Google+ and Gmail: why you may want to opt-in (and some stuff about openness)

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Google+ and Gmail: why you may want to opt-in (and some stuff about openness)
Yesterday, Google expanded a controversial feature which allows Google+ users to send emails directly to someone else's Gmail. This isn't exactly a new feature, as there has been the option to allow Google+ users to email you via your G+ profile, but the new addition is that you can find people you follow on G+ directly in Gmail, and the most controversial part of it all: it was turned on by default.

Earlier today, we described why you might be interested in disabling this feature. The main reason for disabling the feature would probably be that you don't use Google+, and if you're not a plusser, then by all means you should disable the feature. And, I would certainly understand if you want to dial it back, because we do feel that Google overstepped in setting the default to allow "Anyone on Google+" to contact you; it should have been limited to just your circles, or extended circles at most. However, it is easy enough to change that setting; and, I would like to point out a couple things about the new feature, just in case you're on the fence about it, because there is value to be had in it. 

First of all, the feature isn't as worrisome as you may think. Users may be able to email you, but they don't ever get to see your email address, and you are in control of what happens after that first message. If someone emails you once, and you don't respond or add that person to your G+ circles, they will not be allowed to message you again. This has been done to limit the amount of spam and trolling that can be perpetrated through the system. And, if you have Gmail's auto-tags enabled, messages from someone not in your circles will be bumped out of your Primary inbox and into your Social inbox, giving you an extra opportunity to ignore it if you want. 

The value

Second, there is real value in this feature, if you fit the use-case. These controls make this a very interesting feature which feels more like Google is making a move against LinkedIn rather than any other social service. Think of it this way: if you are searching for a new job, or trying to build up your brand, you may turn to LinkedIn to push out some unsolicited networking emails. However, with LinkedIn there are two downsides: first, anyone can send you a message as long as they pay for the privilege; and second, you are less likely to get a response through LinkedIn than if you were to track down that person's actual email address, meaning you could end up wasting your money. 

On the other side, if you want to use Google+, your message will go directly into the recipient's Gmail, which gives it a higher likelihood of being seen. It won't cost you anything either. So, if you are attempting to build a public profile on the web, or if you are interested in helping others do so, or if you are just interested in helping out in your area of expertise, there is a lot of value in Google's new feature. For example, I have had the feature turned on with my Google+ profile since it was first made available, and the only emails I have received from it have been from readers who either want to comment directly on a story, want to send a tip about a potential story, or ask me a question because they trust my opinion. 

Sure, there will be some trolls and spam (and frankly I wouldn't be surprised to see some after I post this), but the system is designed to mitigate those issues right from the start, and Google will undoubtedly add more anti-spam features as time goes by. But, spam comes with being more open; it's an unfortunate side-effect of something that does have value for some people. 

On being more open

I certainly can't and won't argue that it is valuable for everyone. If you want to protect your privacy, that is your right and your choice. However, for some people, there is great value in living in public. In my experience, the more open I am, the less I worry about protecting my privacy, because at some point I began equating the "need" for privacy with a fear of being rejected by society. I eventually decided that in the majority of cases, privacy was really the mistaken belief that what you do and who you are is somehow different and wrong compared to others. It is the insecurity that comes from comparing your "behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel." (-Steve Furtick)

The more open you become, the more you realize that we are all human, and we share a lot more in common than what can be seen as differences. For example, I don't feel the need to be private about any health issues, because I don't hold exclusive rights to eczema, nor am I the only one to have a family history of skin cancer. I am not the only person to have been a shy kid or a fat kid, nor am I the only one to have overcome those issues to find great relationships and better health. From my choice of profession, I clearly don't feel ashamed to be passionate and excited by technology, because I am obviously not the only one to have that viewpoint. 

Of course, as with all beliefs, the key is to not force your views on others. I realize that my views on privacy are not universal. I have kept certain pictures and social posts more private, because my wife doesn't hold my same views on being public. And, there are obviously more extreme cases where anonymity and privacy equate directly to safety for some; and, I could never suggest that those people would be better off leading public lives. But, I have also lived a long time on the Internet, and dealt with countless people who hold the view that the only way to get noticed is through negative attention (aka trolls). 


At the end of the day, it is a choice. I have chosen to be more open, and I have found value in that (and have written about that in the past), just as I have found value in Google+. If you don't see the value in openness, or the value in Google+, then obviously you should just follow the easy steps we laid out earlier to turn off the new Gmail feature. All I would say is: don't let your knee-jerk reaction dictate what you do. The initial reaction by most these days is to want to protect one's privacy. Given all of the trouble with the NSA, various leaks, and stolen data, there are good reasons why you might feel that way. However, as the incomparable Frank Sinatra once said, "Fear is the enemy of logic." So, it can't hurt to take a few moments and reflect on why you feel the way you do, question what is driving your decisions. Those few moments of introspection can help make better decisions, and help to avoid any potential "troll moments" that we all have when we get stuck in auto-pilot. 



1. Stuntman

Posts: 843; Member since: Aug 01, 2011

This is a good explaination on the new G+/Gmail feature. I think some people are freaking out because they think their Gmail inbox is going to be flooded. There is always the option to not allow G+ users to send you email through the G+ profile for those who want to. I decided to just leave the default to allow for now.

17. Topcat488

Posts: 1419; Member since: Sep 29, 2012

I wish YAHOO gave you such an option... Talking about being "flooded" with SPAM Mail. :/

2. fredphoesh

Posts: 10; Member since: Jun 25, 2010

This is a DISHONEST article. As you yourselves say, the default is to receive from your circles only... So if you are not a Google plus user you won't have anyone in your circles, and there is nobody to send you these unwanted emails... From Google crossing imaginary line. Shame on you for the pathetic journalism.

