Thursday, August 11, 2011

I am Tobold

People who are the victims of identity theft are understandably upset. Today I am even more upset, because Google wants not just to steal my identity, they want to completely erase it. I have this blog with nearly 5 million visitors, a Google+ page which 228 people added to their circles, 341 friends on my Facebook page, and 26 professional connection on my Linkedin profile. And Google+ just send notice that they think that I don't exist, and that unless I change my name in my Google profile, they will block my access to Google+, Buzz, Picasa, and even the Google newsreader. They didn't say anything about Blogger, but that would probably come next when they closer integrate blogs into Google+.

I am Tobold. This is not a "nickname", it is a complete identity. It is the name people know me under. It is the search term most frequently used to find my blog. After adding the family name to it, the name completely complies with the Google+ naming policy: "If you’re referred to by more than one name, only use the one that commonly identifies you". Tobold is the name that commonly identifies me. It is the name game companies contact me under when they want to show me their latest product or give me an interview.

The name that is printed on my photo ID does not commonly identify me on the internet. If you Google it, you'll find the website of somebody else who happens to have the same name as me. And if you find the traces of me with my real name, it will be of a very different aspect of me: You would find my patents, my scientific publications. Stuff I definitely do not want to get mixed up with my writing about games. I neither want the people who search my science stuff to find my games blog, nor do I want the people who search for my games stuff to find my work-related activities. I don't even know if it couldn't get me into all sorts of trouble at work if I mixed these two identities.

If Google kills the Tobold identity, I will let that identity die. It is an important part of my life, but not important enough to risk my livelihood for it. Lots of other creative people have pseudonyms, and if Google tells every writer and artist that they can't use the name they are known under, their social network will only be the poorer for it.

"Dear Sting! It has come to our attention that your real name is Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner. Please change your page with the 3 million fans to your real name, or we will kick you from our social network!".

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