Well, guess what? That feature has been in there for years. You can still read an article I wrote about the feature back in 2011. I’ve had it set to “Anyone can e-mail me” since before then, and I’ve received zero spam as a result. The only new feature is that Google+ contacts show up in Gmail’s autocomplete, and the preference is visible in Gmail as well as Google+.
Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said the feature was “eerily similar to the Buzz fiasco, when Google tried to force Gmail users into Google’s social network service Buzz,” violating their privacy. […]
“The FTC needs to determine whether this change to Google’s business practices violates the consent order that resulted from the Buzz investigation,” Rotenberg said.
Rotenberg needs to try to keep informed about the social networks he pontificates about. There has been no change to business practices, all they’ve done is make a pre-existing Google+ feature visible inside Gmail.
But this does point out, once again, that Google’s unnecessarily heavy-handed attempts to force people to use Google+ have resulted in the public perception that (a) nobody uses Google+ and (b) every change Google makes is a new privacy violation or attempt to coerce us.
Fun fact most people don’t realize: Google+ has more people actively using it as a social network than Twitter does. Yes, that’s more ‘in-stream’ users, i.e. people actively choosing to load the Google+ post stream and read it.
And I say all that as someone who has resolved not to use Google+ much in 2014.