Friday, July 01, 2011

Google+ Profile Privacy Settings

Article first published as Google+ Profile Privacy Settings on Technorati.

This evening I took the plunge into Google+, the latest and greatest social networking site that has received mostly positive reviews and has the potential to shake things up in this Facebook-dominated world. I noticed that there are a few Google+ Profile settings that the privacy-conscious user might want to tweak. To edit your Google Profile, which is also the profile used by Google+, click the Profile button on the top of Google+:

After clicking Profile, click the Edit Profile button on the top right
Google+ Profile Circles settings
On Google+ your friends are organized into "circles." I don't know about you, but I'd rather keep my friends list private ("Guess who's back in the Circle of Trust?"). Not that I have shady friends or anything, I'd just rather not broadcast that out to the whole world. While editing your profile, click the Circles box on the left where you will see the option to un-check "Show people in my circles," or change from the default option "Anyone on the web." (Tsk tsk, Google!)

I've used Picasa Web Albums for a few years and I pay $20/year for 80GB of storage to archive my photos online via the Picasa application. Picasa Web Albums is tremendously convenient, affordable, and easy for sharing family photos with family and friends on my own terms without compromising privacy (assuming you assign the proper sharing permissions). Unfortunately, when you sign up with Google+, you are strong-armed into linking your Picasa Web Albums with your Google+ profile. So while you're editing your Google+ profile, click on the Photos tab. Yep, that's right, the default is to show all of your public albums in a nice, convenient little tab viewable by anyone on the web (including your profile pictures). I take quite a drastic approach here and I simply un-check the option "Show this tab on your profile" (although the public albums are still accessible via Picasa Web Albums):

I prefer to be stingy with my photos, thank you very much!
After joining Google+, I visited Picasa Web Albums and saw this notice:
When you tag someone in a Picasa Web Album, it automatically shares the album with that person on Google+, and those folks can then reshare your album. So, only tag photos if you're ready to release them out into the world (hopefully we'll see a feature to turn this off).

+1 Button
Google's version of the Like button is the +1 button. You should know that the +1 button is also another privacy concern. According to Google:
The Google +1 button is a way for you to share information publicly with the world....The fact that you +1’d something will be recorded by Google, along with information about the page you were viewing when you clicked on the +1 button. Your +1’s may appear to others as an annotation with your profile name and photo in Google services (such as in search results or on your Google Profile) or elsewhere on websites and ads on the Internet.

We will record information about your +1 activity in order to provide you and other users with a better experience on Google services.
So, just keep that in mind the next time you +1 Justin Bieber, or something else potentially incriminating. In fact, if you're really paranoid about sharing your interests or +1's with the Interwebz, you can simply un-check the option "Show this tab on my profile"; however, your +1's are still visible by your friends and most likely still visible in Google search results and around the web (which is similar to the Facebook Like button).

When you make a post, you have the option of sharing it with any of your "circles" or making it public, which will be viewable by anyone who looks at your profile on the web (like Twitter).

For the most part, I have been impressed with the simple, clean user interface of Google+, as well as the ease with which you can adjust privacy and other settings (compare that to multiple layers of complex menus on Facebook). It will be exciting to watch how the masses react to Google+. What other Google+ tips or hints have you discovered?

UPDATE (7/1/11, 9:18 am): A good starting place to examine what information Google has about you and what is publicly viewable is the Google Dashboard (


  1. Thanks for typing this up! I just got on Google+ and I used your post to tweak some of the settings.

  2. Google+ is changing so fast, too that there may be new settings that need to be tweaked. I will try to keep an eye on it and update this post as necessary.