You've heard all the hype about Google+. You may have even dived in, gotten yourself an account, and started building your "circles" of friends, but have you taken the time to see what kind of privacy and security features that Google has baked into Google+?
Facebook, Google+'s main competitor, has adapted its privacy and security settings over time, based on its user's concerns and other factors. Facebook has achieved a fairly robust system of opt-in, opt-out, group, and friend-based security and privacy measures that are still evolving today.
It's ultimately up to the Google+ developers as to whether they want to follow Facebook's lead or go in a completely different direction with regards to security and privacy features.
The jury is still out on whether or not Google+ has done a good job implementing its privacy and security features. We all remember Google's first major foray into the world of social networking, also known as Google Buzz. Buzz's initial privacy settings left a lot to be desired and a class action lawsuit was filed as a result. Has Google learned it's lesson? We'll have to wait and see.
Here are some tips on how you can use Google+'s currently offered security and privacy options to make your Google+ experience a safe one.
To begin, click on the gear icon in the top-right corner of your Google+ home page.
1. Restrict the visibility of your Google+ circles to increase your privacy
Unless you want everyone in the world to be able to see who your friends are, you'll probably want to limit access to this information.
To restrict who can see your friends and circles:
Click the "Profile and Privacy" link from the "Google+ Accounts" page:
Click the "Edit Network Visibility" button from the "Sharing" section of the page..
Uncheck the box for "Show People In" if you don't want anyone, including those in your circles, to be able to see who your friends are. Your other option is to leave the box checked, and choose whether you want your friends to be able to see who is in your circles, or you can allow the whole world to see this information. The current default is to allow everyone in the world to see who are in your circles.
If you want to be extra private you can prevent the fact that you have been added to other people's circles by unchecking the box that says "Show people who have added you to circles" at the bottom of the "Edit Network Visibility" pop-up box.
2. Remove global access to the parts of your personal profile that you don't want to share with the world
Identity thieves love personal details such as where you went to school, where you have worked, etc. These details are a gold mine for them. If you make these tidbits of information available for the whole world to see, you are just asking for them to use them to steal your identity. It's best to restrict access to most of these details, allowing only your friends the ability to see this information.
Anytime you see a globe icon next to something in Google+ it means that you are sharing that item with the world and not just with those within your circles.
To restrict certain parts of your profile to only be visible to people within your circles:
Click the "Profile and Privacy" link from the "Google+ Accounts" page.
Click the "Edit visibility on profile" link under the "Google Profiles" section of the page.
On the page that opens, click each item in your profile to modify its visibility settings. Click the drop-down box and change the items that you don't want revealed to the world.
Click the "Done Editing" button in the red bar near the top of the screen when you are finished modifying your profile visibility.
If you don't want your information made available to search engines, you should uncheck the "Help others find my profile in search results" box from the "Search visibility" section at the bottom of the page.
3. Restrict visibility of individual posts in your Google+ stream
Google+ allows you to restrict visibility of individual posts (i.e. status updates, photos, videos, links, etc...). When you're posting something in your Google+ stream on your homepage, look at the box underneath the text box you are typing your post into. You should see a blue box with the name of your default circle (i.e. Friends). This indicates the people that your post is about to be shared with. You can remove visibility for the post by clicking the "X" icon inside the blue box. You can also add or remove an individual's or circle's ability to see the post.
As Google+ evolves, it will undoubtedly feature additional privacy and security options. You should check the "Profile and Privacy" section of your Google+ account every month or so to make sure that you haven't been opted-in to something you would have rather been opted-out of.