Column: Facebook name policy still sucks
My legal name is Patricia, but for most of my life, everyone has called me Trey. Facebook doesn’t care. It won’t let me use my nickname as my name on my profile. Thanks, Facebook.
Facebook has recently created a lot of controversy over its new name policy, stating that a user is only allowed to use their legal name on their profile. Many users were upset because they felt that their identity and safety were now in jeopardy.
I decided to check it out myself, and it’s almost worse than going through airport security. The Facebook Help Center link has a bulleted list of rules for a profile name: For example, you cannot use any punctuation or symbols (sorry Ke$ha) or titles of any kind (sorry if you’re a Lord or Father). On top of that, you can’t use a nickname if it is not a common variation of your legal name. (Congrats to all the Roberts of the world; you can still use Rob!) You’re only allowed to change your name five times before you’re locked out of this Facebook feature. At that point, in order to send in a name change request, you have to upload a JPEG of your driver’s license, credit card or passport. That’s safe, right?
Facebook is not LinkedIn. People use it to organize their social lives, not their careers.
It’s ridiculous that I have to provide proof that I am Patricia and not Trey in order to participate in such scintillating activities as uploading vacation photos and sharing links of cats playing the piano.
However, I’m just one annoyed person. For some groups of people, this is a much bigger issue than a Richard/Dick debate. Due to an uproar from various communities — especially members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community — Facebook released an apology to the public saying it would amend the enforcement of its policy so that it wasn’t applied maliciously against drag queens, drag kings or trans people. But it refuses to change its requirement that Facebook names be reflected on either government ID or two different forms of acceptable identification: a utility bill, yearbook photo, library card, etc.
Greg Daniels, the co-director of Pride Alliance, said he believes the name policy was not only an issue for LGBTQ people but also anyone who wants to keep their identity protected.
“Facebook has gotten to the point where it cares about the almighty dollar more than it does about its users safety,” Daniels said.Even more surprising is that Facebook isn’t the only company that hasn’t updated its policies to be more modern.
“I have met people who have been ‘outed’ as being trans by the [UA], by the DMV or by their places of employment, because policies are outdated or provide no easy way to change their gender identification,” Daniels said. And even with Facebook’s clarification, trans people who haven’t been able to transition their names in the “real world” could still be subject to such treatment.Get with the program, Facebook. These issues are not going away in the 21st century, and we should fight to make sure that people of all sexual orientations, genders, religions and ethnicities feel safe, especially on the Internet.
Until then, you can find me on MySpace.
Follow Trey Ross on Twitter.