Google VP of Product Bradley Horowitz announced today that Google+ will now be available to teens. Previously, the social network was exclusively for adults over 18, but now anyone with a Google Account can use it (13+ in most countries).
This policy change comes with new safety features for teen users. They will get a warning pop-up before posting publicly. Only people in teens’ circles can contact them by default. If a stranger joins a Hangout in which a teen is participating, the young person is temporarily removed and asked if they want to rejoin.
Google+ also launches a new Safety Center today with more information on these changes. “Our approach is straightforward,” Horowitz writes. “Build awesome features that teens really want, encourage safe behavior through appropriate defaults and in-product help, and make abuse reporting tools easy to find and use.”
This announcement comes on the heels of some major changes to privacy and identity on Google+. This week, Google has updated the real names policy to allow “alternate names” and “established pseudonyms.” Google’s motivation behind its naming policy is to establish a trustworthy environment populated by apparent real people. The thinking was that users with “handles,” like jon992381, would be less accountable for their actions. Google has since found that it’s not quite that simple, but it maintains its policy of requiring users to at least appear to be real human beings. Whether this actually makes the environment safer for teens (or anyone) is up for debate.
Google also replaced its more than 60 separate privacy policies with one overarching policy for all Google sites. There are no opt-outs for individual Google services anymore. Using any aspect of Google should be treated as sharing data with every part of it. This makes privacy on Google simpler to understand, but it also raises the stakes for users. Thorough explanations of Google’s new policies can be found in its new Safety Center.