Google Plus opens to everyone - but do you still want to join?

Filed Under: Featured, Google, Privacy, Social networks

If you will pardon the literary allusion (or, if you prefer, the flagrant plundering of someone else's catch-phrase), "Google is a foreign country: they do things differently there."

So differently, in fact, that until legal and community pressure forced Google's hand back in 2008, the company just plain refused to have a link to its Privacy policy on its main search screen. There were already 28 words on Google's home page, and that was that.

Not 27, and definitely not 29. 28 was a matter of religion; of scripture; of liturgy; and of just-jolly-clean design. That meant no room for the word "Privacy."

Eventually, the word "Google" was removed from the copyright notice, and the advertising behemoth was able to make space for privacy. (Conveniently for the Google high priesthood, the copyright symbol © - which appeared on the page and amounts to a word, since it represents a word - was defined as a non-word.)

There are still 28 words on Google's home page - if you allow yourself a fair bit of doctrinal flexibility - but the just-jolly-clean design is today sullied with a crudely-drawn animated arrow pointing at the top left corner. The arrow points at one of the ten or so words in the top menu bar which enjoy that doctrinal exemption: +You.

That's right. Google Plus is now open to everybody.

Just remember two things before you join.

* Social networking services of this sort aren't free. True, there is no cash cost associated with signing up. But you are not Google's customer - those are the advertisers, who pay money to get in front of you, based on the sort of things you do online. This means you are an informal employee, paid in kind to generate traffic and to give up information about yourself which can be monetised by Google.

* You cannot join Google Plus anonymously. You must use your real name - and you need at least two words in your name to qualify - and Google will be the final judge and jury of what constitutes your name, and how you're to write it. Google may even insist that you send it a copy of your passport to prove it.

(Unless you're a celebrity, of course. It seems that William James Adams of the Black Eyed Peas is now on Google Plus with a first name of "will.i.am" and a last name of "." Don't bank on being able to do that yourself.)

Join Google Plus if you wish. According to many people, it's been worth the wait. If you are up there you might want to even follow Naked Security's team.

But make sure you really are willing to give your true identity to Google.

And remember that you may be forced to prove it by sending a copy of official government-issued identification - even though that's an unwise thing to do if you're serious about protecting your personally identifiable information.

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16 Responses to Google Plus opens to everyone - but do you still want to join?

  1. Paulie K · 1070 days ago

    So how many members does Google + claim to have?

  2. nojokester · 1070 days ago

    throw ya hands in the air

  3. Dave Collet · 1070 days ago

    If I know the rules then what is the problem. I opt out of their browser but I opt into their social network.

    Am I cautious. Yes.

    Would I miss on the opportunity to try what will become the main challenge to Facebook. No.

  4. I trust google with more stuff than any other provider out there.

    Silly, I know, but the services they provide are worth it to me. Even considering the fact that they monetize my search parameters, personality and other things.

    Here's hoping Google+ can demolish Facebook, it's about time, too.

  5. Russell Bellucci · 1070 days ago

    Are you trying to imply, face book isnt as much of a worry on these fronts? you're not really anonymous even if you make a fictitious named face book account, you just add a step in finding your identity.

  6. megan · 1070 days ago

    I'm okay with Google knowing my real name - I use it on Facebook so my friends can find me, so why should another social networking site be expected to work any differently? What I DO have an issue with, however, is that the mobile version requires location data - unless you turn it off for EVERYTHING on your phone, including mapping apps, phone locator services such as HTC Sense or any of the myriad other apps out there, even certain "alternate reality" games or deal finders and the like.

    Allowing people to know where I am at any given moment is something with which I am not comfortable (the reason I've never used Foursquare or Facebook Places)...I don't need folks to know that I'm not home so they can come break into my house, or have them know where to stalk me. Of course Google doesn't agree because they want to own and control you, just like they do everything else. They're the new Microsoft, only for everything (Google and Apple. Google and Facebook. Google and PayPal. Google and Bing/Yahoo/MSN/etc. Google and Groupon. Google and... you name it.).

  7. Ashish · 1070 days ago

    I am very happy

  8. Jon · 1070 days ago

    What normal person would ever be required to issue government id just to join a social network?

    • Peeulosi · 1067 days ago

      Hell, in my state the President stopped a bipartisan Medicaid fraud Bill because it required one month proof of INCOME and RESIDENCE to keep getting it. If free Health services doesn't need a damn ID or proof, then why would I be dumb enough to hand my real name and ID to a "social site" You're right, the operative word is NORMAL.

  9. Anon4fun · 1069 days ago

    "What normal person would ever be required to issue government id just to join a social network?"

    Someone who wants their social network to also be an identity service.
    http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2105755/Real...

  10. Lisa · 1069 days ago

    Is it called and identity service as a legal loophole, relative to the fact that there is no privacy? Didn't Google get in hot water with facebook and get repriminded/scaled back because of privacy infringement relative to their links that compromised the security/privacy blocks on facebook? Seems I read something on that this past summer... Along with heading a warnng to be very wary of Google because of the extent they were "cyberly stalking" people. Not you mere what products are you using scenarios. But involving acquiring control of computer and laptop cameras, etc. In other words the sky is the limit for the information that can be compiled on you. It's awfully scary if you ask me.

  11. Anonyman · 1069 days ago

    Just signup to Google+ later... When there are too many people they can't possibly verify everyone. Look at all of Facebook's fake profiles. :P

  12. I have signed up to Google plus when it's in beta stage but I immediately closed my account, because to be frank, it's not much of a difference to Facebook and I can't juggle two social networks.

  13. Francis · 1064 days ago

    I want to signed up google plus immediately.

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About the author

Paul Ducklin is a passionate security proselytiser. (That's like an evangelist, but more so!) He lives and breathes computer security, and would be happy for you to do so, too. Paul won the inaugural AusCERT Director's Award for Individual Excellence in Computer Security in 2009. Follow him on Twitter: @duckblog