A new feature in Gmail by Google could result in some users receiving messages from people with whom they have not shared their email addresses. This risk has already raised concerns among some privacy advocates.
The change broadens the list of contacts available to users of Gmail so that it includes both the email addresses of their existing contacts and the names of people on the Google+ social network. With this feature, users can now send an email directly to friends, and strangers, who use Google+.
This new feature will make it easier for people who use both services to communicate with their friends, said Google. “Have you ever started typing an email to someone only to realize halfway through the draft that you haven’t actually exchanged email addresses?” the company said in a blog post announcing the feature. “You’re in luck, because now it’s easier for people using Gmail and Google+ to connect over email.” The company added this new feature would not expose the email addresses of any Google+ users to strangers. Google is planning to send an email to all Google+ users during the next two days alerting them to the change and explaining how to change their settings, a Google spokeswoman said.
The new feature was called “troubling” by Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of non-profit Electronic Privacy Information Center. “There is a strong echo of the Google Buzz snafu,” he said while referring to a social networking service that Google launched in 2010.