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Privacy a concern as Google links Plus with its other sites

Juan Carlos Perez | Oct. 28, 2011
Google's work to integrate its Google+ social networking site broadly with its other services could raise red flags for users who want to closely guard their privacy.

Of course, a way to be on Google+ but avoid dealing with its current and future integrations in Google services is to set up a separate Google Account just for it.

However, that would be inconvenient, as people would have to be logging in and out to toggle between their main Google Account with services they may have been using for years, like Gmail and Docs, and their other Google Account with just Google+.

Google has said that it supports various levels of user identification in its services. It allows access to some services, like its search engines, without requiring a Google Account, while allowing pseudonyms on others and requiring real names in other cases.

Google clearly wants users to apply a real public identity to their Google Accounts. An optional element of Google Accounts is the Profile, a public page in which people must use their real name and which is meant as a public online identity badge.

Previously, users could keep their Profile private. But since the end of July, all Profiles have been public, and Google has deleted private Profiles.

In addition, having a Google Profile is a requirement for Google+.

The Google+ privacy policy plainly states that the real names associated with a user's Google Profile and with Google+ may end up popping up in Google services previously served by pseudonyms.

"In order to use Google+, you need to have a public Google Profile visible to the world, which at a minimum includes the name you chose for the profile. That name will be used across Google services and in some cases it may replace another name you've used when sharing content under your Google Account. We may display your Google Profile identity to people who have your email address or other identifying information."

At this point it's not required for Google Account holders to set up either a Google Profile or a Google+ account. However, it seems likely that, more and more, lacking a Google+ account will mean missing out on some new features for Google services.

For example, this week Google unveiled an initial integration option between Google+ and Blogger that allows publishers to swap out their existing Blogger user profile and replace it with their Google+ profile.

While doing so is optional, Google trumpeted benefits tied to the integration. "In addition to giving your readers a more robust and familiar sense of who you are, your social connections will see your posts in their Google search results with an annotation that you've shared the post. Plus, bloggers who switch will automatically get access to the Google+ integrations we'll be rolling out in the future," the announcement reads.


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