Google+ and your privacy

If, like me, you dabble on Facebook merely for the fact that everyone else does and there’s no real other alternative out there, while at the same time pretty much detesting many facets of its existence, then you, like me, probably spent a good hour yesterday ferreting your way through Twitter trying to get your hands on an invite to the “new kid on the block” – Google+.

Before I get started, however, let me quickly point you in the direction of a decent article, written by Mark Sullivan for “PCworld” which looks at 9 plausible reasons to consider eventually switching from Facebook to Google+.

But back to the discussion at hand…

If you were successful in squeezing through the wee crack in the door which led to the fantastical land of Google+, then you, like me, would have probably then embarked on an invite-sending-frenzy making sure you got as many invites out to your “friends” as possible in a bid to turn your “Circles” into something worthwhile. After all, without having friends on what is essentially another, yet slightly different and potentially improved, Facebook-style social network, what’s the point. Right?
It seems almost as quickly as the Google+ invite gates opened, however, they were slammed shut due to “insane demand”. Consequently, we all found ourselves full of excitement and wonder, setting up profiles and sorting out Circles, only to find ourselves scratching our heads wondering what to do next without our chosen invitees making it on board in time.

I, for one, took the moment of solitude as an opportunity to explore and try to find out exactly what sort of privacy controls were available for Google+. After all, the complex simplicity of anything to do with privacy is one of the things that turns a lot of people off Facebook, and let’s face it, after Google’s “Buzz” debacle, I was still a tad skeptical about how I was going to be able to control who saw what on my “Plus” profile…

While, disappointingly it seems* like most details on your Google+ profile are set to be visible to “Anyone on the web” by default, the controls and testing functions available that allow you to go in and get your privacy and profile visibility right, are thankfully easy to find and easy to use. It seems like Google may have got it right this time.
Granted, this may be in MY CASE only. I haven’t had the chance to back up this claim with evidence from anyone else as, ironically, very few people I know were able to get signed up in time yesterday.
How to set your Google+ privacy settings

So how exactly do you get to where you can start tinkering with the settings that will determine who in your Google world sees what?

Gaining access to your privacy settings is as easy as clicking on your name in the right of the new “Google Carbon” (that one’s for you Gazza – haha!) navigation bar at the top of the Google+ pages and selecting “Privacy” from the sub-menu that appears.

You’ll be presented with a screen that looks like this:

It’s a good idea to go through EACH AND EVERY one of the sections on this page, but for the time being in order to stick to the context of this post, there’s really 2 main things I want you to notice here.

Editing Profile Visibility

Firstly the obvious “Edit Visibility on Profile” button which you can click to be taken to a profile editing page where you will have the ability to set privacy levels for individual fields and sections of your profile. Like I mentioned earlier, it seems (in my case anyway) that the privacy levels for a lot of my profile sections seemed to have been set to be visible to “Anyone on the web” by default. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Not good.

It goes without saying that I have since, therefore, clicked around my profile and shifted all of the privacy settings to my desired levels, while at the same time updating my profile content. A simple process which, in my well-intentioned opinion, should be HIGH on your priority list once you make your way into Google+.

Testing Profile Visibility

Referring again to the “Profile and Privacy” screen shot (below), the second thing to notice is the sweet “See how your profile appears to other users” tool. Thankfully this tool does exactly what it suggests. Type in the name of someone you have added to one of your circles and you can see exactly what they will see.

Let’s take a look at an example where this testing facility can prove to be helpful.

“Johnny” has recently added his boss at work to a “Limited Profile” circle that he has created to add people to that he doesn’t wish to share his full profile with. He enters the boss’s name into the “See how your profile appears to other users” and clicks the “Preview” button.

In doing so, he notices that currently his “Limited Profile” Circle members are able to view his “Relationship Status”. He wishes to change this, so Johnny goes back to the “Edit Profile” view and uses the “Custom” privacy option to pick and choose those circles he wishes to be able to view this particular profile item, effectively blocking the “Limited Profile” circle members from this information.

Makes sense?


Sweet! – you’re one the way to having your profile and privacy settings well and truly sorted, ready to tackle whatever direction Google+ takes in the coming months.

If you have friends who you have invited to Google+ who you think would benefit from this information, please share the post with them using any of the share tools in the bar on the right.

BONUS! – Check out the New Gmail Design

By now, you will have noticed that Google have finally decided, thank God, to hire a User Interface Designer and the visual fruits of their labour are starting to roll out throughout the Google suite of applications. Most notably the Google Search interface has received a nice refresh along with Google Calendar.

The one application I’ve been hanging out for a design refresh, however, has been Gmail. Yes, the free email service loved by millions has received a fresh coat of paint and you can now give it a test run for yourself. Here’s how you do it:
  1. Click on the little cog wheel icon at the very top right of your Gmail page to bring up the application settings submenu.
  2. Click on mail settings to bring up the Gmail Settings screen.
  3. Click on the “Themes” tab and scroll down towards the bottom of the available themes.
  4. Click on either the “Preview (Dense)” or “Preview” themes.
Bingo! – you’re now test running the new Gmail layout complete with lots of yummy, uncluttered white space!

Q. Do you like the new Gmail design and layout? Do you think Google+ has the potential to reach the lofty user base currently enjoyed by Facebook or will it be a dud like Google Wave? Let me know what’s on your mind by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below.

Via masey


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