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

Hi,

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.

Sincerely,

Geoff
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.