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NOTE: Block has changed significantly since this article. I will attempt to write up a better description at some point, but in the meantime, consider this historical only.

This is what Google says that Block does:

1. You will no longer see this person's content in your stream.
2. This person won't be able to comment on your content.
3. This person will be removed from your circles.
4. This person will still be able to see your public posts.

This is what Block actually does.

1. You will no longer see this person's content in your stream, however you will still see their comments in the Notification pull down, you will see their comments if you go an actual post page, and you will see all their public content if you view their public page.

2. The person will not be able to add any new comments to your posts. However they can continue to edit old comments, and they can still share your posts. They can not, however, + mention you in any posts.

3. This person will be removed from your circles (and put in a "blocked" circle). However, you will not necessarily be removed from their circles. When I checked, it still had the account in the circle, it was just now only an email address, not a link to a profile. This is probably because I already had them in my address book, but I'm not certain.

4. This person will still be able to see your public posts if they go to the link to a post, or view your profile page. They will also be able to see your comments in their stream (even though you don't see theirs) on posts (public or limited) which you are both able to see.

Because blocking is really only an operation on your stream, it also does not block them from seeing who your friends and followers are, or who your common friends are.


In summary:

Blocking people hides their posts and comments from your stream, and hides your public posts, but not your comments from their stream. It does not hide either posts or comments when viewed directly on a profile or in the posts themselves.

It actually does more to hide them from you, than it does to hide you from them.

Block does not block. It's a mute button, useful for muting over-sharers.

A proper block botton would do the following.

1. Remove me from their circles.
2. Not allow them to see anything about me (posts, comments or profile information) while they are logged in.
3. Remove them from my circles and add them to my "blocked" circle.
4. Probably, to be fair, also not allow me to see anything about them anywhere on the system while I am logged in.

In short. While using the system, we should be invisible to each other.

As +Gretchen S. has said, "Google+ is different from Facebook in how much of the important discussion, such as this one, take place in public. That's an important difference, but it needs to be matched by a greater ability for privacy." Mute is a useful function, but let's call it what it is, and let's have a real "block" so that people can use Google+ with the knowledge that anyone who is stalking them needs to actually leave the system in order to track down what they've been saying.

--- Added after posting ---

I do have mixed feelings about the fact that truly blocking someone doesn't really keep them away. But actually, there are some additional layers of security that could be applied.

1. Let me specify that my posts are visible only to other Google+ users. Then they wouldn't show up in a public Google search, and they wouldn't be visible if you were logged out. My stalker would have to create a new account to view my profile.

2. Take that one step further, and (assuming Google implements internal search) not allow that to search my "public" posts either.

None of these truly protect you from a dedicated stalker, but security has never been about "you are secure" versus "you aren't secure". It's a question of what degree of safety you want and what level of pain your willing to put up with to get it. By providing additional options, even the "you can only see it if you log out", you are giving more opportunities to pick the level of security that they require, and making it possible for more people to use the service without having to curtail their activities. In the end, it is not up to pontificators who say "but that's not truly secure" to make the decision, any more than you let someone else tell you how much life insurance to buy. It's a choice the individual has to make based on their circumstances. Google serves us all by presenting a range of options and letting people pick the best fit.

P.S. I also have sympathy for Google from a technical standpoint. Allowing post pages to be filtered is going to blow what is right now probably a static cached file. Oh well.
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Bert Knabe's profile photoGretchen S.'s profile photoLee Hwang's profile photoKee Hinckley's profile photo
38 comments
 
As +Liz Fong pointed out, blocking logged-in blockees from seeing your posts is not real security at all, because they can simply log out in order to see them -- but IMO that still protects you from comments and forces them to actually log out in order to see them and comment. It's more of a speedbump than an actual barrier, but sometimes that last speedbump can be a helpful, because it also sends the message of 'you are systematically and categorically barred from seeing this user.'

Another question: is the blockee aware that they have been blocked? If not, then they might never think to log out and look for public posts. Though it can also bring awareness to public posts if they happen to notice that they see yours only when logged out.
 
With the current block button, they are not notified that they are blocked, and they really have very little indication, especially since they'll still see your comments. They'll just think you aren't posting publicly anymore, unless they happen to visit your profile or start wondering why you aren't replying to any of their comments on commonly viewed posts. I imagine that was the intent.
 
