Recent changes to Google’s Gmail could mean that complete strangers can email someone directly. The news comes as Google announces a change to link Gmail email addresses and Google+ accounts.
Many privacy advocates see this as a bad thing. Those who connect to someone via Google+, the social media network, will see their name show up as an option to email. However, Google recognized the potential issue with privacy, and announced that in an email sent out today.
Email addresses will not show up right away, since those are not needed when connecting to people through the social networking website. The email address of a connection will only show when that connection replies back. So, if person A emails person B, A will only see B’s email address when B replies. Other details remain confidential, and it works out similarly to finding an email address online and using it.
According to Google, it is just a way to make emailing connections much easier. Before this, connections would have to use Google Hangouts to exchange email addresses.
The issue for many is that people outside Google+ circles will be able to email. However, while they have connected through email, the email address remains protected until the recipient replies. The person emailing is choosing to allow the other person to see their address. It means it is one step easier for strangers to email someone with the Gmail changes in place.
The good news for many is that there is an option to avoid all of this hassle. Through the Gmail settings, a person can choose not to allow any Google+ users to email them. Likewise, they can choose for the ability to only come from their circles or any extended circles. A link to these settings will be sent once the changes are live to make it very easy for people to protect their privacy.
More good news is that a Google+ user will not be able to spam a person’s inbox. Should a person not respond to an email from a user, the feature disappears between those two users. Those who want to keep the feature open in case something useful comes up will just have to ignore an email from a person and never worry about hearing from them again.
Emails from those not in a circle with someone will go straight to the “Social” tab within the Gmail feature. Tabs were introduced last year and were seen as a good and bad thing, depending on whether a person was an average user or an internet marketer. The tabs are optional, and are the best way to keep unwanted emails from clogging up the “Primary” inbox and ignoring the ones a person does not need. They can be enabled by clicking on “configure inbox” when you click on the gear button.
While it seems that the new Gmail changes are questionable, they do not take control over email away. A complete stranger can email someone thanks to these Gmail changes, but only once. If a person does not respond, the sender will never see the email address or be able to email again. It is nothing to worry about.
By Alexandria Ingham