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Google+ users can soon opt out of sharing gender

July 13, 2011 | 11:22 am

Google+ gender settings

Google+ is getting yet another privacy change in its testing period -- this time to let users of the new social network opt out of sharing their gender publicly online.

"Gender can be a sensitive topic, especially on the Internet," Frances Haugen, a Google product manager overseeing Google+ profiles and search, said in a video posted on the service. "Starting this week you will be able to set the privacy setting of your gender on a Google+ profile just as you control other information about yourself."

Google+ users will be able to make their gender visible to everyone on Google+ (the current default setting), only to specific circles of friends or to no other users. As before, however, anyone on Google+ must choose one of three gender identifiers: male, female or other.

It's a good bet that including gender in the data amassed about Google+ users will help sell ads down the road. But Haugen said a major reason to know that information is so messages generated by Google+ about the person can employ the correct personal pronouns -- she, he, him, her.

"Google is committed to building products that people all over the world can use and in some languages gender is much more deeply a part of how sentences are formed than say, English," she said. "Having gender information helps us to make Google+ more conversational."

Now, the social network will use gender-neutral language to describe a user to those who aren't authorized to see that person's gender.

"I know this is grammatically questionable -- you don't need to message me about it," Haugen said. "But we valued helping people control their privacy as being much more important than being grammatically perfectly."

Check out Haugen's video message on the change below:

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screenshot of a Google video demoing how a user can change the privacy settings of their gender on Google+. Credit: Frances Haugen/Google/YouTube

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