Google released an announcement late Thursday that it has a new feature in Google's Gmail which will result in some users receiving messages from people with whom they have not shared their email addresses, raising concerns among some privacy advocates, reports NBC News this morning.
The change broadens the list of contacts available to Gmail users so it includes both the email addresses of their existing contacts, as well as the names of people on the Google+ social network. As a result, a person can send an email directly to friends, and strangers, who use Google+.
When someone signs up to have a Google Gmail account they automatically are signed into the social media Google +. Google views this as an advantage to have immediate access to a Gmail so you can send an email.
Google has provided an option that you can choose to switch settings so that they receive messages only from people they have added to their networks of friends or from no one at all.
Some privacy advocates said Google should have made the new feature ‘opt-in,’ meaning that users should explicitly agree to receive messages from other Google+ users, rather than being required to manually change the setting. This is an unsettling situation to be required to make manual adjustments in order to protect your privacy.
Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of non-profit Electronic Privacy Information Center, called the new feature ‘troubling.’
This is reminiscent of the Google issue in 2010 referring to a social networking service that Google set up with Buzz initially using Gmail users’ contact lists to create social networks, said Rotenberg.
That mishap created outrage around the world and a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Buzz initially used its Gmail users' contact lists to create social networks that the rest of the world could see, leading to uproar and ultimately a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
A Google spokeswoman said the company planned to send an email to all Google+ users during the next two days alerting them to the change and explaining how to change their settings. Also, public the Google accounts of public figures would not be released.
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