3. Stuntman

Posts: 843; Member since: Aug 01, 2011

The default is to be able to receive email from anyone on G+. You can only receive one email from any one person from G+ unless you specifically allow more from each person.

5. mattkl

Posts: 255; Member since: Feb 01, 2010

Not being able to read and comprehend an article does not make it a dishonest article. "the default to allow "Anyone on Google+" to contact you;"

4. Mxyzptlk unregistered

This is exactly why Google got in trouble. I do not want anything to do with G+ and I don't want Froogle trying to force me to use it just because I have a gmail account.

6. mattkl

Posts: 255; Member since: Feb 01, 2010

Who's forcing you and how? Did they not give you the option to uncheck this like we all have? A debatable decision to check it on by default in no way forces you to use it. It does however give you a choice to decide on.

7. alpinejason

Posts: 262; Member since: Sep 06, 2011

well for starters you have to have a google+ account now to leave a comment on you tube.which is total B.S.

8. mattkl

Posts: 255; Member since: Feb 01, 2010

Well for enders, who is forcing you to leave a comment on youtube? I do agree that you shouldn't have to have an account just to leave a comment. But that point still doesn't work since as I stated already, you aren't being forced to leave a comment, you just want to. That in no way is forcing you to do anything. Now I would be more inclined to fully agree with you if you had to sign up for a Google+ account before being able to access youtube. On the other hand, what if you had to have a Google+ account first before using any Google product or service? Why would so many get upset? They offer services with certain rules and other variables attached. We decide if we are good with that. No one is forcing you to use anything, phone, OS, whatever it may be. They are fully within their right to enforce that upon you for agreeing to use their services. Get over yourselves, I'm not saying it's right what they do, but thinking you deserve everything for nothing is ridiculous. Plus it's all free monetarily.

9. mptripper

Posts: 32; Member since: Dec 10, 2013

You missed the point. He wants to comment on youtube without using google+, just like before.

11. mattkl

Posts: 255; Member since: Feb 01, 2010

I did not miss that point. You have missed the point. Let's start from the beginning. Mxyzptlk said he didn't want Google forcing him to use Google+ just because he had a Gmail account. I said they weren't forcing him since he had the option to turn the feature off. I also asked him who was forcing him and how? Which alpinejason then replied to my question with "well for starters you have to have a google+ account now to leave a comment on you tube.which is total B.S." which is stating that he believes one of the ways they are forcing you to use Google+ is by having to sign up before you can leave a youtube comment. Which is not the case. So as I said before, you seem to have missed the point as you have apparently not seen where he was replying to my question. His comment was an answer in reply to my comment, not a statement as you mistakenly believe.

18. buccob

Posts: 2980; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

You have to Create an account to leave comments and follow articles in PhoneArena dont you? Are they forcing you to do so? No, mattkl is right. You want to leave a comment here and you sign in to do it... If you do not want to, go to GSMArena and post as Anonymous

13. maketas

Posts: 7; Member since: Jul 30, 2013

So if your employer says that he has retained 10% of your salary for buying his own car, you must opt-out of that decision? Weird, man. That is an opt-in decision.

15. mattkl

Posts: 255; Member since: Feb 01, 2010

You are describing something that involves losing money. You don't lose anything especially money by being opted in to this by default.

10. androiphone20

Posts: 1654; Member since: Jul 10, 2013

Mxy, introducing Google blackmail

12. maketas

Posts: 7; Member since: Jul 30, 2013

The real problem is that this is an opt-out, not an opt-in. Google is deciding that you want to share your info for you without asking. This is not a matter if i want to be more open, but a matter that Google is deciding that i want to be more open without asking. In the end, Google seems right to take decisions for their users, and this is awfully wrong. I want to take the decisions for myself. I dont want anyone else to take decisions in my behalf without asking.

14. maketas

Posts: 7; Member since: Jul 30, 2013

I mean, this is an opt-in, not an opt-out.

16. mattkl

Posts: 255; Member since: Feb 01, 2010

What are you talking about? What info is being shared? Why is everyone so concerned about this, just turn it off if it's a problem for you. Your email isn't being shared nor is anything else being shared now because of this. It just adds an option. The user decides what is being shared. I agree and have never disagreed that having this off by default may be the best idea, but turning it on by default is in no way a terrible thing either. You can still decide to turn it off.

19. ePoch270

Posts: 193; Member since: Sep 26, 2013

The real problem is that people are complaining about something that is free. If you are so upset, don't use Google. If you don't like have a G+ to post on YouTube, stop using YouTube. It's not like you paid a lot of money for a car and then the car company says you can't go North. You get what you pay for. This terrible sense of entitlement is ridiculous.

20. mptripper

Posts: 32; Member since: Dec 10, 2013

the real problem is that you don't see a problem with this... pedos could be lurking in every boyband video then messaging every little girl with g+ comments they could find. But of course, there's an option to opt out. But not every one will opt out and not everyone will be protected.

21. ePoch270

Posts: 193; Member since: Sep 26, 2013

what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

23. mptripper

Posts: 32; Member since: Dec 10, 2013

wow copy paste response. I've seen this response on 9gag numerous times. good for you.

22. randy123

Posts: 1; Member since: Jan 12, 2014

This is the tip of the iceberg my friends. Google is the scariest thing going. I'm not afraid of an Iranian nuke. I'm afraid of a world where Big business continues to weave its web around us while also getting closer and closer with government (search "google militarization" or "google hire former top NSA executive" or "Google hire DOD top design engineer")

24. sikanderbadshah

Posts: 1; Member since: Jan 19, 2014

nice article

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