship of YAPC::Europe 2006 in Birmingham, where I was met and thanked personally by the Google representatives for allowing them to be represented at the conference. At several times over the last 5 years or more I have been approached by Google recruiters, asking me consider working for the company. I'll be intrigued to see if they ever contact me again. In addition they use my work. I have heard from a few people that Google use my CPAN code in various projects, and that they use CPAN Testers too.

For a company who seem to have a hard time acknowledging me as a real person, they seem to know me well enough when it suits them!

I'm extremely disappointed with the lack of communication from both Google+ and Facebook too. When it is quite obvious you are dealing with a real person, it should be common courtesy to keep them informed of the processes and the state of their appeal. Instead I get a wall of silence. I'm not hopeful that I will get reinstate with either Social Network site, which will be a shame as I've established quite a presence on Facebook and was starting to on Google+.

I do find it scary that the vast majority of online users are giving away more and more personal details that really should be private. It will get to the point where some are going to find their privacy so exposed that their future is severely restricted and affected by it. A casual remark or photo that is suddenly public may hamper your chances of employment, even if it doesn't truly represent you. Employers use the internet to find out about you before deciding to employing you.

And what about protecting your privacy from those that you don't know but infiltrate your life with unwanted attention? I know of at least one person on Facebook who has to conceal their identity due to a stalker.

If these Real Name Policies were actually used against every user, with no expections, such that every user had to provide evidence of who they were, it would be a bit extreme, but at least it would be seen as fair. When these policies are only applied to users who have "funny" names, then its discrimination. Sadly with the bulk of users not caring how the minority are affected and the free element to subscriptions, those who are ejected have little or no power to change anything.

Adrian Short posted an interesting article in The Guardian recently, which features an interesting perspective; "If you're not paying for your presence on the web, then you're just a product being used by an organisation bigger than you."

File Under: facebook / google / life / privacy

State Of The Nation

Posted on 19th September 2011

Sadly it seems history does repeat. Four years ago I was blocked from Facebook for having a fake name. However, since then I have changed my name by deed poll. My passport, bank accounts, etc all now have Barbie on official documents. I'm hoping that providing my passport provides the proof needed that Barbie is indeed my real name.

As with my previous post I still have to ask why social networks have to insist on full real names, when these are not used in real life. Certainly in the UK you are not under any obligation to use your full or even first name, even for official documents.

I don't use my surname as that is a family name, and not something that I publicly use. In fact many still don't know my surname. Some may know my old surname, while not knowing my new surname. It shouldn't be for social networks to decide how you are to be publicly exposed. It comes close to a witch-hunt.

There has been a campaign recently called My Name Is Me, which started thanks to an incident with Skud and Google+. It really is a shame that people have to start things like this just to protect their identity.

In Facebook's own Privacy Policy, it states quite clearly "Your privacy is very important to us." Except that's contradicted by them insisting that you use your full name when using their site. If your full name is not publicly known, isn't that a breach of privacy? Now I understand that these are their rules, but I still don't understand why they are needed. I've not seen any reason why publicly outing someone's full name is socially acceptable just to use a service.

Four years ago a developer at Facebook put forward my case to those who make these decisions within Facebook, and after being reinstated I became the only person (as far as I know) to have a single name on Facebook. I hope they agree to reinstating my account again, but sadly I don't feel so hopeful this time around. We shall see.

Seeing as Facebook has become the place to keep in touch with pretty much everyone, and pretty much everyone who has me as a friend only knows me as Barbie, it would be a shame to be forceably excluded from interacting with friends I don't get to talk to regularly around the world.

File Under: facebook / life

Who Are You

Posted on 20th July 2007

So I've been banned from Facebook.

They claim I can't use a fake name, but have failed to appreciate that they are a social networking site. In addition what is a "fake name". Barbie is my pseudonym, I've used it for over 20 years in both my careers in the music industry and the IT industry. Using a combination of 'perl', 'barbie' or 'birmingham' will bring up pages of me on Google. Most people in the companies I've worked for in the last 15 years have all referenced me as Barbie, including most CEOs, Managing Directors and board directors. Some have never been introduce to me with my birth name.

I find it a bit odd that a social site would try and impose their way of thinking onto anyone who doesn't fit their idea of who everyone should represent themselves online. I do understand that they might want to retain my birth name should they need to take any legal action for something I may write on their site, but I do not want my birth name to appear publically, just because they feel that everybody who uses their site must give up areas of their privacy.

I've emailed them to explain that Barbie is a true identity, and legally I am entitled to sign cheques and the like as Barbie. It is my professional pseudonym and for my last 3 jobs it has been stated from the outset that I am Barbie in the interview.

However, Mark has highlighted another issue with their system, that affects those that have names made up because either us westerners can't pronounce their true names or their language characters are not something westerners know how to pronounce. Are they going to be banned too?

The email I received stated that I have to provide a full first name (no initial) and a full last name. I can have a nickname providing it is derived from those one or both of those two fields. Why? I honestly fail to understand the logic of that. Many people I know have nicknames that are completely unrelated to their birth name and I find it difficult to understand why a social website wants to insist on what I call myself.

Are they a secret government site with covert reasons for knowing everybody's birth names? Somehow I don't think so. Do they have ideas far beyond what the rest of the world expects of them, quite probably. Will they reinstate me, probably not.

I hope they learn to understand their audience and not impose such silly restrictions on something that is essentially about connecting with friends and colleagues. They all know who I am, and I'm pretty sure every single one would vouch for me. Pity then that the people at Facebook have some draconian rule that they feel they need to enforce on those of us who don't fit their profile.

File Under: facebook / rant / web / website

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