Gmail update allows users to be emailed without an email address

Google has announced that users of Google + can now email people without having been supplied with their email address.

Google said that the changes, which began rolling out today, would not permit people to see users’ email addresses.

However, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Will Oremus said that Google confirmed to him that the new service defaults to allow anyone on Google+ to email users, and would require users to manually change their settings to opt out.

He also said the changes were “likely to annoy and confuse a lot of Gmail users who barely even know what Google+ is and won't understand exactly what it is that Google's asking them.”

Explaining the changes on Google’s official Gmail blog, David Nachum, product manager said: “Have you ever started typing an email to someone only to realize halfway through the draft that you haven't actually exchanged email addresses? If you are nodding your head 'yes' and already have a Google+ profile, then you’re in luck, because now it's easier for people using Gmail and Google+ to connect over email.”

He added: “Your email address isn't visible to a Google+ connection unless you send that person an email, and likewise, that person’s email address isn’t visible to you unless they send you an email.”

However, Oremus said that the distinction was a matter of “splitting hairs”.

“Google is careful to note that people who send you messages in this way don't actually see your email address. In some ways that seems like splitting hairs – who needs your email address when they can send you emails without it?” he asked.

“A Google spokesperson acknowledged that there's something to be said for "opt-in" policies from a privacy standpoint, but told me Google felt it was better on balance to make it "opt-out" so that people could first see what it is they're opting out of,” he added.

“In other words – and to be clear, these are my words, not Google's – they were afraid no one would use it. And that fear overrode the privacy concerns.”

Google said the feature is rolling out over the next couple of days to everyone that uses Gmail and Google+.

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Steven Raeburn

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