Goodbye pseudonyms! Android app store reviews will now show your Google+ name and picture

Filed Under: Android, Featured, Mobile, Privacy, Social networks

Google PlayIn Google's relentless drive to encourage the world to give a damn about its Google+ social network, the software giant has decided to force users who want to leave reviews of Android apps to do so using their Google+ name and picture.

In short, there will be no more pseudonymous reviews on Google Play - from now on, any feedback you leave on Android apps will be accompanied by your name and photograph.

Google Play review notice. Click for larger version

From now on, reviews you write will be posted publicly using your Google+ name and picture.

Your name on previous reviews will appear as "A Google User".

Note that Google hasn't given you anyway of opting-out of using your Google+ name and picture.

Earlier this year, Google began encouraging YouTube users to also start using their Google+ name and profile picture on the video-sharing site. Google is not yet enforcing the use of real names on YouTube, but if they did it might help clean up the cesspool of commentary that is frequently found up there.

Google Plus real name rules

Google Plus's real-name policy has been the subject of controversy in the past, as there are legitimate and understandable reasons why people sometimes want to be anonymous on the net.

Yes, even when leaving app reviews. For instance, you can understand why some folks may not want others to know what Android apps they have installed, or to have crazy-ass app developers know exactly who it was who slagged off their rubbish fart app.

Meanwhile, there are no such problems over in the rival iTunes app store for iPhone and iPad owners, who Apple allows to use a pseudonym when leaving reviews.

iTunes app store reviews, using pseudonyms

If you have an Android device, and these are issues that concern you, then the answer is simple - either stop leaving reviews of Android apps, or create a bogus Google+ account using a pseudonym and hope that Google doesn't notice you've broken their rules.

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24 Responses to Goodbye pseudonyms! Android app store reviews will now show your Google+ name and picture

  1. Nigel · 656 days ago

    Semantic imprecision is such a handy thing. Never having bothered to define "evil", Google gets to preach "Don't be evil" while they personify it in their relentless attack on privacy.

  2. Freida Gray · 656 days ago

    So,if you don't have Goggle + account you can't leave a review on Google Play ?

  3. Bennie · 656 days ago

    Dude. If you're sour about Google's decision, by all means, join the Apple cult. They enjoy so much more freedom. No, really.

    • Nigel · 655 days ago

      ...er, this isn't about Apple. Nor is it about "freedom"...well, except to the extent that your freedom depends upon your privacy. That extent is only huge.

      Look, we're talking about software reviews here. Demanding that users reveal their real names and photos in order to post a review is absurd. When I write software reviews, they are substantive. There is no doubt that I've used the software, and that I'm providing INFORMATION that might actually benefit other users. Who I am is irrelevant.. And when I read reviews, I look for similar qualities. Superficial reviews or flames without any explanation are simply noise, and I ignore them.

      I'll concede that anonymity probably increases the noise content. After all, one look at the comments on most YouTube videos establishes that clearly enough. But the fact remains that there is significant risk of identity theft and other identity and privacy related crimes and mischief by exposing oneself on the Internet, and the more information you expose, the greater the risk. I don't see any necessity to increase that risk just to post a software review.

      Google is pushing away conscientious, security-conscious users, and when they're all gone, all that will be left is the idiots. They will have reaped what they sowed.

  4. JRD · 655 days ago

    I'd already changed my first name in Google to something abbreviated that no one actually calls me. I'm glad I did. Giving my last name out to the entire world just because I like (or hate) an app is bad enough.

    You have a Google+ "account" by virtue of having a Gmail address whether you use it or not. It pulls your name from your overall Google information.

  5. Kent · 653 days ago

    I've stopped reviewing because I don't want my name and information right there on a review for angry birds or anything else for that matter. I'm not a big fan of this new system. Change it, please, Google!

