About a month ago, I wrote that Privacy is not Dead, but it's hiding from Google and Facebook, in response to Google's roll-out of it's newest social network, Google+. I had some reservations about it at that time, and hadn't joined yet.
Please note that this new social network, Google Plus (or Google+) is an entirely different feature of Google than an earlier rollout with a similar name, Google +1, which we've covered here before, and which is a way for you to bookmark sites or posts or pages you like. Google Plus (Plus.Google.com) is a social network, which is meant to eventually compete with Facebook.
So this week, I finally had to give in and join. It's pretty hard to claim to be interested in social networking without at least TRYING the site that has become the biggest news in social media so far this year, because to its insistence on everyone using their real names. To get a taste of public opinion on that issue, check out the Twitter feed under #nymwars (that's short for "pseudonym wars). I have also written in the past on the use of pseudonyms online, but that is a whole different topic.
Let's just say I was shocked at what bits of my private life and past immediately became "public information" as soon as I logged on. Fortunately, I've always been pretty careful about what I post publicly, so this was all more along the lines of "embarrassingly old," rather than "professionally damaging," but still....
I spent a very frantic half hour or so deleting old photos links to web pages I haven't used in years. From a third-party perspective, this would probably just be funny, but because it was my life that was suddenly on display, I found it just a bit humiliating at first - then it made me angry. I found that all of these sharing features were opt-OUT which means that if you don't want to share the information, you have to manually adjust your settings to disable it or remove it from your profile. I really had to go through every link and page on the site, and I was surprised at just how much information Google had stored over time, and was now "sharing" for me with the world. I've been using Google for years, so some of those old photos were of people I haven't had contact with in several years, and might not appreciate me sharing on my profile now. So it wasn't even just MY privacy that was being violated.
Some of the older information had been uploaded to a feature of Google which is not available anymore which allowed you to post an "enhanced" profile which would show up in the right-hand side-bar of a Google search. One of my former website domain names has since been purchased by someone else, and is going to someone else's web page.
While I'm trying to figure out how to delete my Google profile without losing information I've stored there, let me just offer two bits of advice: Consider waiting a while before signing up for Google Plus. If you don't want to wait, at least review your Google profile, your photo albums (your photos may have originally been uploaded to Picasa), and delete anything you no longer want to share.