Gender identity on social networks such as Myspace, Facebook and LinkedIn have always been a given part of a users experience however Google+ has decided to change that fact by providing users with the option to hide their identities.
Starting this week Google+ user will be able to hide their gender which currently includes male, female and “other” options. According to a Google product manager the company decided to offer the option to turn off gender displays because:
“Gender can be a sensitive topic, especially on the Internet.”
Under the new program users can keep their gender displays entirely public or private and they can even choose to create different settings based on “circles” which means family, friends and co-workers may be able to see your gender if you choose while your more “public” profiles can be limited to only the “Circles” for which you choose to hide that information.
Google will still require that users identify a gender in their accounts, an important aspect of most social network advertising as advertisers like to geographically target certain groups based on gender, location, age and other variables. Google is also requiring some type of gender be given so they know which pronouns to use for your account.
The Google announcement states:
“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.”
With cyber stalkers popping up in the news on a somewhat regular basis and the fact that some women simply don’t feel comfortable placing their gender on their profiles the move is being heralded by many groups, including privacy advocates who often feel that Facebook and other social networks have been too forthcoming with information about their users.
Do you think the gender suppression option is a positive attribute for Google? While I don’t use my Google+ account as much as Facebook, mainly because most of my friends haven’t made the jump, I do appreciate the customization that Google Circles is allowing and I personally can’t wait to see what new micro-customization the company will offer next.