  6. I closed my fb acct. My twit acct. My myspace acct. All due to privacy concerns. This is the last straw.

  7. Rob · 650 days ago

    Because of all this, three words: Samsung. Ativ. Odyssey. I'm gonna take the Microsoft route. Google just made Android worse by "integrating their product, Google , to everything". Give it time, we won't be able to comment on YouTube unless... you guessed it... connect our Google account.
    I removed G due to security and privacy concern: people circling me hacked into my email account, despite my Gmail address being hidden to all people but the ones I circle (back). Rather have that two-way thing Facebook has anyday.

  8. Don · 645 days ago

    It looks like the bigger Google gets, the greedier they get. If you like one of their products they want to force all of them down your throat and they don't see a problem with it. Today I tried to leave a review in the Play store to find I have to join Google+ to do so. Which wouldn't be so bad except I HAVE TO agree to let them use my information for their advertising and for other companies or I can't join. I don't like that. I paid for the app's, isn't that enough revenue? They need to sell my information to? They used to be against that. I used to like Google but the more invasive they get the more I shy away. I can't imagine what they'll be like in 10 or 20 years. I half expect them to sneak into my house and look in my underwear drawer to see what brand of socks I buy, then email me ads for them. Then again maybe I'm just paranoid and privacy's becoming a thing of the past.

  9. I've been inactive on google+ since the real name controversy broke, and this was the straw that led me to actually delete my profile. Now google tries to force me to join if I want to rate an app. No dice google. I'll just not rate apps any more.

  10. duckfeet · 637 days ago

    Google is evil. I've been with them from the get-go, when it was just a 'less intrusive' search engine than webcrawler and such...and I too, today, went all the way into apps, just to leave a--positive--review on my 'simple alarm clock' app, which worked so well...and all of a sudden I get this forced shove into google+, which I have resisted thus far.

    I almost signed up, thinking, 'hey, who cares...' but it's just so wrong. And so pushy. I mean, no big deal, I can live without leaving reviews, but I"ve been such a google fan for so long,--I remember getting the Nexus One when it first came out, and how happy I was the day I found a box on my doorstep, and realized Google had sent me one of their cr48 chromebooks, and it just reinforced my approval of the company.

    But this was too much...I'm pretty much back to linux anyway, between google and microsoft, it's the last refuge of the freedom seekers among us...but google is hard to escape...android is, anyway...I like android, linux based, all the deal...but google is acting just like microsoft did, back when MS was trying to take over the world...

    DuckDuckGo, here I come ;)

  11. Leo Guy · 618 days ago

    I've now stopped leaving app reviews on the Play store. And I can see how other privacy minded users would be doing the same. Such a dick move by Google!

  12. tsandl · 617 days ago

    Does anyone really believe there is any motive in this other than to try to force people to use Google+? This isn't going to stop companies from creating hundreds of dummy accounts to pump up their ratings. As for cleaning up commentary: Sure there are a few obnoxious reviews on the market from time to time, but it's not as if you can have any big flame wars when there's no way for reviewers to endlessly reply to each other. Go take a look at the comments on some of the news sites that have started requiring people to log in with their facebook accounts or whatever and see if they've really become any more civil. If anything, they're more hateful than ever. Mark my words: the quality of the reviews in the Play store is going to go into freefall. The only people who will post reviews from here on out are people too ignorant to be concerned about their privacy.

  13. Andy · 597 days ago

    This is really the tipping point for me where I start not to like Google anymore. I can clearly see the roadmap: YouTube, Google Maps, Picasa, ... step by step they will force people to use Google+ with their real identity policy. One day they will even force your real picture with rules like no sunglasses. I used to believe Google is "only" interested in pushing ads. For this they don't need real identities. Google gives a shit about the quality of the app market comments. All they want is more accurate information about their ad consumers in the best case from their birth on without interruptions that occur when you dare to create a new fake Google account and close the old one.

  14. As a technical person I do not agree with this google idea , If you don't have Goggle + account you can't leave a review on google play.

