skud: (Default)
This is a crosspost from Infotropism. You can comment here or there.

So this happened.

I like to think that in another, better, universe, it went like this:

When we launched Google+ over three years ago, we had a lot of restrictions on what name you could use on your profile. This helped create a community made up of people who matched our expectations about what a “real” person was, but excluded many other real people, with real identities and real names that we didn’t understand.

We apologise unreservedly to those people, who through our actions were marginalised, denied access to services, and whose identities we treated as lesser. We especially apologise to those who were already marginalised, discriminated against, or unsafe, such as queer youth or victims of domestic violence, whose already difficult situations were worsened through our actions. We also apologise specifically to those whose accounts were banned, not only for refusing them access to our services, but for the poor treatment they received from our staff when they sought support.

Everyone is entitled to their own identity, to use the name that they are given or choose to use, without being told that their name is unacceptable. Everyone is entitled to safety online. Everyone is entitled to be themselves, without fear, and without having to contort themselves to meet arbitrary standards.

As of today, all name restrictions on Google+ have been lifted, and you may use your own name, whatever it is, or a chosen nickname or pseudonym to identify yourself on our service. We believe that this is the only just and right thing to do, and that it can only strengthen our community.

As a company, and as individuals within Google, we have done a lot of hard thinking and had a lot of difficult discussions. We realise that we are still learning, and while we appreciate feedback and suggestions in this regard, we have also undertaken to educate ourselves. We are partnering with LGBTQ groups, sexual abuse survivor groups, immigrant groups, and others to provide workshops to our staff to help them better understand the needs of all our users.

We also wish to let you know that we have ensured that no copies of identification documents (such as drivers’ licenses and passports), which were required of users whose names we did not approve, have been kept on our servers. The deletion of these materials has been done in accordance with the highest standards.

If you have any questions about these changes, you may contact our support/PR team at the following address (you do not require a Google account to do so). If you are unhappy, further support can be found through our Google User Ombuds, who advocates on behalf of our users and can assist in resolving any problems.

I’m glad they made the policy change. But I sure would have liked to see some recognition of the harm done, and a clearer demonstration that they don’t think that “real people” and “people who were excluded” are non-intersecting sets.

skud: (skud)

Mirrored from Infotropism. You can comment there or here.

A few people have contacted me lately asking where “My Name Is Me” (previously at http://my.nameis.me/) had got to. Well, the domain registration expired, the WordPress site that I didn’t login to very often got malwared to hell and back, and when I asked around, nobody wanted to take it over.

However, I recently set up WordPress Multisite (and wow, that was easier than I thought it would be — recommended!) and I’m in the process of moving all my various blogs to it. Among them, since I had an archive sitting around, is MNIM.

And so, in “celebration” (a ha ha) of Google+ releasing a “community” feature that excludes LGBTQ people; abuse survivors; refugees; whistleblowers; people in the military, medical, legal, political, education, or social work fields; people from countries which commonly use monomyms or mixed character sets for names; people who want to chat with their gaming, open source, fandom, or SCAdian buddies; nuns and monks; performers known by their stage names; authors known by their pen names; activists and political dissidents… oh look, just go see the site. In recognition of all these people and their exclusion from G+ and similar social networks, MNIM is now back at mynameisme.org.

Note that it’s in “archival” mode — I’m not actively soliciting new people to list on the site, and the forms for submitting stories have been removed. It took a team of hard workers slogging away at all the editorial work for MNIM, and we’re no longer up for that. Hopefully the work we did last year will still be useful as it stands.

skud: (skud)

Mirrored from Infotropism. You can comment there or here.

You think those Google recruiters would know not to contact me, but the other day I got another perky “Opportunities at Google” email from one of them, telling me that they’d found my “online profile” and that based on my experience they think I “could be a great addition to our team!”

Riiiiight.

Since I just deleted my LinkedIn profile, I emailed them asking where they’d found this “online profile”, since it was obviously outdated. Oddly enough, it seems they’d found a page about me on the Geek Feminism Wiki, and were using the rather sketchy outline of my open source background there as justification for trying to recruit me.

The recruiter admitted that the page was out of date, and asked me to let them know what I’d been up to lately so they could add it to their records. Below is a copy of what I sent them. I’m posting it here, lightly edited, for anyone who’s interested, and in the hopes that the next Google recruiter (I have no doubt that there’ll be one) might use that web search thingamajig to find out whether I’m a suitable candidate before emailing me.


Here’s what I’ve been up to for the last couple of years, since you asked.

