Google+ Sees First “Privacy Flaw,” Will Fix

The Financial Times has identified a “privacy flaw” within Google+: re-sharing. A privately shared post or picture can be subsequently re-published or shared by the recipient to any of his or her Circles or the entire world. This would potentially thwart the privacy “settings” or objectives of the original creator of the post.

Google is aware of the problem and says that it will address it. (See below for “fix.”)

For example, if I have a private Circle of co-workers and somebody makes a defamatory statement about “the boss” and then it’s made “public” by re-sharing it could cause problems — you get the picture.

This is part of the reason why Google has sought to get feedback on the product before opening it up publicly to everyone. If it had done so I’d probably be writing about a class-action lawsuit and FTC complaint right now. But Google is purposely collecting this type of feedback to “fix” such problems before Google+ is publicly made available.

In general Google has done a great job with privacy in the product. Before each comment or post goes out users must choose which groups/Circles to share the content with. Google makes it an explicit decision every time. I think this is one of the great strengths of the product.

The privacy “settings” or controls are there on the page with each update and not in the background.

Postscript: You can disable resharing on private messages or non-public messages. In the upper right of any message there’s an arrow that opens a pull-down menu. One of the choices is “disable reshare,” which prevents others to whom you’ve sent the message from making it public or otherwise sharing it with their Circles.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Google: Google+ | Google: Legal | Legal: Privacy


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Aaseesh

    Not Quite. It is a flaw, but there’s a way around it. You can hit a drop down to the top right of your post and select “Disable reshare” . Of course, it’s still better if Limited posts can’t be reshared by default.

  • Paul Gailey

    I suspect this is half the reason Google have deliberately not dogfooded Google+ and +1 to Apps Users, hence corporates and expose themselves to heightened litigation risk and irretrievable loss of confidence in the enterprise.

  • Matt McGee

    Pretty sure Twitter has the same “flaw,” right? If I’m following a user whose Twitter stream is private, I can still retweet his/her tweets to all my followers.

  • James Eagle

    That’s not a flaw of Google Plus, that’s a flaw of your friends. If I email something to someone privately there’s nothing stopping them forwarding it, same goes for any website or situation.

  • MirandaN

    This is the same thing that happens with Facebook. I wouldn’t call this a flaw. And Facebook has the exact same ability to post things to only specific people every time you post, through lists.But people are just not tech savvy enough to use it.

  • erichuhai

    There’s one that exists MUCH greater than Google+ and Facebook. Who? OnlyMeWorld. Don’t let the name throw you off; it has the potential to be bigger than the above-mentioned. Why? With all the problems that exist from such sites affecting the users PRIVACY, it is only right to have a social network that won’t sell your information, recognize your FACE, make money off your site, and ask for every other piece of information you have to your name. I’m sorry but I don’t feel the need to verify my Facebook account with my PHONE NUMBER, do you? And the new Google+ share circle–NO. Even if you post something intended for just YOU and a FRIEND, you click that little circle and off it goes shared to the worldwide web. Even if it’s set to private! Though you probably know the same goes for facebook. –I love this site. I DID NOT need to use any of my real information to create the account, not even a real email. And an extra bonus is the ability to place Google Adsense Ads on your personal site and actually YOU–yes YOU, the user, gets paid for it! GENIOUS!! That and the geek within me loves the Games, Blogs, Video Chat etc…all in one place…

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