A GeekMom Guide to Google+ Part Two

In Part One, we talked about Google+ circles: what they are and how to use them. Today, let’s tackle privacy and profiles.

Many Google+ users are thrilled to discover that privacy concerns have been taken very seriously by the network’s engineers. Unlike Facebook’s baffling labyrinth of privacy settings, G+ keeps things straightforward. Still, there are some important things to know.

Start with your profile

• On your profile page, go to the About section and click “Edit profile.” Take a close look at every section. You can choose who sees each piece of information–the entire internet, your Google+ friends only, or no one at all. You don’t have to share your location or educational history (for example), if you don’t want to.

• A handy feature is the “View profile as” box. Be sure to take a look at how your profile appears to “Anyone on the web.”

• Important! The text you enter for “Occupation” is what will pop up whenever Google+ users hover the cursor over your name. Use this space to tell people a little something about yourself. This may be your first chance to connect with other users. For example, when I first filled out my profile, I entered “writer” in that box. Well, sure, I’m a writer–but that really doesn’t tell you much about me, does it? When I realized this “occupation” text was going to pop up whenever someone hovered over my name, I changed it to my Twitter bio: “Writes books for kids. Reads books to kids. Seldom cooks, not even for kids.” Hopefully that gives people a better idea of who I am and helps them decide whether to follow me or not.

If you don’t enter anything at all in the Occupation box, the pop-up will show the city you live in–if you’ve entered that.

• Click the “In your circles” and “Have you in circles” area to customize that display as well. You can hide either or both of those items, if you prefer not to show the icons of people you are following and/or people who are following you.

(Don’t worry–no one will ever see the names of your circles, nor which circle you’ve put someone in. That information is always private on Google+.)

All right, that’s profile privacy. Now on to privacy in posting.

Two important privacy tips

• If you want a post to stay within the bounds of the circle you’ve posted it to, be sure to disable resharing. The tricky bit is: you do this immediately after you’ve sent the post. Click the gray arrow icon in the top right corner of the post for the disable resharing option.

(Of course, there’s never any rock-solid guarantee when it comes to internet privacy. Anything you write–whether on Facebook, Google+, or in an email–can be copy-and-pasted by the recipient. We should regard Google+ with the same cautiousness about sensitive material that we would apply anywhere else.)

• If someone +mentions a person in the comments of your post (like typing @username on Facebook or Twitter), that person can now see the post and all comments–even if she is not a member of the circle you sent it to (unless you have disabled resharing*). As explained by Google+ insider Trey Harris, +mentions are a way to invite someone to the conversation, “not the way you talk about someone. They’re the way you talk to someone.”

Here, let me show you what I mean.

Bold words for a kitten wearing a frog costume, pal.

Now, in most conversations that +mention feature is a boon, allowing you to easily click through to someone’s profile. You’ll get a notification if you’ve been +mentioned in a post or comment, just as Andrea, Kristen, and Scott did in the conversation above. Handy!

*You may have seen warnings that +mentioning granted access to the mentioned person even in sharing-disabled posts. That was a bug that Google+ corrected this week. If I’d clicked “sharing disabled” on the conversation above, we would not have been able to +mention Scott. (Well done, Google, for speedy correction of a flaw.) Kristen and Andrea, however, would have been notified because they were +mentioned in my original post. That’s the purpose of the +mention. [This paragraph has been edited to correct a misstatement in the original. Thanks, commenter Leslie, for catching it.]

Privacy recap: disable resharing if you don’t want a post to travel, and be aware that +mentioning is a way of inviting the mentioned party to a conversation. Otherwise, share and mention away!

Coming next in this series: How to find your friends on Google+!

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