GOOGLE EMAIL: New Feature Causes Privacy Concerns

Posted on: 5:54 pm, January 10, 2014, by

New feature lets Google+ users send you e-mail

(CNN) — A new feature from Google will let you e-mail just about anyone with a Google+ account, and, in turn, give them the ability to e-mail you.

The feature, announced on the official Gmail blog, won’t give your actual e-mail address to strangers. But when a Gmail user begins typing in the address box, it will provide suggestions including people in their Google+ network.

The idea, Google says, is to make it easier to contact friends and other contacts when you’ve forgotten, or never got, their e-amail address. But some early reactions suggested it may make it too easy.

“Oh god no.. Another reason to hate Google+,” wrote Jeff Roberts, a reporter for tech blog GigaOM, on Twitter. “They turned it into a stalking tool.”

Others, like Chris Taylor of Mashable, said it looks like another attempt to push users to Google+, which, as a social network, has never presented a real challenge to Facebook, though Google has continued to integrate it into other, more popular, products like YouTube and, now, Gmail.

“What (CEO Larry) Page and Google seem maddeningly unaware of is that nobody can ever be forced into having a party,” Taylor wrote. “That in fact, the forcing is what makes a party impossible.”

Google, clearly anticipating the privacy concerns, notes that users may limit the feature, or opt out of it entirely.

While the default G+ setting will allow anyone on Google+ to contact you, users may limit that to people in their Circles on the site or to no one at all.

There are other limits, too. A user may only e-mail you using the system once if you don’t reply (addressing the stalking concerns, perhaps). And messages from people who are not in your G+ Circles will go into the “Social” folder, along with other posts from sites like G+, Facebook and Twitter, instead of the user’s primary inbox.

Google said the feature will be rolling out to Gmail and Google+ users over the next couple of days, when they will receive a message with a link to the feature.