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Google has launched a new tool called About me that lets you see, edit, and remove the personal information that the company’s services show to other users. Google confirmed to VentureBeat that the feature started rolling out to users this week.
Google’s various products and services (Gmail, Hangouts, Google Maps, Inbox, Google Play, YouTube, Google+, and so on) sometimes ask you to share certain personal information. These details are then shown to other users who interact with you or search for you. Until now, all of this was stored in Google+, assuming you created an account. But Google+ is no longer a requirement for Google’s services, and so the company needs a new solution, and ideally one that isn’t public by default.
“Changes you make here may show up with content you create & share,” the About me page reads. “People you interact with may also see your updates across Google services.”
When I first loaded my “About me” page, I saw Google had my gender, birthday, occupation, work contact info, and work history. Out of curiosity, I tried to remove everything to see how far I could get.
I was unable to delete my name (though I could remove my last name) nor my photo. This isn’t too surprising given that many of Google’s services heavily rely on you having a name and a photo for quickly identifying and distinguishing you from other users.
Interestingly, I also couldn’t remove my birthday. All I could do was hide the year. To edit my birthday, I was told to go to the corresponding section at myaccount.google.com. But even on that page, I could only edit, and not delete, the entry.
Clicking the red “plus” button on the About me page shows you exactly which details Google wants you to add: Work and personal contact info (phone number, email, and address), education (what schools you went to), work history (what company you work for, have worked for, and where), places (where you live, have lived, and visited), and sites (social media and other webpages). If that sounds familiar, that’s because this is basically what Google+ asks you for.
Indeed, this is Google’s way of keeping track of your personal information without forcing you to use Google+. That said, if you have a Google+ account, this is the same set of details: If you add or remove content on Google+ or on About me, the changes will be reflected on both.
The tool does still have some limitations. If you have a Google Apps account, for example, you can’t edit anything:
There’s also a “View as public” option, but it doesn’t currently work:
So far, About me looks like a decent start. Some information (like my last name) I definitely want other Google users to know, while other details (like my phone number) I would rather keep private. I can finally control these easily.
While it’s great that you can change all this information in one place now, users will often require a more granular approach. Google should make it easy for you to see and edit exactly which piece of information is shared on which service.
In short, Google is basically ripping out yet another part of Google+ and turning it into a useful feature (Google+ Collections, Google Photos). How exactly this will impact Google+ going forward remains to be seen.
We’ve asked Google if it plans to surface and promote About me across its services and will update you if we learn more.
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