How Google+ is Showing It's Serious About Privacy

With its first acquisition, Fridge, the social network shows it means business

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When Google+ launched  a month ago, it highlighted the social network's emphasis on privacy. "Rather than focus on new snazzy features--although it does offer several--Google has chosen to learn from its own mistakes, and Facebook’s. Google decided to make privacy the No. 1 feature of its new service," explained The New York Times's Nick Bilton.

Google+ has been following through on that focus. The site announced their first acquisition:, a photo sharing network that prides itself on privacy--"Simple and Private Social Networks," as the tagline goes. The buyout comes as no surprise to TechCrunch's Jason Kincaid, who likened the messages of Google+ and, which both have a "heavy focus on privacy and making sure you're only sharing content with the people you mean to."

Google's last attempt at turning its massive user base into a social network, Google Buzz, failed in part because of a backlash to its privacy-invading function of automatically including people's email contacts in their Buzz network. The people you send emails are not necessarily your friends, nor do you want the world to know who you email on a regular basis. "Google+ grew out of those mistakes, they said, because they realized how much people care about controlling the information they share," explains the New York Times.

Not only has Google learned from its own mistakes, but it also has Facebook's errors to work off of. Wired's Ryan Singel reminds us just how bad Facebook's privacy track record has been.

One of Facebook’s clearest weaknesses is its privacy practices, which have come under attack many times for being confusing, ever-mutating and self-serving. Facebook’s privacy controls remain difficult to navigate, despite efforts at simplification. For instance: Try to find the button to turn off having your 'Likes' included in ads.

Unlike Facebook's privacy statement, Google's is shorter (about 1,000 words compared to Facebook's 6,000) and more straightforward. "The policy is, however, very direct and simple, with statements such as: 'After someone tags you in a shared photo or video, you may choose to remove the tag,'" explains Singel. And, as Bilton noticed after a few short days on the site, Google+ defaults many of its features as private.  "A Google+ user has to specifically say they want to share a post publicly. By doing this, Google has chosen to opt users out of being public, rather than the standard practice by most other services to automatically opt users in."

So far, it looks like Google's users appreciate the extra effort. "In fact, Google+ users are two to three times more likely to share privately with one of their Circles than post publicly.... That's an important metric, and one that validates Google+’s aim to be a more private social network," reports AllThingsD.

Given the ability to undershare information, you could think of Google+ as a not-too-social network. But, apparently Google is giving its people what they want.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.