Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Join Communities? Privacy and Google+

Some persons have been apprehensive about joining the Google+ communities since privacy is a concern when establishing an account with Google.  It is a legitimate potential concern, but one that can be minimized.

The Education and Library worlds have established their presence in Google+ communities. Originally considered a social networking service, communities later became a layer enveloping Google services while allowing the sharing of user's identity and interests. Communities are meant to gather people virtually with similar interests to initiate and continue ongoing conversations about particular topics.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has Google Apps for Education users accounts which protects the privacy and security of students, teachers, and educators associated with this account. Google Privacy and Terms are located at this page.  This "Google for Education" pledges:
  • Protection for your Data
  • Additional storage across Gmail and Drive
  • No Ads for Google Apps for Educators
As it turns out, Google+ communities is not within the realm of the Google Apps for Education contract.  But Google+ can be customized through settings to maintain greater control over information that comes to or from your account. Keep in mind that we at the DPI do not use our personal email addresses for Google+ accounts.  Staff accounts are created using DPI work email addresses. DPI employees do not use Gmail accounts as their primary account while working with the Google Apps.

Google has created easy to understand tools to help people control how Google+ can work for them.

Image of the red Google+ application and other Google apps
Google+ located within the Application box
1.  Click on the Application box (There is a dotted square next to your name.) Click on the Google+ icon on the right side of the menu of applications (seen in the first image).

Settings located at bottom of Google+ Home Menu
Communities is a Google+ application
2. Once the Google+ page opens, click on Home. 
(See image to the right.) Click on Settings at the bottom of the menu. There are many choices in the settings that can be turned on or off.  These include: Who can interact with you and your posts?, Notification about when to deliver Google+ posts, control of other applications that you visit, Show or hide your profile, etc. You can choose to show what you post in communities on your Google+ profile. If this setting is on, posts from all your communities will show in the Posts tabs of your profile.  If you're a bit reluctant (like me!)not much is checked.

There is much more to learn about Google+ privacy policies and controls, as well as the Safety Center where privacy and security settings are explained. Many websites collect information about individuals that we frequently allow without really knowing or understanding the conditions. (e.g. through sites' use of cookies). Google has continuously modified its policies about collecting data and been fairly open about how it uses the information that it collects.  We hope that you will feel confident joining the discussions with your colleagues in the WI Department of Public Instruction communities.

Written by:
Terrie Howe, Public Library Development Team