In July 2010 the startup I was working for, Metaweb, was acquired by Google. I was brought in on a 1-year fixed term employment contract, since the group we were acquired into (Search) didn’t really know what to do with a technical community manager. I attempted to transfer my role over to Developer Relations, but was told that I “wasn’t technical enough” for the job I’d been doing for 3+ years, presumably because I didn’t have a computer science degree and believed that supporting our developer community was more important than being able to pass arbitrary technical quizzes.

Around the same time, Google started to develop Google+. As a queer/genderqueer woman, victim of abuse, and someone who was (at that very time) experiencing online harassment and bullying, I was very vocal within Google for the need for Google+ to support pseudonymity. Google decided not to do that, and instead told people they should use “the name they are known by” while in actual fact requiring their full legal names, in many cases requiring people to provide copies of their government ID when challenged. (Extensive documentation about this is available on the Geek Feminism wiki, if you’d like to read it. See Who is harmed by a “Real Names” policy? for starters.)

When I walked out the door of Google’s San Francisco office on July 15th, 2011, I was very glad to have left a company I thought was doing evil towards any number of marginalised and at-risk people. My first tweet on leaving was to criticise them for it.

Less than a week later I got my first email from a Google recruiter — not first ever, of course; I’d been spammed with them for years, but first since I quit working for them. Here’s the blog post I wrote about it. In case you can’t be bothered clicking through and reading it, here’s the money shot:

If you are a Google recruiter, and you want me to interview for SWE or SRE or any role that has an algorithm pop quiz as part of the interview, if you want me to apply for something without knowing what team I’ll be working on and whether it meshes with my values and goals and interests, if you want me to go through your quite frankly humiliating interview process just to be told that my skills and qualifications — which you could have found perfectly easily if you’d bothered to actually look before spamming me — aren’t suitable for any of the roles you have available, then just DON’T.

The very day after I blogged about that, my Google+ account was suspended, for using the name I was almost universally known by. Over the next couple of months, I campaigned tirelessly for Google+ to change its policies, working with the EFF and other advocates. My work was covered in Wired, The Atlantic, and a number of other mainstream press outlets. Obviously this was to no avail as Eric Schmidt (at the time, CEO of Google) described pseudonymous users like me as “a dog or a fake person” and no substantive change has ever been made to allow pseudonymous use of the service, despite promises to do so.

I returned to Australia and went back to school. I did a semester of Sound Production at TAFE, but it turned out that the sound engineering course I was enrolled in wasn’t really my cup of tea, just like I’d previously decided, back in the ’90s, that university wasn’t for me. Like so many others, I quit my computing degree because I was more interested in the Internet and open source software than in fixing COBOL applications for banks who were worried about Y2K. But then, I’m sure Google’s HR system already knows all about that — if I’d had a degree, you might have considered me worth keeping on last year. Instead, Google’s reliance on higher education credentials causes it to weed out people like me, even though I have a track record a mile long and buckets of evidence to show that I’m good at what I do.

In the end, I’ve spent most of the last year lying in hammocks reading books, working in my garden, going to gigs, hanging around recording studios, doing the odd bit of freelancing, and, over the last few months, travelling around Europe. It’s given me a good opportunity to reflect on my previous work.

Since I’ve been out of the Silicon-Valley-centred tech industry, I’ve become increasingly convinced that it’s morally bankrupt and essentially toxic to our society. Companies like Google and Facebook — in common with most public companies — have interests that are frequently in conflict with the wellbeing of — I was going to say their customers or their users, but I’ll say “people” in general, since it’s wider than that. People who use their systems directly, people who don’t — we’re all affected by it, and although some of the outcomes are positive a disturbingly high number of them are negative: the erosion of privacy, of consumer rights, of the public domain and fair use, of meaningful connections between people and a sense of true community, of beauty and care taken in craftsmanship, of our very physical wellbeing. No amount of employee benefits or underfunded Google.org projects can counteract that.

Over time, I’ve come to consider that this situation is irremediable, given our current capitalist system and all its inequalities. To fix it, we’re going to need to work on social justice and rethinking how we live and work and relate to each other. Geek toys like self-driving cars and augmented reality sunglasses won’t fix it. Social networks designed to identify you to corporations so they can sell you more stuff won’t fix it. Better ad targetting or content matching algorithms definitely won’t fix it. Nothing Google is doing will fix it, and in fact unless Google does a sharp about-turn, they’ll only worsen the inequality and injustice there is in the world.