That's my preferred behavior on a blocking, because it tends to cause the least fuss, and you can always tell someone they are being blocked if you think it will help.
 
wish it blocked communication both way between the two accounts - but on thinking about it I can see how hard it would be - but I wish I didn't have to read some people's comments in other people's comment threads - especially the trolls...
 
The lack of comments removal really bugs me. I can cope with trolls but I ran into a troll the other night who signed. Every. Single. Comment. Like:

troll troll troll

signature

Even the one liners. I hit my limit and applied my first block, to learn that... they show up in my notifications. They show up on the posts. I still have to read that signature 20 times every time I look at the post. Arguably the incessant signature was less of a waste of my brain cells than his proposal that Google form a new world government by mandating only one email account per person (I am not making this up) but seriously?

How this plays out longterm with this UI: Robin Troll can....

.... follow you to any public thread you ever post in, so you have to see someone you blocked everywhere.

.... fill threads they are capable of posting into in a way that doesn't violate the TOS but basically takes over the thread, by responding to every single other poster, etc.

... If they are willing to get into real spam/harassment, post huge and/or high volume comments that break a thread down. Most skilled trolls find the line that shuts down or entirely derails discussion but doesn't quite get them banned.

Posters also are not given the basic moderation tool of being able to delete comments out of their threads, which makes this problem even worse. I was shocked when I looked around to test that. (Edited for noob)

We really need to be able to block all view of someone, and block their view of us while they're logged in. I wouldn't mind knowing that someone I've blocked has posted a comment, so I can take action if it is defaming or if a troll is busy in a thread I am posting to... something like replacing their comments with <redacted> and then being able to expand that comment if necessary might suffice.
 
I am a noob! You can actually delete people out of your threads, I just was looking at the comments themselves for ways to do it, not at the corner pulldown at the top of the thread. Going to go line that bit out.
 
A really thorough privacy block that gracefully handles all possible cases in a service like Google+ is actually really really hard to do. I was responsible for privacy and security in a 3D virtual world once; I spent crazy amounts of time plugging up all the relevant cases. (Can a blocked user send you a gift? Can they join your club? Can they visit your virtual house if the permissions are set to public? Can they lend you a hoverboard?) Not to mention that we had to come up with a way to keep a stalker from simply logging in and following your avatar around in the virtual world. To complicate matters, we had 13-year-old users with avatars that looked 23.

Trust me: it's harder than it looks. For example: can someone you're blocking join a hangout you're participating in? If you're not the host of the hangout, does the blocked user see your name? There are a lot of cases in a social service like this one. If Google missed some, we should just send them some productive feedback and ask that they address the case.

The feedback system is seriously slick and actually kind of fun to use. :-)
 
Wow, I was thinking of 'block' as a one-way glass, but it's even less than that. It's a "let me stand behind this pole of one way glass, and as long as neither of us moves, you can see me, but I can't see you."
 
+Bert Knabe Yes, that's a very good description!

+Marwan Zaki Yes. If you block someone for stalking, it is definitely disturbing to see that you are still in their circles, not to mention that they still see your comments on posts.

I encourage people to send feedback. I think that "mute" is a nice feature, but we need more than that for more serious real-world problems.
 
This is about far more than trolls. It is an issue of control. Control over your data, your image, your online self. And the ability to keep some degree of separation between online self and offline self. There are people who need to be able to do that. It's not a desire, it's a necessity. If they can't keep an appropriate level of separation, they cannot participate in online discussion - the place where more and more issues are being discussed and decided all the time. To force someone to choose between destroying their life and being able to be online is to relegate them increasingly to second class citizenship.

And that's not even getting into issues of government monitoring, 4th Amendment and all the other stuff that are taken care of (more or less) if we allow people to protect their privacy online.
 
Blocking someone removes them from your circles. EDIT - Does not remove YOU from their circles. Fail.

If I remember correctly, you can't mention them, nor them, you. (I would need to test this to make sure)

Someone blocked cannot participate or activate any feature on your public posts. ANYONE can read your public posts while logged out of Google, anyway. ANYONE can read all of your public posts in Reader via RSS. EDIT: They can still reshare your public posts. FAIL.

