Why I deleted my Google+ account

I’ve just taken the plunge and deleted my Google+ account. This is in a large part due to the “meh” factor, eloquently described by Emma Cragg, but also due to my uncomfortableness with some of the privacy aspects of it. See Librarian by Day’s excellent summary of why Google+ is a privacy disaster waiting to happen for a more detailed explanation of what exactly is wrong with the service. This is what I entered in Google’s “please tell us why you are leaving” feedback box, if anyone is interested:

I find some of the privacy options disturbing. For example, I do not agree with the policy of not allowing pseudonyms. I use my real name for my Google account because most of it is not public, however for every other social media account that is public I use a pseudonym (the same for each site, and this is the name most of my friends know me by). This is because a few years ago I had a stalker, and he used social media to cause problems for me in my social life. Because Google+ does not allow me to use this pseudonym, and because my profile must be public for me to use Google+, I never felt comfortable sharing anything on the service. This destroyed any usefulness the service would have had for me: I have no need to share things on Google+, where I’m constantly going to worry about who might see it, when I can share the same things on Twitter under a pseudonym and not have that issue.

I was also concerned when I downloaded the Google+ app for my phone to see that in order to activate it, I had to give it permission to share my location. I never use any geolocation apps, again due to previous experiences with my stalker. I think I would have felt better about this if it had been something you could optionally activate once you had started using the app, but to have it as something you had to switch on straight away put me off. For this reason, I never used the app – I just deleted it off my phone. I was actually relieved to have done this later on, when I found out that on activating the app it automatically uploads any photos on your phone to your Google+ account. I appreciate that these are not made public automatically, but I don’t like the idea of having my data taken like that without my having first opted in.

If anyone else wants to delete their account without losing any other Google service (e.g. Gmail, Reader), there’s some instructions here – thanks to @llordllama for the link.


21 comments on “Why I deleted my Google+ account

  1. Yeah, I killed mine off last week. Lack of ability to use handles (though my name of Llord Llama seemed to work fine) and the fact that every librarian in the world seemed to add me without a by your leave really annoyed me.

    Now, if Facebook would just stop syncing with my phone and giving my mobile number away…

    Honestly, you’d think social networking had some of age and that they might realise that privacy of information is a real issue (it’s why my Facebook is locked down to show NOTHING unless you know me)

  2. I think I may be joining you on this action. When Gary pointed out his photos issue it rang alarm bells with me (I think it was Gary). I’m not using it and can’t see a need for it to be honest, but it is only at this point. Who knows how I will feel in the future!
    Now….checking your instructions thanks!

  3. Creepy stuff. Now very pleased that I haven’t joined!

  4. I didn’t join because I didn’t like the idea of having to use my real name either. The photos issue and forced location data revealing I didn’t know about, but it makes me even gladder I didn’t join.
    I don’t like people dragging me in to stuff without my permission…hell, it even annoys me that people can add my Esty shop to their Etsy “circles” without my permission, or without a way for me to remove myself from them, and that’s just a shop, not “me”.

    Llord Llama – ditto on the FB grabbing my mobile phone number thing – so irritating!

  5. […] been toying with the idea of ditching G+ for a while now, and reading Woodsiegirl’s post this morning gave me the final push I needed to get on and do […]

  6. Yes, I deleted mine a couple of weeks ago too, before the “use your own name” thing came in properly. It just didn’t seem ready for today’s issues re privacy etc.

  7. I only spotted the photo thing yesterday when I went to check my account and found my photos on there (wish I’d paid more attention now!). The really annoying thing was that on the app there was absolutely no way whatsoever to remove the photos – I had to go online to do that. In what world did someone think that was a good idea?!

    I’m having along hard think about whether to delete the app, and will start re-thinking being on Google+ at all unless it becomes even vaguely useful anytime soon (and sorts out some of the privacy issues!). So far, I’m not impressed!

  8. I feel someone should stand up for G+, so here goes …

    I am in total agreement on the pseudonyms issue, as with blogs and other aspects of one’s life there are many valid reason for using them, and I have used many over the years, Indeed it was about 3 years into running my blog before I chose to identify myself as me. But that was my choice, it is should always be just that. Google has still yet to give any valid reason why it needs real names to run Google +, mainly because there isn’t one outside of trying to sell advertising.

