Google has left a small privacy hole in its Google+ share button design that could put off some users who are trying to keep photos and other content close to the vest.
Google+ is the search engine’s riff on a Facebook-like social network, albeit with more nuanced and granular controls for sharing information.
Users manually add contacts to Circles, or buckets of family, friends, acquaintances, people they want to follow or custom-crafted hub. When users go to share comments, links or videos, they may choose what Circles they want to share content with each time they post content.
The Financial Times noted that when a user decides to share something with his or her Circle, the item may be “reshared” or rebroadcast by others in the Circle to their connections.
Google does have an option to disable resharing, which prevents others in a user’s Circle from resharing that content with his or her + contacts. But this control only kicks into affect once a user has posted information to share on + to their Circles. Theoretically, a user can hit share, then immediately disable reshare after every post.
While this type of granular user control is certainly appreciated, it’s an inconvenience of disparate proportions. If a user posts infrequently and wants to keep the content from spreading like wildfire across Google+, he can disable resharing with little trouble. Frequent posters will come to find this action tedious.
One solution might be to ask users if they mind if a particular piece of content is reshared. This notification come via a pop-up that surfaces when a user finishes typing or adding links to Websites, photos or videos. As the Financial Times pointed out, offering an option to disable resharing across all posts would also resolve this issue to a degree.
However, neither solution would preempt people in users’ Circles from copy and pasting the content and sharing it themselves. Google told eWEEK it is considering its options for resharing.
A Google spokesperson reminded us: “Google+ is currently in limited field trial. We’re actively listening to feedback from our testers. Prior to launching the product, we may make adjustments to the system in response to this feedback.”
The field test is in fact designed to mitigate issues such as the resharing design. Google has opened access to Google+ to thousands of users early to solicit feedback, so the product is clearly unfinished and not to be confused with the social network that has 700 million-plus users.
The thorny issue in Google’s new brand of social network is: how much control should Google grant users over their content. If the answer is absolute control, then Google must include an option to disable sharing.
Privacy on social networks has always been a sticky issue. Facebook faces myriad privacy complaints and Google took the grand prize last year when it launched its Google Buzz social conversation service as opt-out.
Google+ largely succeeds in letting users control their privacy. As GigaOm noted, Google’s pains to ensure users are properly protected have made the friending procedures very complex.