A blocked person IS visible in any post posted by someone else. To block a person "visually" ONLY in someone else's post could result in the disruption of flow of information in a thread, and actually turn it nonsensical. Since it's not your post, the person who posted it would not want that to happen.

IF your post is shared by someone, public or limited, and that someone does not have that person blocked, they can then participate in the SHARE of your post because at that point, you didn't post it - the person that shared it posted it.

You can remove a blocked person's comments from your posts so you no longer have to look at them. You can't however, remove anything from someone else's post. You can mute any post you receive a notification from so that you don't have to see it again.
 
More info here: http://www.google.com/support/profiles/bin/static.py?page=guide.cs&guide=1257347&answer=1047934


Block someone
To block someone:

Go to their profile.
On the side of the profile click Block [person's name].
Confirm that you want to block that person.
You can also block someone by placing them in your Blocked circle while editing your circles, via the drop-down arrow at the top of one of their posts, or by clicking Block in a notification email you received from that person.

When you block someone:

You won't see their content in the stream or on Incoming (even though you'll remain in their circles).
They'll be removed from any circles of yours that they appear in.
They'll be removed from your extended circles even if you have mutual connections.
They won't be able to comment on your content that was posted after they were blocked.
They won't be able to view content shared with your circles (although they may still see content you post publicly).
They won't be able to mention you in posts or comments.
When you block someone, we won't notify them. But since blocking someone limits the interactions that person can have with you, they may work out that they've been blocked.
 
+Linda Lawrey Thank you, that's definitely a more complete description than the ones I had previously seen.
 
I did report it. But yes. Everyone should.
 
I've reported it, too. Is there a better way to report than the 'send feedback' button? That seems geared to page related problems. There's a chance it may automatically toss anything that's not.
 
Two quick comments:

1. If you don't want to see someone's comments, why visit their public page ? (re: your critique that you can still see their activity should you try to do so )

2. You apparently want the "block+hide" combo (i.e., if you block someone, they cannot see your public posts). That seems like a tall order. After all, your public posts are, by definition, public. It is as if you block someone from your telephone but then get upset if you see them, or vice versa, in a public restaurant. Perhaps the option you seek in this case is the "restraining order" button ?
 
+Jefferson Braswell No, I agree, that wasn't a complaint, just a statement. The fact that they can still view mine after blocking; that's a complaint.

Yes, in fact, what I want is pretty close to the restraining order. "This person should not be able to see me on this service while logged in to it." That's the expectation that has been set from Facebook's block, which pretty much makes the two accounts invisible to each other, even if they are posting public items. Also, many people who block want it to be fully reciprocal, they don't want to see that other person's posts/comments while they are logged in. If they can see the posts, then that person has a way to continue harassing them. That's why it's important to do a full block even though you could log out and see the info.

I think the current block is useful as a mute (if it fixed the problem of still seeing them on the post page), but in a social networking site you have to deal with real world issues, and that includes people trying to do the best they can to dissuade stalkers. For once, Facebook has set a good example.
 
I appreciate the reply, and I understand what it is that you would like to see, but the comparison to FB perhaps does not take into account:

1. G+ has the 'Twitter' mode (being able to follow without being followed, i.e., the locking 'friends' pact). In Twitter, the 'block' is the 'don't bug me' (mute) button as well. You can still see the blockers public stream. In Twitter, of course, ALL posts are 'public' unless 'Direct'

2. In FB, if you have restricted your posts to your friends, there is no such thing as a 'public' post. This is the same thing as posting only to (all) circles in G+. The FB block only results in the blockee not seeing your posts if you allow your posts to be seen by anyone. This is, increasingly, a level of privacy (none) in FB that is used less and less.

3. If the blockee and the blocker have mutual friends, then it is my understanding that both FB and G+ blocks work the same way.

Again, a public post is, well, by definition a public post. It is as if you published a letter in a newspaper but you wanted the blockee to be denied access to the newspaper (can't get it at a news stand, paper carriers have to not deliver that paper to that person if any content from you is in it, etc ). All in all, your desire not to have any contact with someone who you have chosen to have nothing to do with might be understandable, even emotionally so, but it does seem like it at least borders on an excessive reaction.
 
