Google+ Update: “Gender” will include privacy option

As an update to Jos’ post yesterday on Google+’s gender problem, it looks like they’re changing the settings to allow you to make your gender private:

I’ll admit it does irk me that the decision behind it is expressed as one of privacy or concerning different languages rather than one of identity — not to mention just making your gender identity invisible is not necessarily the best solution. I personally think the most effective way to address this would be including an empty field that can allow users to enter how they identify.

But I will say that I am glad they’re addressing it. (Great to see Google’s Bradley Horowitz’s direct response to Jos’ post in comments.) I just hope down the line they’ll think about making it more explicitly inclusive of people with different gender identities, and not just protecting their privacy.

Transcript after the jump.

Hello. My name is Francis Haugen, and I’m a Google product manager working on Google+ profiles. We’ve only been out in limited field trial for only two weeks, but the Google+ team is busy working on new features and product tweaks in response to the great feedback you’ve been sending in. I’m happy to announce a new privacy feature that you requested. Gender can be a sensitive topic, especially on the internet. Starting this week, you will be able to set the privacy setting of your gender on the Google+ profile, just as you control other information about yourself. One of the major things we use gender information for on Google+ is for picking pronouns — “her, his, their” when we refer to you. Google is committed to building products that people from all of the world can use, and in some languages, gender is much more deeply part of how sentences are formed in, say, English. Having gender information helps to make Google+ more conversational. If you decide to make your gender private, we’ll use gender neutral language to describe you whenever someone else encounters gender-related information about you, but doesn’t have permission to see your gender. For example, instead of saying, “Greg added you to his circles” or “Francis added you to her circles,” we’ll say “Greg added you to their circles.” “Francis added you to their circles.” I know this is grammatically questionable. You don’t have to message me about it. But we value helping people control their privacy as being much more important than being grammatically perfect. Let’s walk through how you can change the setting. First, click on Google+, then click on the profile icon at the top of the page. You’ll be taken to your Google+ profile. Next, click on the edit button on the upper right-hand corner, enter edit mode, and you can change any field just by clicking on it. Now, scroll down near the bottom of the page and you’ll see “gender.” Click on it, and a privacy box setting will open, and will allow you to select who you want to know whether you’re male or female. That’s it. I hope you enjoy Google+ as much as we enjoy working on it.

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