Google+ married Gmail, Thursday, as the free email service of Google introduced a new feature that allows users to send email to anyone on Google+. Messages can be sent even without the email address of the recipient and because of this, users worry about their privacy and shout no to the wedlock.
According to Google, the new settings will be rolled out in a few days to all users of Gmail and Google+.
"As an extension of some earlier improvements that keep Gmail contacts automatically up to date using Google+, Gmail will suggest your Google+ connections as recipients when you are composing a new email," wrote product manager David Nachum on the official Gmail blog.
The earlier improvements Nachum was referring to are features introduced back in 2011 such as Gmail automatically updating the user's contacts, seeing Google+ posts on the side of a conversation, and using names on one's circles to filter email messages.
"Your email address isn't visible to a Google+ connection unless you send that person an email, and likewise, that person's email address isn't visible to you unless they send you an email," Nachum explained.
Before privacy groups cry foul, however, Google clarified that users will be in control of the "Email via Google+" feature. Users has an option to allow anyone on Google+ to email them or just allow people in their extended circles or their own circles to use the feature. There is also an opt-out option if Gmail users do not want to utilize the new feature.
However, for privacy groups, the new feature should be an opt-in feature for users.
"There is a strong echo of the Google Buzz snafu," said Marc Rotenberg of the non-profit group Electronic Privacy Information Center. Buzz is the social media platform launched by Google back in 2010 that used the contact list of its users to build its network that exposed users to the public eye without their knowledge. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission intervened and decided in favor of the users.
According to Nachum, messages from people who are in the Gmail user's circle will end up in the Primary tab of the inbox. Emails from those who are not in their circles will be delivered via the Social tab and these individuals will only be able to send another message if the recipient adds them to his or her circle or at least respond to them.