+Jefferson Braswell I understand #1, and I agree that it's debatable. I don't know how Facebook deals with it. It seems like an easy thing to implement, but I agree, of limited value.

I'm not sure where you're going with #2. I disagree with #3, Facebook does not (for instance) show you wall posts by someone who has blocked you, even if those wall posts are on the wall of a mutual friend. In G+, the equivalent is comments, and G+ is oddly inconsistent. If I block them, I won't see their comments on my friend's posts, but they will see mine. That just seems wrong (and could potentially aggravate things). And on top of that, it only applies when viewing in the stream. They still appear if I go to the actual post page.

And yes, wanting full blocking is an excessive reaction, usually because of an excessive situation. In my case, it's because someone was stalking me. For other people it might be a former abuser, rapist, or someone who committed a crime against you. I think it's understandable in those cases to want the maximum amount of separation possible, at least when both people are within the same service. I'm sure there are people here who can speak more eloquently to real life instances of this issue.
 
+Kee Hinckley Yes, I figured as much, and I commiserate with you regarding the 'use-case' that prompted the suggestion. You want a user-directed 'stealth' button. I can dig it.
 
Given that suspended users can't read any posts in the public stream... it's particularly irksome that blocked people can still see your posts.
 
I see Google has introduced a new lightweight "ignore" feature that basically keeps people's stuff out of in your incoming box. No changes to "block" yet though.
 
I noticed that last night. It helps with Incoming stream spammers, but not with people parking themselves in other people's threads you've posted in or want to read.
 
+Meli Melos That's weird. Block has changed a lot since I wrote this post. It should make it impossible for either of you to see any of the other's posts, or even their comments (except perhaps old ones in your posts).
 
+Meli Melos If you have blocked them, none of their posts should be visible while you are logged in, no matter how they share. I'd double check that they are blocked, and if it still doesn't work, use Send Feedback.
 
I'm dealing with a horrible situation where someone is trying all he can to post defamatory, derogatory stuff on my past public posts. I blocked him, removed the comments and then he just went to create another profile and redo it.
I had to go through each public post of mine and disable comments as well as lock the posts.
I do not understand why that person can still see my profile, pictures and posts eve after I blocked them? That just seems WRONG!

When I BLOCK someone, I'm not just muting or ignoring them, I want them completely out of my space!

Is that so hard to fathom for Google?
 
+Ritesh Tripathy Block has changed a lot since I wrote this. It does now fully block what they can see, but of course it only works while they are logged in. If they log out, they can still see your public information, and if they create a new account, that's fine. There may be things that Google can do to prevent someone from creating a new account the harass you, if they know it's happening.

+Liz Fong-Jones Do you know how someone would go about reporting harassment on Google+?
 
You can report the individual profile for abuse, but if someone is making throwaway accounts, they should eventually run out of new account creations per SMS address since every new account requires SMS validation. I'm not sure if there's an IP permaban type system though that would short-circuit faster.
 
+Saurabh Sharma might have more specific advice than 'report individual profiles for abuse' in terms of dealing with the systematic issue.
 
Hopefully that's what's going to happen. Do you happen to know how many accounts one can create per phone number?
Also, thanks for pointing out that the person can't see anything related to me while logged in.
 
+Liz Fong-Jones Thanks! So it sounds like at the very least, instead of just blocking, +Ritesh Tripathy should also report the account for abuse. And hopefully they won't be able to create too many throwaway accounts.
 
+Ritesh Tripathy I don't know, but I do know it's finite. And yes, the person can't see anything by you when logged in, but could open a new incog window, or use a different account and start seeing your posts :/ - it's impossible to stop someone determined from seeing something that you originally set to "show the whole world" :/

Other intermediate measures might include putting comments to 'only extended circles', etc. etc.
 
+Ritesh Tripathy If there are specific comments, flag them with the report abuse flag too in the process of deleting them.
 
I've now decided to only share with my circles.. shame 'cos I write a lot of stuff and sharing it in public is desirable. Also, many legitimate connections would be sacrificed as my posts won't be public anymore.

I'm not really bothered if the person can see my posts, I just want to make sure he can't comment or mention me directly anywhere, under any circumstances.
 
+Liz Fong-Jones Yes, I did that for a few of the comments.. it was almost like hate spam with really foul language!
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