All Your Private Profiles Are Belong To Us

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 6, 2011
Updated • Mar 19, 2015

Google's receiving mostly warm receptions from Internet geeks, websites and standard users for their new Google+ social networking service. The company learned to use the Internet hype machine perfectly for their purposes to push the service out in the open.

While it is not really clear how we will perceive the service in one year's time, it is fair to say that it is already more successful than Google's last attempt, Google Buzz.

Google Profiles are part of Google+ with options to show or hide profile data. Up until now it was possible to maintain a private profile, which basically meant that no one but the Google account owner could access it.

Google notes that nearly all profiles are public, but that there are some that are not. And it is those that the company targets. In a somewhat surprising move, Google announced that they would delete all private profiles after July 31, 2011.

Users with private Google profiles have two options. They can do nothing which leads to deletion, or they can modify their profile to make at least the full name and gender public.

For that, they have to visit their Google Profile and modify the visibility of those items.

google profile visibility

While it is still possible to hide most of the information, and even keep the profile from appearing in  search results, it is not possible to block direct access to the profile. Someone on a page with a link to the profile and someone with the direct url could access the profile.

All they might see is the user's name and gender. Especially the mandatory gender display has lead to criticism of Google's move to make all profiles public.

What's the official reasoning for making all Google profiles public? According to Google the purpose of Google Profiles is to "to help people find and connect with you online" which is not possible if a profile is private.

The problem that most users seem to have is related to the public gender issue. Some argued that Google could use the information for advertising, which is a somewhat dubious argument, considering that Google has access to the profile regardless of your privacy settings.

I find it rather strange that less users seem to have a problem with their full name appearing on the profile, which in most cases can easily be used to identify the user's gender. The only real problem I see is the Other option. But then again, one does not have to select other at all. Some won't because of fear of discrimination.

What's your take on this development? And what does your profile's visibility look like currently?


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  1. Martin Brinkmann said on July 19, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    I probably should have explained it ;)

  2. Vance said on July 19, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    The title of your article is formulated incorrectly. Please get some help to improve on your English language skills!

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on July 19, 2011 at 1:37 pm

      I know, this is a geek thing. Search for all your base are belong to us and you may understand, or not.

      1. Vance said on July 19, 2011 at 5:53 pm

        Learning something new every day :-)

  3. ilev said on July 7, 2011 at 10:14 am

    You are WRONG. Private profiles are nothing to do with Google+
    These are profiles created on various Google services.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on July 7, 2011 at 10:28 am

      No Ilev. Google Profiles, that’s the private profile the article is talking about, not other profiles.

  4. TRY said on July 6, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Still using Google+!!!
    Its time to move on…

  5. Simon B. said on July 6, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    Isn’t the “Other” gender the least revealing? I’m only barely not surprised they skipped on the chance to include * (reads as “splat”) and/or “dog”, see, because “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” :-p

  6. DanTe said on July 6, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Don’t forget the Android Latitude which let’s you view your friends’ locations via their profile name. Woopie. Big Brother is watching. Stalker Heaven!

    And just one English grammar point: the header of this article doesn’t sound right. “Are Belong To Us” should be “Belongs To Us”. Or it might just read: The Commissars at Google Invades Profile Privacy.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on July 6, 2011 at 2:40 pm

      Dante, this was a pun at the all your base meme:

  7. dw4rf_705s said on July 6, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Yep, when they pull crap like this, it’s time to feed them some false data. Uggh, at least build a solid user base before yanking the rug out from under everyone.

    It all seems ill-advised, but meh, maybe the more dickish the terms, the more people will flock to it. Worked wonders for failbook.

    Anyhow, looking forward to another surveillance network I wish would die.

  8. David said on July 6, 2011 at 10:55 am

    This is a dreadful decision that shows a lack of respect for users privacy…thankfully all information…and there is only the minimum…in my own profile is false including the gender statement.

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