Google is adding badges that certify the identity of users of its Google+ social networking site, starting with public figures and with people who have been added by many as contacts.
Later on, the verification badges will be available to a bigger scope of users who aren't famous or broadly popular on the site, Google official Wen-Ai Yu said in a Google+ post.
For now the main goal is to inform users which is the official profile of a singer, actor, politician, public figure or popular Google+ account holder they may want to add to their Google+ Circles to follow their public posts.
"When you visit the profile of a celebrity or public figure, you’ll see a verification badge next to their profile name. This will help you easily determine which profiles are owned by real, verified people," she wrote.
Verified Google+ accounts will feature a grey checkmark inside a lighter grey circle next to the person's profile name. It's not clear from Yu's post how many "followers" a Google+ user needs to have to qualify as someone whose account merits having a verification badge.
Other social media sites feature verified accounts, including Twitter, which is used by many public figures to communicate with their fans.
Google is pushing a policy for its users to identify themselves with their real names on Google+, a principle that has worked well for Facebook, helping it create and foster a more trustworthy environment than exists on other social sites where people use pseudonyms.
Facebook's real name environment is credited as one of the main reasons why it dethroned MySpace as the world's most popular social networking site. However, Google faced criticism a few weeks ago when it started aggressively enforcing the real names policy by deleting many accounts it determined to be in non-compliance.
In response to the complaints, Google said it would modify its notification process to give potentially non-compliant users a chance to fix the violations and appeal instead of simply deleting their profiles.
Still, some people argue that Google should reconsider the real names policy, saying that in some cases it's justified for people to use pseudonyms to protect their privacy and security, as in the case of political dissidents and victims of spousal abuse.
Google+, launched in late June, has an estimated 25 million account holders, but it is still in limited beta. To join Google+, people have to receive an invitation from Google or from an existing member.