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Google+ and your privacy (some preliminary thoughts):

- "Show geo location information from photos in newly uploaded albums" seems to be turned off by default. Good.

- By default, Google+ makes the identity of all your circles (including family and friends) visible to "Anyone on the web." Same with "Show people who have added you to circles," also selected by default. Not many people seem to have locked this down. Not sure whether this is a good or bad idea, but these defaults are Twitter-esque and will lead to a different culture than if they been reversed.

- Google+ has, by my count, 13 privacy settings, each with an average of a sentence or two of text to explain them. There's another page if you want to edit individual items. Facebook has far more complicated privacy options (in part because of Facebook apps) that are more difficult to navigate.

- FB says: "On Facebook, your name, profile picture, gender and networks are visible to everyone." Google+ lets users make gender and circles private, but it looks like your name and, if you have one, profile photo must (like FB) be visible to everyone on the Web.

- I'm not sure, but it seems like if you give someone permission to see a Google+ post, they can do the equivalent of forward it ("Anyone a post is shared with can see all comments to that post, who else it's shared with, and share the post with others.") What I'm not sure is if one of their recipients can forward it again, etc.

- Any member of any of your circle seems to be, by default, approved for this (though it's easy to change): "People whose tags of you are automatically approved to link to your Profile."

It's easy to see that much more thought and testing went into this launch than Google Buzz. Google+ is simpler to navigate, and I don't see any obvious privacy missteps that drew such (often unfounded) shrill complaints about Buzz. At launch, at least, it seems to give better privacy options than Facebook as well.

Anything I missed?


Update: There's a "disable reshare" option (in the top right of each post you own) that I presume does what I was speculating about above. And as Sajid said, I should have noted the clever decision to make circle identities -- the equivalent of Twitter followers/followees -- default public but not the actual names of the circles each person is in.
John Winstanley's profile photoMichael F's profile photoJerin Chacko's profile photoEric Schmoyer's profile photo
Mostly just a clarification, but "By default, Google+ makes the identity of all your circles (including family and friends) visible to "Anyone on the web." " could be misconstrued. You can see the list of people that are in a circle of yours, but not which circle they're in. I think that's always private: so, you don't need to worry about offending someone by putting them in your Acquaintances circle.
Thanks, Sajid. Good point, and I've updated my post (whether it's even necessary to update it when we have this discussion below it is a different question, and I expect norms will evolve).
Thanks for bringing up these points - these all reflect a lot of intense work from our team, and I know they're glad to see the apprecation.

One point I wanted to clarify is that in Google+, you can't set the gender field on your profile to be non-public. However, you can select "Other" if you don't want "Male" or "Female" to appear on your profile. We felt that giving that additional choice to users was very important.
+Jonathan McPhie Is there any particular reason you can't set the gender field to be private? Stating "Other" instead of the two genders conveys a much different meaning than the omission of genders entirely.

I largely ask this because this was a concern of one of my friends who is fairly secretive but wants to stay in the loop with friends. The only thing I can guess is in deciding how to refer to status messages like "Foo replied to his/her comments" or something like that. If that's the case, that just makes me wish using a gender-neutral pronoun was far more popular in the English language (perhaps a singular 'they' would work?)

Regardless, I ramble. Good job so far, I just would like to know more about how you design for the service.
+Enrique Santos Your point is well taken. Our hope is that "Other" covers (albeit loosely) both the case when someone doesn't want to state their gender, as well as when someone doesn't identify with "Male" or "Female" - even though, as you mention, they are very different cases. We're already looking into ways in which we might improve this.
+Jonathan McPhie I'm sure many people are willing to let certain circles see their self-identified gender, but they would want it to be public for personal reasons. Treating it like any other field seems like the extremely obvious way to go, but I'm sure there are reasons for the difference that I'm not aware of.

Regardless, you guys are doing a great job. Keep up the good work!
+Jonathan McPhie One other thing, so long as I realized that this concern of mine was mentioned briefly in the post: I have friends who are concerned about being associated with people who are following them without any prior approval and having it display on other profile pages. This is the same sort of problem with Facebook's image tagging which automatically shows up on a person's profile, except instead of images, it's people you're associated with.

Is there an option to stay off of people's public displays of their circles? I know this is going along the Reader/Twitter follower/followed model but not everyone who wishes to communicate online necessarily want to be identified in such a manner. In actual social networks people often unfairly think ill of others due to whoever they are associated in that regard. I don't believe this is really an issue on Facebook sincethe only people that are publicly shown on an individual's profile are the ones that required user confirmation upon Friend addition at one point or the other.

It might be a stretch to account for this, but it's been a repeated concern to me since this launched. People likened the whole situation with what happened with Buzz when it first came out.

That being said, I salute you guys once more. Thanks for being so prompt.
@Jonathan -"We felt that giving that additional choice to users was very important."

Forcing someone to choose "Other", instead of forcing them to choose either "M" or "F" isn't really a choice.
NO ONE ... NO ONE should be forced to be an "Other". Please Please Please correct this by giving users the ability to really choose the gender they self-identify as.
+Jonas Wisser It does currently use gendered pronouns in the timeline, as in "So And So changed his profile photo." Not sure what it uses for people who mark Other.

I would personally prefer to hide my gender or not enter one and I'd be OK with it using any gender-neutral pronouns for me (i.e., whatever it already does with Other would be OK with me). Being allowed to enter any or at least select from a variety of pronouns would be awesome — not to mention a powerful indication of Google support for marginalized gender identities — but that would probably be considered (perhaps rightly) too infrequently used a setting to be useful, not to mention subject to all sorts of abuse, so I think that sort of thing is probably too radical to hope for.
+Jonathan McPhie So I'm also of the camp that there should be as much freedom as possible when specifying one's gender identity, and that it should be optional, and that pronoun sets should be a separate field. Sure, make it a field that only is visible when you pick "Other" if you think you have to. I also think that allowing free text as much as possible is a good idea in this area because the language used to described gender identity is still, and probably always will be, evolving. The ability to define custom pronoun sets & a free text field for gender is probably worth far more in terms of the social good it brings than the engineering effort to make it work.
Hi all! Thanks for the feedback - this is exactly why we started out with a field trial: to listen and to learn. We're looking closely at this issue and will keep your thoughts in mind as we look to improve this.
+Jonathan McPhie
I would suggest combining a feature that allows people to only let certain circles see their gender with a convention to use they/their in content that's visible to people who can't access that person's gender (like Facebook uses for profiles grandparented in from the good ol' days where they didn't make you declare a binary gender [not sure if they do it for profiles who don't display gender on their profiles]). It's a recognizable convention that doesn't necessarily imply someone isn't male or female, or is into nonstandard pronouns, and it won't accidentally out a trans* person who's hiding their gender for safety reasons. It might be best to make separate privacy controls for gender and pronouns, but if so in such a way that someone changing one always knows that they also have to change the other if they want full gender privacy. I also very, very strongly request that "Other" and "Prefer not to say" be separate options--I am definitely saying what my gender is when I say it's "Other", and the main reason I want to switch to Google+ is that it gives me the option to say that, which most of the world doesn't. I don't want people to be able to dismiss it as, "Oh, [binary gendered pronoun] just didn't feel like listing [possessive version of same pronoun] gender". Personally, it's not important to me that I have a text-field or huge drop-down list so I can pick a specific label for my non-binary gender, but it obviously is to some.

Edits: figuring out how to tag someone; and giving up, perhaps I have to have them in my circles
Thanks, Adair. We continue to work on this issue and hope to have updates for everyone on this issue soon.
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