Google launches Google+ Facebook competitor, publishes new privacy policies

Filed Under: Android, Facebook, Google, Mobile, Privacy, Social networks

The mystery of the black menu bar at the top of your Google searches this morning is solved. Apparently, it's part of gearing up for Google's latest assault on the social networking scene.

Facebook's latest competitor is alive, and it's called Google+. (You say that name like you might read out a broken line of C code - Google plus.)

Although Google+ has officially launched - its web site says so - you can't actually try it yet. More accurately, you may be able to. Or you may not.

In the groovy prose which typifies Google's self-belief, it is "launching with what we call a field trial period, an invitation-only approach to help smooth out the rough edges as we start the project."

To you and me, then, it's still in closed beta.

Given the legal crisis Google plunged into with its Buzz product last time it took on Facebook, it's reasonable to assume Google will be much more cautious on the privacy front this time round.

Nevertheless, if you're interested in Google+, you should probably start getting ready now for its public launch by reading (or re-reading) Google's policies on privacy. There are several.

There are Google's terms. These are still dated 2007, so they still impose the same conditions, such as: only using Google's user interface to get at Google stuff; permitting Google to update its software on your computer when it wants; agreeing to accept said updates; and allowing Google to watch what you do to send you targeted advertising.

Then there's the Google Privacy Policy. But that's just the start, because Google+ has its own brand-new T&Cs to peruse, too. There's the Google+ Privacy Policy, the User Content and Conduct policy, and the Google +1 Button Privacy Policy.

And if you want to access Plus from a mobile device, there's also the Mobile Privacy Policy.

You'd better read the Picasa Privacy Notice, too, in case you ever upload a photo. And that is supposed to happen automatically and instantly every time you snap a picture on your phone.

Actually, to save searching time, you can use the Google Privacy Center to dig into all 37 of of Google's privacy policies, from +1 (like Like, it really means Recommend) through to YouTube.

The most intriguing items in the User Content section are the do as we say, not as we do clauses, such as "do not distribute content that facilitates online gambling, including online casinos, sports betting or lotteries," and "do not drive traffic to commercial pornography sites."

(Trying to find somewhere to bet online? Want to learn how to Start A Porn Business Now? Search on Google for "gambling" and "commercial porn sites" and you will quickly find out how to do just those things, with highlighted paid ads to make sure you don't miss out.)

Remember the rules. Don't be evil. Do as we say, not as we do. And definitely don't compete for advertising clicks.

Anyway, happy privacy policy reading.

The good news is that you've still got time to give feedback on any of the Google+ terms and conditions which you find unpalatable. Google has listened before - for example, when its early T&Cs claimed intellectual property rights over everything you uploaded.

Google users rose a stink. Google paid attention, and swiftly relented.

Last year, 90% of you who took part in our poll said you wanted Facebook to become completely opt-in; if you'd like to see Google outdo Facebook by adopting an entirely opt-in model - where all features are off until you explicitly turn each and every one on - then this would be a good time to say so!

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18 Responses to Google launches Google+ Facebook competitor, publishes new privacy policies

  1. guest · 1521 days ago

    1. First, install GreaseMonkey:
    2. Second, install GoogleBar Classic GreaseMonkey script:

    Say bye to black bar.

  2. Jan Korben · 1521 days ago

    I won't be using it, but good luck to Google

    I don't use Facebook either (it's dieing slowly and painfully anyway :P)

    • It's totally alive in my world. Interaction across the generations, too.

    • Willie Chupcavich · 1514 days ago

      I think you're getting Facebook confused with Myspace. It's hard to find a person or company that's not on Facebook.

  3. Surprised · 1521 days ago

    "We will take copies of every photograph you ever take, whether or not you ever intend to share it with anyone. This is NOT opt-in."

    If some stranger walked over to copy your real camera's SD card every time you took a photograph, that would never be tolerated. Google's doing this quietly by remote, to photographs that could be geotagged or otherwise compromising?

    How is this not at least as "evil" as Facebook?

    Not to mention - who wants to pay for data every time they take a picture?

  4. raju · 1521 days ago

    this black menu bar is worst.I dont know why google wanted to promote this crap i will stop using google if they dont remove it.

    • Brad Ho. · 1521 days ago

      I trust Google with my life. Every smart phone in my house is Android. If you can't trust Google by now, you shouldn't even be commenting on a security website.

    • Jmash · 1521 days ago

      Just a tad extreme don't you think?

  5. Brian Rossbach · 1521 days ago

    I'm finding it humorous that Raju would quit using Google because of a black menu bar. Google like any other business is out to make money and expand their business. Add to that the fact that there are a plethora of other search tools available and I find Raju's sentiment laughable at best.

    It will be interesting to see how this all pans out between Google and Facebook, and what the privacy settings will be. Personally I'm a firm believer of not putting ANYTHING out on the web that I don't want anybody to know about. Hell, I have concerns putting anything in any kind of written form that I would not want someone to know. We have very little control over the data we put on the web, and what control we do have can be usurped by either a careless action on the part of the information keeper or the deliberate actions of a skilled individual or group.

    As usual, I appreciate Sophos for bringing this to light in an easily understood format for the general user, because we all know that the biggest online lie is, "I have read and accept the terms".

    Brian Rossbach

  6. akadri opeyemi · 1521 days ago

    I can't wait for the official publication of googleplus.

    • Max MossSki · 1514 days ago

      Official is relative at this point. But, we shall see...

      -- Max

  7. Adrienne Boswell · 1521 days ago

    "If your friends use apps, those applications may gain access to content and information about you that those friends can access." from &lt ;> Google Plus Privacy. I don't like the sound of that.

    • somegeek · 1517 days ago

      Publicly accessible data is always like that, and it's probably limited to "friends" that you have allowed access to your content.
      But for safe keepings, I'd say that no information may be stored by the apps.

      • dclaar · 1507 days ago

        The interesting thing about this snippet--I was going to comment on it as well--is when you contrast it to Facebook, where I can control what information about me apps can get from my friends. This is definitely a spot where Facebook's privacy controls are better.

  8. Joellen Finch · 1520 days ago

    Thank you, SOPHOS!

  9. Goodbye big blue. Hello privacy and social networking bliss.

  10. dclaar · 1507 days ago

    I think that this is also different and inferior in Google+:

    App providers (such as game providers) may send you notifications directly. You will need to contact the app provider to change the type and frequency of notifications they send to you.

    Doesn't Facebook only allow contact via facebook, and can't you turn it off from Facebook? (I don't use apps a lot, so I'm not 100% sure)

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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