Google backtracks on Google+ real name poilicy

Google has finally relented on its 'real name policy' for the burgeoning Google+ social network, announcing that an incoming update will finally allow the use of pseudonyms on the service.

Google's hard-line stance on the use of pseudonyms on Google+ first came to light in July this year, when the accounts of numerous pseudonymous users were locked or deleted without warning.

Despite numerous complaints, the purging continued with vice president Bradley Horowitz issuing a statement suggesting that users add their nicknames or pseudonyms to the 'Other names' portion of their Google profile to ensure they can be found under either identity.

The problem, of course, lies in privacy: many people choosing pseudonyms for identification over the internet do so because they don't want their real name known. Perhaps they don't want an abusive former partner to find them, or perhaps they're speaking out about injustice in a regime that would prefer to keep a lid on things. Perhaps they're Batman.

Despite complaints from users and civil rights organistions, Google continued to stand by its decision to force Google+ users to reveal their true identities. An announcement at the Web 2.0 Summit this week suggests that it is rethinking its strategy, however.

Google's Vic Gundotra made the announcement that pseudonymous use will be allowed in a future Google+ update, backtracking on his company's previous statements on the issue. While no timescale was given, the announcement is being heralded as a win for privacy advocates.

Describing the announcement as a 'victory,' the Electronic Frontier Foundation stated: "While EFF recognizes the rights of companies to determine their own policies, we have repeatedly taken the side of users who have argued that the use of a pseudonym grants them greater freedom in expressing themselves online.

"Though it is not yet clear what those features will look like, we are cautiously optimistic that Google+ will do the right thing to ensure that all of its users feel free to express themselves on the site."