Another way that Google+ gets identity wrong


This isn’t a post about the nym wars. I understand why people are upset about the real names policy, but I’m pretty ambivalent about it myself. I certainly don’t have anything to add to the great stuff that’s been said already by IdentityWoman, ESR, Kevin Marks and Charlie Stross.

My concern is more mundane – Google+ (and I’m starting to think Google generally) doesn’t get persona.

This problem manifests in two ways:

  1. G+ asks me to invite the same person (or put them into circles) multiple times.
    Why would I add Alexis - he's already in my circles
  2. If somebody sends me a G+ connection request to my work email (or I guess any email besides my gmail) then I have to forward that email back to home and follow the link from there (G+, like gmail and various other Google services is blocked by the web filters at work).
The core of this problem seems to be using email addresses as unique identifiers, and failing to properly accommodate the fact that most people have multiple emails. This is plainly ridiculous considering that my work email is in my Google+ profile, configured to ‘send mail as’ in my gmail, and attached to the ‘me’ entry in my Google contacts. Similarly Google+ should be able to use my contact list (and presumably the contact lists of my friends) to figure out that [email protected] is the same person as [email protected] (though I wonder if this might have been deliberately crippled to avoid overt creepiness?).
Regardless of the reasons Google has smart people working on this stuff, and I’m sure that they can (and should) do better than this.

2 Responses to “Another way that Google+ gets identity wrong”

  1. I don’t think the problem is using email addresses as unique identifiers (something close to my heart right now given one of the Boss Alien projects). I think they may be on the right track in assuming unique emails are unique personas (rather than assuming it’s valid to aggregate a list of unique emails under a single identity).

    Having options for the email owners to control their personas in aggregate would help, as would the ability to share circles between G+ accounts owned by the same person. I’ve been reticent to open my work G+ account up to the world because of the overhead of managing this without any implicit connections.

    It’s a tricky problem, to be sure.

    • The whole point is that email ~= persona, but that any individual has multiple personas.

      Google should be using one of those personas as an anchor identity (typically a gmail address), but it should be fairly easy for them to then attach personas belonging to the same person to that anchor identity.

      I doubt it’s that tricky – FaceBook pretty much has it sorted.

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