Gmail Changes = Time to Revisit Your Online Settings

January 13th, 2014
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Gmail changes Google plus security privacy settings Ellis Friedman BurrellesLuce Fresh IdeasThink you’re anonymous online and your Gmail account is confidential? Think again. Last Thursday Google announced changes to Gmail that will allow someone to email you at your Gmail address even if they don’t know that address, as long as both of you are Google Plus and Gmail users. Even better: this capability will be enabled automatically, and requires manual opt-out (and here’s how to do that).

On its official blog, Gmail frames the change as allowing you to “reach the people you know more easily.” Of course, if you don’t actually know the person, this does away with one more layer of protection from your email and effectively integrates Google Plus and Gmail into one messaging service. The flip side is that this could make it even easier to network with other industry figures or potential clients whose email address you’ve forgotten to note, but it seems like a lot of changes and automations actually leave more room for breach of privacy than ever before.

Aside from getting emails from people you don’t know – and maybe don’t want emailing you – there may be more worries with Google Plus’s automation, as in the December case of a man arrested for violating a restraining order taken out by his ex-girlfriend because he sent her an email to join Google Plus. The catch? He says he didn’t send it – Google did, and he didn’t know about it. It’s not clear whether that’s what actually happened, but Google’s automatic invitations have caused ire for some years.

Though the aforementioned incident occurred before Gmail’s announcement last week, the takeaway for PR pros is to never assume that automation by default works in favor of your privacy. And PR pros, who tend to have prolific breadth in their social media and online accounts, must be extra cautious with their social presence.

So take this as a New Year’s reminder to take a few minutes and review the settings and privacy on all your social media accounts. And always make sure you or someone on your team closely monitors changes made to social media, search, and email platforms – you don’t want to have to jump into crisis mode over a preventable online slip-up.

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