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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sharing on G+: It doesn't always mean what you think it means

Sharing on Google Plus has always bothered me, but it wasn't recently until I got a grasp on why it bugged me so much. Most of it is because Google + has no concept of where a posts comes from. Let's say I share a post to a few friends. That means only they can see it, right? Wrong. It means that they can only share it to their extended friends circle, which can be a lot of people, if one of them happens to be Robert Scoble. Given that most people can barely deal with 2 circles (friends and following is all I can bring myself to manage), what this means is that sharing privately isn't as private as you think it is. The only way to really ensure privacy is use the "Lock" feature, which prevents anyone from sharing anything.

This is annoying, but hardly the end of the world. I really don't care about privacy, and it's very likely that the future generations of internet users will care much less than the average current user as well. What truly annoys me is when somebody mis-understands the use of the circles sharing feature, and shares a previously public post as a non-public post. If I like that post, and then try to share it, I get a big red sign saying, "No, you're not allowed to share this as public, all you can do is to share it to your Extended Circles." As previously noted, the extended circles is almost as effectively public as Public, but not quite. But darn it, the original post was Public. Just because one of my "privacy conscious" friends (who isn't actually privacy conscious --- see above) didn't choose to share it publicly doesn't mean that I should have to go hunt down the original poster and search for the post and then repost it if I want it back to its original status, Public.

I'm guessing most Google+ users aren't as annoyed at this as I am, but each time I run into a post that was originally Public that I can't share publicly, it screams to me as: "Google+ designers and engineers can't keep track of the original status of the post, so now you have to do it for them." And don't blame the users. The users think they're sharing privately.

1 comment:

md said...

I have a similar problem with Facebook. When I tag someone in a photo, or I get tagged, I'm not sure where those photos show up and who can see them. I'd tagged someone in a photo and it showed up on her wall, but she told me one of her friends couldn't see it. Whatever.

I wonder if privacy concerns will really lessen in the future. People do compartmentalize their lives. Most people I know have aspects of their lives that they don't want to expose to their relatives, but they still may want to discuss these aspects with parts of their social circles.

My tendency is just to be very limited about what I post on Facebook/G+ because I don't know who will see what. In that sense, it's just not a very useful social medium to me. It's basically a mini photo album for my rock climbing circle.