Google+ Lets Users Ignore, Block Other Users

Google follows new Facebook privacy controls with options to ignore and block users at a time when the social media noise is building on the nascent network.

A few days after Facebook added more granular privacy features for its vast network of nearly 800 million users, Google+ has added two more grains of private sharing: the "ignore" and "block" options.

Ignore means users will see less of what a person is sharing. The new block option limits the ways a person can interact with what a Google+ user is sharing, as Google+ software engineer Olga Wichrowska explained in this video. Both are designed to curb some of the social media clutter on Google+.

When users choose to ignore someone, they won't see any of those users' posts in their Google+ Stream, receive notifications about what they do on +, or even see them on their + Circles page.

Google+ users may ignore users in multiple ways, including by clicking ignore after notifications in the Google+ bar or notifications stream, from incoming messages and from the Circles page. Users will highlight those they want to ignore and click ignore.

Blocking a user is a different animal, the ultimate brush-off.

When users want to block someone, a control that is available from Circles, a user's + profile, anywhere the ignore option appears and from the notifications widget, that user is removed both from Circles and extended Circles.

This also means those who blocked someone won't see any of their new posts in the Stream or see anything the blocker shares with their Circles, and cannot comment on + posts a blocker makes.

To skirt the hurt-feelings issue, Google+ doesn't alert users who have been ignored or blocked. Some will undoubtedly find out anyway and get the idea, but the implementation is so subtle that it's doubtful it will lead to many big issues.

Moreover, users who want to stop ignoring or blocking other users can do so, said Wichrowska. To un-ignore a user, + users can navigate to the list of ignored users under "more actions" on their + Circles page. To unblock someone, simply access their profile and begin following them again.

These two tiny features have the potential to provide big timing savings for users weary of sifting through the clutter of their Google+ streams and notifications.

That's a big deal, particularly when Google+ is competing with Facebook and other social media Websites for user eyeballs and engagement.

The move also comes two days after Facebook spruced up its privacy-control features, making it easier to limit shared items to certain groups and see at a glance what people can see.

Moreover, Facebook profile elements from music and books to addresses and phone numbers can be individually checked on or off to display to everyone, or be limited to friends or to a customized list.

Meanwhile, privacy watchdogs are monitoring the Facebook-Google privacy one-upmanship with interest. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Electronic Information Privacy Center have taken both companies to task for perceived privacy intrusions.