Privacy, contact updates added to Google+

Social network is tweaked with new tools for contacts, opt-out for gender

After promising earlier this week that changes to Google+ were coming, Google is making good on that vow with a privacy update and a new contacts tool.

"Responding to more feedback!" posted Vic Gundotra, a senior vice president of social for Google, on Google+ late yesterday.

The comment follows a post that Gundotra wrote early Monday. "Lots of criticism for Google+," Gundotra wrote at 2:05 a.m. EDT Monday. "We are listening and working to address. Stay tuned for changes this week."

Today, he pointed to two changes. One change is a tool that helps Google+ users find their friends and get them into their favorite circles.

"We've been listening to feedback from our users who want more flexible ways to find their friends on Google+," wrote Rohit Khare, a Google product manager, in a blog post. "One of the most flexible tools is an address book uploader, and I wanted to share the good news that it will be rolling out to everyone over the next few days."

Khare noted that the new uploader tool is designed to avoid mixing up users' imported contacts with their other Google Contacts. "We only store the ones that you put into your Circles," he added.

In a video post, Khare said that when the tool is available, users will be able to download their contacts and then, under Circles Editor, select Find and Invite. When they see the new Upload Address Book button, they can click on the Select Contacts File. After that, their contacts will appear as tiles that can be dragged and dropped into their Circles.

And on the privacy side, Frances Haugen, a Google+ profiles product manager, announced a privacy update on Google+ late Tuesday night based on user feedback.

"Starting later this week, you will be able to set the privacy setting of your gender on your Google+ Profile just as you control other information about yourself," she wrote.

In a video post, Haugen said she understands that gender can be a sensitive topic, especially on the Internet. "Having gender information makes Google+ more conversational," she noted. "If you decide to make your gender private, we'll use gender-neutral language to describe you whenever someone else doesn't have permission to see your gender."

For instance, she explained that if Pat decides to keep her gender private, Google+ would alert someone that she has added him to her Circles by saying, "Pat has added you to their Circles."

"Controlling privacy is more important than being grammatically correct," Haugen said.

Google+ will soon allow you to control who sees your gender on your Google+ Profile.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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