How Google+ spams people using the Gmail widget

So, there's this new-ish widget in Gmail that shows up on the right side gutter and gives information about the person you are receiving email from. It's actually pretty useful. In addition to basic contact information, it shows thumbnails of recent pictures in emails from that person, and gives chat options.

Here, I have sent an email to my real Gmail account from a throwaway account called ethanjewett@gmail.com

Here, I have sent an email to my real Gmail account from a throwaway account called ethanjewett@gmail.com

Recently, the option to add a person to your Google+ circles has been added to this widget in Gmail. Circles have also been integrated into Gmail Contacts, so a reasonable person might well think that this widget is a way to add people to contact groups.

The new G+ button

The new G+ button

Clicking on this butten pops up a list of your circles, allowing you to choose how you want to categorize this person.

I'm my own friend

I'm my own friend


At this point, my "friend" has been added to my "Friends" circle.

What I might not expect at this point is that Google has sent my new "Friend" a very excited email falsely stating that I am inviting him to join Google+

2012-04-25_1003_001.png

What I might not expect at this point is that Google has sent my new "Friend" a very excited email falsely stating that I am inviting him to join Google+

2012-04-25_1003_002.png

I'm a little concerned by this for the following reasons:

  • Did I invite this person to join Google+? No, I added him to a circle in Gmail.
  • Am I recommending Google+ for this person? No. In fact, I only found out about this because I added people to my circles in this manner that were confused by the invitation. One of these people wrote back to me asking what it was. I would never have invited some of these people to Google+ because I know they have no interest in it.
  • Did I want this person to know that I had added them to a circle/group in my Gmail contacts? Not necessarily. I really believe that this function is easy to confuse with contact groups, and organizing contacts is a very private activity that I do not want my contacts to know about. What if this is someone I want to avoid, someone I don't want to think about me. What if I added this person to a circle called "Stalkers"?
  • Google (and everyone else for that matter) should never ever ever email my contacts without my express consent.

I trust Google with my contact information and my email. This type of behavior makes quite clear that Google is not worthy of that trust. Am I going to do anything about it? Not at the moment, but it is one more straw added to the camel's back.