With Google+ out in the wild and with already 10 million users in just a few days, makes it one of the fastest growing social network we have ever seen. And privacy is always the number one concern for most users. Google provide tools to deal with this, but the problem is that in a lot of cases users are unaware of what information is public or private, making it seem like these privacy settings are some how hidden from the average user. You should be aware of the information that is publicly available by default and you should know how to make your Google+ profile more private.
The first tip I can give you is that if you are concerned about your privacy, when signing up for any social network (e.g. Google+ and Facebook) or any other service, is to take a couple of minutes to find the privacy settings (they should be close to the user account or profile settings) and check them.
Also privacy settings may change over time and without you noticing, so it is a good to revisit them every once in a while.
Did you get a Google+ invite? Great! Now, did you check the Google+ privacy settings? If you didn’t, you should know that some of your information is publicly available and searchable, meaning that search engines can crawl your profile and it will appear in search results.
Next is a list of Google+ Plus profile information that is public by default:
- Your Introduction (Bio) and Links
- Bragging rights
- Places lived
- Other names
- And Search visibility
As easy as this new Google’s social network makes to change your privacy settings, it would be nice to see these type of services to have all our information private by default at first, and then with a simple wizard change them to our liking.
Now that you know which profile information is public, you can take some actions:
Sign in to your Google+ account, click on Profile and then click the Edit Profile button.
This page contains most of your information, to edit and change the visibility settings, just hover and click profile information you want to modify. Google will give you some privacy choices such as, Anyone on the web, Extended Circles, Your Circles, Only You or Custom, choose the option that you consider best and then click the Save button, and do the same for every piece of information.
One setting in particular that should be important to check is Search visibility, at the end of page, that is ON by default, which means that your Google+ profile is available for indexing by any search engine, and my wild guess is that many of you may not like this very much. The only thing you need to do here is to click the Search visibility and uncheck the box to prevent your profile for being indexed, in other words to not appear in Google search results.
Of course that this does not stop anyone that knows your profile URL to get to your profile.
When you are done reviewing and changing your Google+ privacy settings, click the Done editing button in the bar at the top of the page.
Your profile image is also public and it seems that there is not a way to make it private, so if you don’t want outsiders to see who you are, you have two choices: One leave the profile image empty or second use an image that does not show anything about you.
Lastly, you can copy your profile’s URL, sign out, refresh the web page, paste the URL in the address bar and hit enter to see how your Google Plus profile looks to the world.
Google is letting users have more control over their privacy right from the beginning – I think that this is something, they have learned from the competition –, but out there could be many people who still not completely satisfied. You should consider that this product still in the early stages and you can expect changes.
Are you using Google+? What is your experience so far? Let us know in the comments below.
Jul. 21, 2011 Update
Disclaimer: Remember that Google+ still in the early stages, so bugs, and features and policies changes are expected.