    On the Google+ app it didn’t ask permission to share my location to activate it, and so like my various twitter apps and the Facebook one, I can chose to add my location to updates but that is my choice it doesn’t do it otherwise. It also clearly on set up asked me if I wanted it to upload the photos off my phone automatically – granted I would prefer if this was opt in rather than opt out in wording – but it was very clear and up front about it all the same, and I just said no.

    One of the problems that even I have had some issues with is because it doesn’t know if it wants to be Facebook or Twitter it has adopted aspects of both. I know some people have gotten annoyed that strangers have been adding them – in a Twitter like way , for example, but the point is unlike Twitter unless you follow them back and add them to a circle your sharing too, they won’t ever see anything you post that isn’t public, so I don’t really see what the issue is there to be honest (as in Twitter I just ignore any ‘ blah had added you messages’)

    Gaz , if you don’t want Facebook syncing with my phone , then go in the settings and turn it off, and then go onto Facebook site and Remove Imported Contacts. Quite simple. The numbers displayed are there because you chose – at some point – to sync you phone to Facebook, so copying the numbers on your phone to Facebook and downloading any numbers people you are friends with had added to their profile to your phone. Contrary to the old story about numbers being there for all to see last week, this is tosh, only you can see your numbers, in the same way as you can in your google contacts. If you don’t want your ‘friends’ on Facebook to see your number, don’t put it on your Facebook profile.

    Now all this is not my saying I am necessarily going to stay with Google + or not, I have still yet to make my mind up about it. I have issues with it, as I do with Facebook, LinkedIn and indeed Twitter. That said Woodsie Girl, I totally respect your decision for ditching it and your reasons for doing so, and I have to admit if I was still wedded to my pseudonym, it would be a deal breaker for me too.

    • Wow, thanks for the detailed comment! It’s actually quite nice to see someone on the side of Google+, I was starting to feel oddly sorry for it…

      Interesting that you didn’t have to activate location sharing in order to activate the app. When I installed it on my phone (probably around 3-4 weeks ago), when I went to authenticate it with my Google account it prompted me to confirm that I was happy for it to share my location data, and there was no opt-out – I either had to turn this option on, or exit without authenticating my account. I understand you could turn this off later, but I really wasn’t happy with not being given a choice at the start. I wonder if that setting has been changed then – or maybe it’s different on different platforms? I’m using Android, are you on Android or iPhone?

      Also, the pictures thing – I’ve heard from several people, including my partner, that the first they knew about Google automatically uploading photos from their phone was when they saw them on their account. They weren’t shared with anyone, and you could delete them, but they were uploaded without any notification or opt in/out options. I didn’t get that far with the app myself so don’t know whether this was down to people not noticing the app asking them in setup whether or not to upload photos, or if this was an early bug that has since been changed. Either way, I think if Google+ is going to grab potentially private material like that they need to make it very clear what’s happening, and as you say make it opt-in rather than opt-out.

      To be honest, the pseudonym thing is much less important than it used to be. I’m pretty certain (touch wood) that my stalker has given up now – it’s been over a year since I last heard from him – and I’m much more relaxed now about using my real name online. I just resent not being given the choice. I’m still really not comfortable with sharing too much under my real name, which made Google+ just feel far too public. I ended up deleting everything but my name from my profile, which made it pretty useless as a service!

      Realistically, I’d have been patient, waited for some of the privacy issues to be sorted out, and happily got on with using Google+ – *if* I could see a purpose for it. Really, I just don’t have a space for it among all the other social media platforms I use. There’s some features that look really interesting and useful, but there’s not enough there that would make me use it in favour of Twitter and Facebook.

    • you’re wrong on the facebook issue. i know several people, including myself, who can never recall agreeing to “sync” my phone numbers with facebook. was it possibly part of some buried privacy language? sure. But i would never have intentionally agreed to this. moreover, the device that FB took all my phone numbers from was replaced over 18 months ago (it was a blackberry, i got it replaced and my replacement bb never had fb mobile). you can shill the FB line all you want, but it’s nefarious. And yes, I went in and requested the change, but that misses the point. I never willingly, consciously agreed to share my phone numbers with Facebook (indeed I barely ever used Facebook mobile on that device, because BB isn’t particularly good at browsing FB).

  9. The thing about Facebook and mobile numbers – my main issue is I didn’t give it my mobile number on the website, it’s not on my Facebook profile and my friends shouldn’t be able to see it… but the app uses it for Mobile Facebook, so it’s sitting there on my account, which irritates me: I’m not sure whether it also means it’s giving it out to people I’m connected with on Facebook too, which I don’t want it to do.
    But if I want to use my phone to upload photos to Facebook, or use it while out and about, it seems to have to retain my number.

