Since its launch a few weeks back, Google's social network experiment, Google+, has been heralded for all the features it prides itself on that Facebook and Twitter lack. But recently, it's been the inability for Google+ users to make their gender settings private (a feature its competitors provide) that have caught a few headlines. This week Google announced an update to its gender problem. Details follow.
First, the issue:
Many in the blogosphere criticized not only Google+'s lack of gender options, but also how the network forces(d) users to make their "male," "female" or "other" selections public.
Facebook’s gender policy has been criticized for a long time because of the lack of options, but at least putting a gender marker on your profile is optional. With Google+, gendering yourself is a requirement for entry.
I fit just fine into the Google+ categories: I’m female, and that does not actually need to be qualified with “trans” all the time. But plenty of people don’t fit into the categories Male and Female. Google+ acknowledges this somewhat, but damn, Other is such an offensive way to do so it might hurt more than it helps. People identify their genders in a myriad of ways, and “other” is just as valid a label for someone to claim as genderqueer, gender non-conforming, trans, two spirit… But defaulting to “other” to describe people who don’t fit into your sanctioned categories is, well, othering.
Now, the response, via a post to Google+ from the company's product manager Frances Haugen:
Great news! I’m proud to announce Google+ Profiles is launching a new privacy enhancement in response to user feedback. Starting later this week, you will be able to set the privacy setting of your gender on your Google+ Profile just as you control other information about yourself.
Great job and quick fix, Google. Now, if you only start once again paving the way for social networks by offering a more robust list of gender options that reflect reality...