Google announced yet another integration between Gmail and Google+, enabling users to send emails from Gmail to anyone with a G+ account, even if you don’t have their email address.
This change may seem reminiscent of Google’s previous shot at a social network with Buzz. When the service rolled out, its weak privacy protections and reliance on having users opt-out of certain features caused a lot of sensitive information to be publically displayed. Google tried to patch the problem a few times, but the damage was already done.
The change to Gmail and G+ is also opt-out, as was the feature that added G+ contacts to GTalk, which is now Hangouts. In fact, Google seems to favor opt-out because without the initial push of accidental users, most probably would choose not to opt-in, rendering the update utterly impotent.
Privacy is the concern on everyone’s lips and Google took this into consideration. Your email address will remain private, and won’t be visible to anyone you haven’t already exposed to it. If someone sends you a message, and you reply, they’ll have your email address. If you send the first message, they’ll have your email address. This all still seems pretty intrusive.
Many people are very protective of their inbox, so keeping it clutter free is important. Hangouts are already built into G+, so if you want to send a private message, you can do it that way. Or you could just tag a post with a user’s name, and post it only to them. It’s not like it’s hard to send a private message on G+.
Google+ is already landing people in hot water because of its reliance on opt-out. Thomas Gagnon of Massachusetts was jailed for violating a restraining order because he emailed his ex-girlfriend. Gagnon contends that the email was automatically generated by Google, sending her a G+ invite without his knowledge.
While the change may be minor, it speaks to Google’s strategy. Update first, ask questions later. And that attitude is going to continue generating a lot of heat for Google, especially as it develops more features that blur the lines between services.
Image credit: charliecurve