What's in a Name?

Google's stance on using your real name for Google profiles caused a stir. Some people on the Web are better known by a handle or pseudonym and wanted to use that to create a Google Plus account. But that's against Google's terms of service and Google began suspending Google Plus accounts that didn't include real names. As of the writing of this article, Google is exploring ways to let people use pseudonyms and handles but hasn't yet implemented such a feature.

Privacy on Google Plus

The issue of privacy on the Web is a thorny one. On the one hand, you have organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation dedicated to protecting user privacy on the Web. On the other hand, you have people like Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, saying that the concept of privacy is no longer a social norm [source: Johnson]. We, the users, are caught in the middle. How much of our private information should we expect to hand over to Google?

Google's mission is to organize the world's information. Based on that mission, you might be worried that all your private information would become public record. But Google Plus gives you the option to share as much or as little information as you like. The only catch is you have to use your name to create a Google profile and it has to be public. Otherwise, you can limit whatever information you choose to include.

You can share a status update with everyone, with your circles and extended circles or with specific Google Plus users. While you must include your gender, you can choose to keep that information private if you wish. You can include other information as well, including your address, e-mail, telephone numbers, employer, schools and a bio. You can control the privacy settings on each field of information so that only the people you designate can see it.

Google Plus includes a feature that allows you to share someone else's status update. By clicking the share feature, you'll publish your friend's status update under your own stream. Google will attribute the shared post to your friend. You can turn the share feature off for any post you make. If you feel the urge to post a message about how much you hate your job or your true feelings about someone you know, you may want to turn off sharing. Otherwise, someone you've allowed to see the post could share it under his or her own feed and the cat is out of the bag.

If someone harasses you on Google Plus, you can choose to add that person to a blocked circle. You won't see any posts from that blocked person and they aren't allowed to comment on any of your own posts. They'll still be able to read anything you publish publically, but that's it. If you don't want to block someone but wish to get a single post off your stream, use the mute post feature. This will remove it from your stream and clear up some of the clutter.

If you're using Google Chrome to access Google Plus, you'll have some additional options. Next, we'll look at some Google Chrome extensions that affect Google Plus.