Breaking News: Google+ Now a Social Spammer’s Delight?


Photo by Marcus Quigmire

The above picture of Spam™ is a delicious type of meat, and I really wish there were an all-beef variety (hint, hint, hint to Hormel).  Do not confuse this delightful mystery meat with email spam, the latter of which is not delicious, desirable or even good for you.  In fact, email spam is not only troublesome, counterproductive and a waste of time, but it tends to clog up email servers every day to the point where certain domains must be blocked from even connecting to the bigger email servers.

So, why is Google now making it easier to email spam you?

This morning, I got an email from Google and didn’t think much of it.  I guess that is par for the course first thing in the morning.  It sort of went in the eye, bounced around, and then it sort of disappeared without any real interaction within the brain at all.  Google announced it is now introducing a new service where your friends and acquaintances can email you through Google+ even if they don’t know your email address.  Cool, right?

Well, if this is a manually intensive and not-too-fast or efficient exercise, then it does sound like a nice feature.  I don’t know your email address?  No problem as long as you are on g+!  Just type in your name and go!

But, what if you are not my friend, relative or even acquaintance?  What if you are a spammer instead?  What if, as The Verge puts it, “Google just made it really easy for strangers to email you“?  They state (bolding mine):

You no longer need someone’s email address to send them an email. At least, that will soon be the case if you want to email another Google+ user. A new Gmail “feature” will let you simply type in anyone’s name into Gmail’s “to” field and send them an email. Google announced the new Google+ integration on its Gmail blog today, but company representatives have clarified to The Verge that — by default — anyone on its social network will be able to send messages to your Gmail inbox.

Yikes!  Worse, it is an opt-out service that will be rolling out (the setting to turn it off is rolling out now, and the actual feature at some future date).  That means, if you don’t change your Gmail settings by following the directions in that article, you will have anyone on g+ being able to send you email, spammer or not.

Now, Google says these messages will not appear in your main tab, but rather they will appear in your “Social” tab.  Well, that’s all well and good, except that: 1) I turned off the tabbing because it is a silly and aggravating “feature”, and 2) Most of my email I download anyhow!  Gmail is where I do the bulk of a lot of things, but I have other email accounts too!  “Cloud computing” is where companies like Google want to force everyone, but sometimes I just plain want a local copy of my stuff too!

Just to clarify: Theoretically, the names must be manually typed in.  However, is there really anything that cannot be automated to some point?  The questions are whether or not it will be worth the time and effort for someone to create a script that will automate the process, and whether or not Google will implement something that would block such scripts from being (successfully) run.  Also, this entire discussion is somewhat theoretical, seeing as it hasn’t even been turned on yet.

Still, I think I’m going to go login now and change my settings because I really don’t want to find out by having to weed through hundreds of spam messages.  I get enough as it is!