I guess you’ll want to know what I’m working on at the moment. My current project is an open source, open data project called Growstuff, which helps food gardeners track and share information about what they’re growing and harvesting. It is built on principles of sustainability, including a commitment to a diverse and harassment-free community, to actively supporting developers rather than excluding them based on misguided ideas of meritocracy, and to funding the project through means that will never put the people running the website in opposition to our customers. That means no ads, in case you’re wondering. We’d rather our members paid us directly; that way, we’ll never forget who we’re meant to be serving. I’m working on Growstuff from home, where I can be myself and feel safe and comfortable. I work with volunteers from all round the world, and get to teach programming and web development and system administration and project management and sustainability to all kinds of people, especially those who’ve previously been excluded from or marginalised in their technical education or careers. We get to work on things we know are wanted and appreciated, and we don’t have to screw anyone around to do it.

Let me know when Google has changed enough to offer me something more appealing than that. If you don’t think that’s likely to happen, then please put me on whatever “Do Not Contact” blacklist you might have handy. I know you must have some such list; I only wish you regularly referred to it instead of spamming people who not only don’t want to work for you, but have nightmares about it.

skud: (Default)
This is a copy of a poll I've posted on Google+, seeking people's feedback on HOW Google should fix the names problems.

I know there are a lot of DW users and others who choose not to use G+, so this is an attempt to gather more responses from those people.

It should be accessible to anyone who is logged into DW, or who has an OpenID login from any other site.



Sorry, DW doesn't support fully anonymous poll responses, but hopefully the above gives you plenty of options.

----
ORIGINAL POST (https://plus.google.com/103325808503679220346/posts/KStJ8NKWaAM):

There are so many of us talking about the issue that it can be hard to tell what people really want. So here are a list of statements based on different things I've heard people suggest, and I'm trying to get a sense of what the majority of pro-nym supporters really want. (I have my own opinions on this, based on my impression from the people I read, but I might be wrong.) And yes, there are people at Google who will read this and may be able to help us based on the results, so please, let's be constructive here.

Here's how the poll works: you simply vote by +1-ing a comment below, to show your support for the statement. While of course you can +1 as many options as you like, I'm going to ask that you limit yourself to the statement(s) you most strongly support.

Comment policy for this post: I don't want this to be a free-for-all comment thread, so I'm going to moderate strictly to keep this focused on the topic of proposed improvements to the G+ names situation.


Here are the comments I posted:

POLICY AS WRITTEN IS TOO STRICT, I WANT ANYONE TO USE ANY NAME THEY LIKE. "The name you're commonly known by" is not acceptable to me, as it's too strict. I want people to be able to use any name they like, regardless of whether it's an established identity. You should be able to sign up with anything at all.

POLICY IS OK, FIX ENFORCEMENT. I think "The name you're commonly known by" is a reasonable standard to apply. However, Google needs to be liberal in what it accepts, and err on the side of believing people who say "this *is* the name I'm commonly known by", even if that name is unusual. And there need to be ways other than government ID to prove name use.

POLICY AND ENFORCEMENT ARE OK, BUT MAKE "OTHER NAMES" MORE VISIBLE. I'm OK with the policy and enforcement as it stands, and with Google making people use the name on their ID (or an invented name that's acceptable to Google, if their ID name isn't accepted). However, I want it to be easier to find people by their nicknames/other names, to be able to see those nicknames/other names when people post or comment, and generally to have those other names much more visible.

ALLOW PSEUDONYMITY WITH OPTIONAL VERIFIED NAMES. Google+ should allow anyone to sign up with any name they want, but you should be able to get a "verified name" checkmark if you want one. Google may up-rank content created by those with verified names, and down-rank unverified posters, but that would be OK with me.

ALLOW PSEUDONYMITY BACKED BY "REAL" IDENTITY KNOWN ONLY BY GOOGLE. I'd like people to be able to choose what name they display, as long as Google knows who the real person is behind an account (presumably by checking their government ID or similar).

ALLOW MULTIPLE IDENTITIES IN ONE ACCOUNT. Google needs to recognise that people present themselves in different ways depending on context, and to allow for multiple identities linked to one account. This would be in addition to the options currently available by having multiple google accounts.

OTHER, WHICH I WILL EXPLAIN BELOW.

Poll #7874 G+ names improvements
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 107


Vote here:

View Answers

Policy as written is too strict, I want anyone to use any name they like.
82 (76.6%)

Policy is ok, fix enforcement.
19 (17.8%)

Policy is ok, but make "other names" more visible.
1 (0.9%)

Allow pseudonymity with optional verified names.
61 (57.0%)

Allow pseudonymity backed by "real" identity known only by Google.
9 (8.4%)

Allow multiple identities in one account.
50 (46.7%)

Other, which I will explain below.
5 (4.7%)

October 2014

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