As the lines between Google and Google+ grow blurrier, so do privacy norms. Today we’re posed with whether we want our location made abundantly clear to anyone we share G+ posts with. Now when you post to G+ from mobile and you enable automatic location sharing or geo-tag yourself at a local spot, a big Google Map of your exact location is shown in the G+ stream on the web.
The combination of exact geo-tagging and these maps give Google+ much more aggressive location sharing than Facebook or Twitter. That shouldn’t scare us, though, as long as we’re conscious and use the tools to control what we expose.
Previously, you could purposefully share your location from G+ mobile or allow the app to automatically geo-tag you. However, the location would appear as a tiny line of grey text at the bottom of G+ posts that you had to click through to view. Now the map is immediately visible at the bottom of geo-tagged G+ posts when viewed on the web, enriching the feed.
For comparison, Facebook only auto-tags post with the general city you’re in, not your exact location. And if you tag a Place in a post, friends still have to hover over or click through to see a map. Twitter meanwhile only tags tweets with location when enabled, only tags your city not your specific coordinates, and tweets must be expanded to show the map.
Personally, I don’t mind sharing my exact location. “Come at me, bro!” aka I’m not really worried about thieves or stalkers. Seriously, most “privacy concerns” about this type of thing are overblown. Still, some people, including young women, have more to think about when sharing their location.
Google+ lets you choose which Circles you share with, and the maps just make the existing location system easier to view. Auto-tagging defaults to off, but stays on if you enable it.
What’s important though is that you are in control, and Google isn’t going to treat you like a kid. If you want to blatantly auto-share your exact location every time you post, it won’t stop you. Just like being an adult, more freedom requires more accountability.
Some refer to the slide towards openness as the “Zuckering” of privacy norms. But now Google’s social layer is maturing. As it slowly saturates all of the search giant’s products, it will raise questions for each of us about “Google+ification”, just how much we want to share, and whether we’re aware we’re sharing.