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Is Google + Providing Users With a False Sense of Security?

Are Circles All They're Advertised to be?

Google Circles

This is an actual picture of one of my Google Plus Circles. This is arguably a collection of the most influential digital personalities in the world today (note to self... add Erik Qualman after posting this blog). But it begs the question, is Google tricking you in to believing that G+ has a level of privacy superior to Facebook.

Google's new G+ social network does something I predicted Facebook might do as a next major shift. It allows you to categorize your connections and interact with them in a simple and powerful way. It's called Circles. Essentially, this gives the user a somewhat false sense of privacy because you are able to select who you share information with every time you post. But who you "follow" and how you follow them is somewhat disconnected from this. This is the result of the two media this new platform attempts to merge.

On the one hand Google's version of the wall (Stream) combined with circles is designed to give the sharer a sense of security in that you get to choose the circles you share with with every post. On the other hand, Circle's allows you to search and follow people who interest you. So what happens when you post the drunken photo of last weekend's party to your friends circles, but your boss makes you a subject of interest to follow? Hmm.... Not so clear is it?

When I predicted a "Circles like" evolution for Facebook 20 months ago, I was under an impression that I no longer currently share - and that is that privacy would continue to be an issue of hot debate. And while it is still a heavily publicized topic, current data suggests that this is not necessarily valid. For those like me in the 30+ crowd, it may still hold some merit and that may be a target demographic for G+. However, it seems very clear that gen-y and younger are all too willing to trade privacy for convenience.

Zuckerberg, is no doubt taking note of all of this. So where does this leave Facebook? Well for starters, having a 700 million user head start is nice. For me, I hope Facebook moves in its own direction. These two platforms are already too similar in my opinion. But there is no denying that Google got a lot right with the new G+ platform. This is going to be one interesting boxing match. Do you think there will be a clear winner or will they peacefully co-exist and offer something different to different demographics?


Will you try to use automotive google plus advertising?

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Tags: advertising, automotive, google, plus


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Comment by Tom Gorham on July 25, 2011 at 8:45pm
Timothy, I love your article.  We are in the epicenter of a truly epic battle between two titans of the Internet.  Odds are even in my book.  There will be casualties along the way of fanatic followers and ultimately (maybe) one of the titans.  Enjoy the show and try not to get squashed!
Comment by Yago De Artaza Paramo on July 25, 2011 at 12:33pm

As one of my colleagues, Dennis Prechtel outs it: "it is called Facebook, nor Workbook" after we insisted on him befriending the rest of the people in the office. At times it can get "weird" to put photos of your kids or vacation to share with your family and having your office "friends" look at your wife in a bikini. I think that either FB or G+ get a really good way to separate things and be able to have different privacy settings for different areas of your life or we will see two things happen:


  1. People will be weary about sharing--so they will share less.
  2. People will have 2 accounts, one for family/close friends and a second for work/acquaintances.
Comment by Eric Miltsch on July 25, 2011 at 8:17am



Not sure I'm following your "drunken photo" example, can you please elaborate?


If you post that drunken photo to your "Friends" circle, your boss won't see that photo if he isn't part of that circle. The only way he could see it is if one of the people within that circle happen to have your boss in another circle & re-shares it to that circle. (Or makes it public)


If your boss does happen to follow you (adds you to a circle) - you can always block them.


I can see both platforms co-existing to satisfy several different needs within the personal & professional realms of social activity - but, to Rob's point, I don't see it being too peaceful between the two companies.

Comment by Rob Fontano on July 25, 2011 at 6:11am

Great piece Tim. You highlighted some interesting points. I don't think that either platform has the kind of privacy at its core that will protect people from their bosses (or anyone else who wants to) getting a glimpse of their private lives. There are too many avenues into a profile via relative friends / followers. With so much freedom there will always be a portal into someone’s profile. As far as the two peacefully co-existing, at this point I don't see Google peacefully co-existing with anyone.


Google made a power move last week when they decided to push reviewer sites out of the picture. This was clearly a move to drive businesses to promote Google Places reviews and grow Google's Gmail users therefore building a larger Google + audience. The move has taken away from Google’s transparency and will skew search results based on what Google wants you to see as opposed to what the best possible search result is. I understand that the third party review sites are still a part of the SERP, but this was a calculated move meant for domination. In my opinion "Google will do no harm" has now been revealed as a myth and not a philosophy.

Comment by Ray Fenster on July 25, 2011 at 4:39am

Turning the face to face social into the digital social is a much broader issue. Both Facebook and Google can only go so far in providing tools and platforms. What they both lack is a more user friendly, intuitive method of training, more nuts and bolts like Google does in its certification program. Just a quick thought.


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