Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How creepy is Google+ exactly?


By Nidhi Subbaraman

Whether you're still trying to get into Google's flashy new social network or already getting over it, eventually you'll get around to thinking: "Where is my personal data going?"a

Or, to put it another way, how creepy is Google+ exactly? By our estimate: About as creepy as Facebook. a

Like the social network we've all come to know and love/hate, Google+ lets you control which of your friends sees which of your posts. Like Facebook, it can keep your personal data locked down and secure — if you opt into that.a

But Google+ makes it more fun or even stylish to care about privacy, forcing you to think, just as your entering data, who you're sharing it with. The way Google+ packages sharing options, you can't wait to get choosy about who you share your life's secrets with. a

For example, editing your profile on Google+ is winningly WYSIWYG. When you hit the "Edit profile" button on your Google+ "About" page, menus boxes open and let you edit text and assign privacy options with a single click.a

Very different from Facebook, which carries you away to a different page and presents you with a series of forms. a

Then there's Circles. Sure, Circles does what Facebook has always done with Groups: It make clusters of friends with whom you'd want to share the same kinds of information. But while Groups is shoehorned into a little side panel, Circles claims center stage.  a

Google+'s intuitive sharing design makes sense as soon as you start typing a post into Streams. A slim box flips open, ready for you to pick the Circles or people you want to show that info to. (Be warned — like Facebook, the default here is set to "Public," and it's up to you to keep or change that.)a

With Facebook, all that's possible, but it's a little more awkward to do. While you can include or leave out friends or groups — post by post — with the same precision, you have to first excavate those options from under the little lock icon under the text pane. a

Google realizes that letting you play merry hell with the people you tag and don't tag in your posts can get confusing. So, like Facebook, they have a handy little feature that lets you view your posts and profile as seen by one of your +ers (or whatever we're calling them). a

Again Google+ is pretty obvious about this feature. The pane that lets you view your profile as someone else stares out at you from the right hand corner of your profile page, as well as from the Google+ Privacy settings page (which is the only place Facebook has located this option).a

Some other things you're probably wondering about:a

What shows up on a Google search of my name? advertisement advertisement advertisement

By default, your name and Google+ profile are indexed in searches (along with all posts that you've made visible to the "Public"). But Google gives you the option to hide your profile from search engines.a

What bits of my profile stay secret no matter what?

All the names you give your Circles, the posts that appear in your Streams (aka Facebook's Newsfeed) and the Sparks that you follow.a

Who does Google share my information with?

If you access Google+ through a third-party app — a website that isn't a Google page — that app may have access to your email and other info on your Google+ profile. Usually, the app will ask you for that information. You can also revoke their access at any time.a

Who sees the photos I'm tagged in?

Anyone that the person who uploads the photo authorizes. But you do have the option of approving or removing your name from photos you're tagged in. a

Google+ chats and video Hangouts

Google doesn't differentiate between your Google+ chat list and Gmail chat list. So, if you add contacts from Google+ onto your Google+ chat list, they might be able to access your email address when they log into their Gmail account. a

Hangout is Google's group video chat service. Hangouts are created by one person, who shares a link with other +ees to invite them to join a multi-user video conference. Hangout participation is by invite only, but once someone's in, they can't be kicked out.a

I'm over Google+. Can I delete my data and bolt? 

Yes, and you have some options here. You can "downgrade" from Google+, which lets you remove all your posts, photographs, and videos you ever posted, and take them with you. Your Gmail account address stays up, but you'll no longer have access to your Circles. a

If you want Google to forget you completely, you can choose to delete your Google account. This would delete all data on your Google+ page, as well as everything on your Gmail account (including past emails), and any other apps, data and services associated with that account.a

More about Google+ from msnbc.com: a

Google to launch a Facebook wannabe How to invite all your Facebook friends to Google+ What do we call adding a friend to Google+?

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about technology and science and msnbc.com. Find her on Twitter, er, Google+, and join our conversation (for now) on Facebook.a

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