  15. Rachel · 540 days ago

    One of the many, many reasons I've left Google behind. I don't use their search engine any more - I use DuckDuckGo. I don't use Picasa, I use Photobucket. And I'll be moving from Blogger to WordPress in the next week and severing my last remaining attachment to the privacy nightmare that is the Google Monster. They are evil personified. I wouldn't trust them with my screen name, let alone my real one.

  16. M Z · 461 days ago

    Very disappointing. It had been a while since I posted a review, and noticed this today when I went to post one. I don't especially want to post the review with my real name. I think this approach has the unfortunate side effect of quashing a lot of *honest* reviews as well, and making the review system far less useful.

    Most people have, I think, learned to read between the lines on a fake review. I would think that Google could apply some intelligence to this process: account has to have been around for a bit, actually purchased the app (they do that already, actually), and/or some other reasonable rules. I've already set up a fake name on my "throwaway" account (the one I use for things that will generate lots of advertising emails), but really don't want to do that on my real one - and I can't post reviews under the throwaway account because I didn't *buy* it under that one.

  17. Russ · 446 days ago

    I just went to review something for the first time in a few months and found this stupid change. No more reviews from me then.

    I'm also seriously considering deleting my google+ account as well because I don't use it and have absolutely no desire to have it linked to things like reviews. I bet I'm not the only one who does the exact opposite of what google was hoping when they brought this change in.

  18. GoogleThis · 431 days ago

    I removed the review after posting it and won't be making any more reviews
    I tried the duckduckgo website, but honesty google search is still better
    Since it is, I think I will still stick with my google plus account...
    another thing i don't like is how google saves a cache of picture from your twitter, so anyone can see your pic if they google image search your full name....

    • RemoveReview · 403 days ago

      How did you remove the review??!! I have been trying to figure out how to do this!

  19. TonyDude · 429 days ago

    I've resisted activating Google plus and have stopped posting reviews and suggestions on apps in the Play store. As others have said, it's easy for someone to compile a profile on me by seeing which apps I have and checking other info from my profile.

    I have an example from Meetup, I met some nice people at a group meeting and checked out their MeetUp profiles. Based on which meetup groups they belong to I discovered one person has recently left an abusive relationship, is new to town, and I know their interests. Holy smokes, that's just too much information. I don't think the person thought their involvement in one group was going to be visible to people in another group. I don't want my info revealed in Google Plus. Even if there are ways to make things private, I'm sure I'm going to screw up and leave something open. I realize nothing is for free and Google provides me tons of services for free. If it's an option, let me pay and I'll pay for privacy.

  20. No One Important · 360 days ago

    I just tried to leave a comment on the new Sprint TV and Movies update (it's broken after the September 18th update) and found . ... "wow man, that's really snarky."

    They really shouldn't be forcing people to divulge privacy in today's era of identity theft.

    Yes, I understand that marketing is an integral part of their revenue streams, but after the NSA, their change to "privacy" policy (basically saying if you don't want it known, you shouldn't be doing it). . . .Google forgets whence they came. Not so long ago, they used to rail against "the man". . . but now that Google is "the man". .they're acting like those they used to hate.

    Someone will come along, and create a "gargoyle" store for apps, and eat Google's lunch. When you create a demand by virtue of your own behavior, you deserve someone else to come along and fill that demand.

  21. As of 2014-01-01:

    Not entirely true. Just have a look in the Google Play Store. You will see countless of current and past reviews (2014 and back) that show the user name as "A Google User".

    How are these users exempt? Before I can leave a review (I have other Google accounts linked to Google Play) I have to switch to my real name or Google Play name.

    I certainly would prefer to leave a review as "A Google User" like many others.

  22. Hell · 155 days ago

    I can't play Heroes of Dragon Age if I don't sign up for Google+, but I can't give the game a bad review of the game because of that, because that requires a Google+ account. Well played, Google. Or not. I just uninstall the game altoghether and slowly start migrating away from Google.

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.