This past week has been a bad one for Google+ public relations. On Wednesday, Americans learned the story of Massachusetts resident Thomas Gagnon, arrested for sending his ex-girlfriend a Google+ invite in violation of a restraining order she'd taken out against him — except Gagnon's attorney says Google sent the invite automatically, without Gagnon's knowledge or consent.
The next day, Consumer Watchdog released a letter highlighting a serious privacy/security problem with Google +: if you have a Google+ account, pretty much any other Google+ user can add you to their “Circle” of friends without your approval, and once your name is in their “Circle,” there's pretty much nothing you can do about it.
Coincidentally, on the same day the watchdog group released this complaint, Google announced some proposed changes to its Gmail system (by the way: if you have a Gmail account, you have Google+ whether you do anything with it or not).
Henceforth, anybody with a Google+ account will be able to send an email to any other user with a Google+ account. As Google asked in its Gmail blog post promoting the change: “Have you ever started typing an email to someone only to realize halfway through the draft that you haven't actually exchanged email addresses?” [Personal anecdote: No.] “If you are nodding your head 'yes' and already have a Google+ profile, then you’re in luck....”
Have to opt-out
If, however, you're shaking your head “no,” you'll need to change the settings on your account, to block Google+-generated emails from strangers. Critics charge that Google's new policy should be “opt-in” (meaning, the changes don't go through unless you-the-user personally allow it) rather than “opt-out” (wherein the changes go through automatically, unless you-the-user choose to block them).
Nick Hide, writing for CNET, noted of the new change: “By default, it's set to 'Anyone on Google+', although I'm seeing reports that if you have a large number of followers the default may be 'Circles'. If someone emails you via Google+ in this way, they don't see your email address, however. I haven't had the change roll out to my profile, either work or personal, but Google says it will send you an email when it happens -- although some users who contacted me after reading this story earlier did not receive this email.”
Thus far, the only people who seem to like Google's changes are the ones announcing them on behalf of Google, More typical is this complaint/headline in The Next Web blog: “Google, this is the wrong way to build brand loyalty for Google+.”