    This is probably a side effect of having a phone that’s more technically advanced than my brain.

  10. I don’t think this claim about G+ and photos is correct. My photos haven’t uploaded from my phone, and when I went to G+’s page that says “Photos from your Phone” it seemed pretty clear that I had to OPT IN for that feature to be turned on. Here’s what it says:

    Instant Upload in the Google+ mobile app uploads photos and videos as you take them!
    Instant Upload uploads photos and videos from your Android device to a private album on Google+ without having to plug in any cables.

    Your photos and videos will show up in the “Photos from your phone” section.
    Nobody can see them unless you explicitly share them.

    If you already have the Google+ app, turn on Instant Upload in “Settings.”

    • Thanks for the reply. I honestly don’t know the full situation with the photo upload thing, having not quite got that far when I installed the app on my phone! I’m basing this on having heard from half a dozen different people that the first they knew about it was when they logged on to their account and saw their phone pics there. They were set to private, as you say, but to be honest I wouldn’t trust Google enough not to make a mistake with their privacy settings for that to make it ok!

      I can see two possible options here. Either, when the app was first rolled out the photo upload thing was enabled by default, and that has now (thankfully) been changed; or, the people I heard this from didn’t read any “would you like to share your photos” messages carefully enough before clicking yes (or just didn’t know what they meant). No idea which of the two is more likely! If anyone can shed some light on this, please do.

  11. The forced location-sharing on mobile devices is definitely the worrying aspect of Google+ for me – until I happened too swipe right instead of left on the android app, I had no idea that updates were being geolocated – and that public updates would be visible to anyone who happened to be in the same general geographic location.

    The dangers of this were brought home very strongly to me when I saw a ‘nearby’ update geolocated at a hospital, sharing news that was undoubtedly not meant to be public. Every g+ user within the Greater Manchester area was told about someone’s family tragedy.

    Now, this person (probably) chose to make the post public – but (I guess) without understanding the implications of that. If you’ve mainly used Google + in a web browser, why would you expect that using a phone app would share extra bits of data? That you didn’t know it was sharing? I would have expected that a ‘public’ post would only be visible to those people who’ve added me to circles – if you know all those people, you’re unlikely to be worried about what you post as public.

    (I realise I’m making assumptions here on behalf of a person I don’t know, and it’s entirely possible that they did know it would be visible. But it very definitely looked like an error to me – and if it didn’t happen this time, it could very easily happen in the future.)

    The granularity of locations also worries me. Looking at my ‘nearby’ stream right now I can see one that is located as ‘4-10, xxx ave’. That’s a choice of 4 houses. Even without a stalker, that level of ‘this is where I am!’ would make me extremely nervous.

    Sooooo, I haven’t posted anything from my mobile. And I refused the automatic photo upload. At the moment, I’m just lurking on Google + – I might stay as a lurker; I might follow you overboard.

  12. […] between privacy and openness (and look at some reactions to Google+ among CPD23-ers, such as Woodsiegirl and Laura Wilkinson). Other disadvantages – the risk of creating an outspoken or […]

  13. wow, didn’t know that about the mobile app! i tried in vain to download it but it’s “not available in your region” – now i’m glad i didn’t install it.
    i deleted my G+ account yesterday, they would not let me use the same name i use for my blog (also the name my friends call me by). The only reason i can think of for google to impose this rule on everyone wanting to use g+ is advertising (probably same reason why all profiles must be made public).

  14. Mine’s gone now too. Just not happy with privacy levels, and when I blocked people it seemed to make no difference. Also, it just wasn’t giving me anything I can’t get elsewhere and better.

    • Yes, I’d seen that – I think Danah makes some excellent points. She’s right – it takes an enormous amount of privilege to assume that everyone is able to use their real name online.

  15. Reblogged this on Yote yanayonihusu – Lusajo L.M. and commented:
    This thing kepy me up waaaay past my bedtime… One feature on g+ that really annoyed me!

  16. […] After years of people complaining, Google Plus has stopped requiring that its users provide a real name when signing up for the service. The change is welcome, as it was making things unnecessarily difficult for people who don’t want to identify themselves publicly to strangers just so they can connect with friends online, or are just trying to avoid a stalker. […]

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