Some months ago, Google announced that there would be no more private profiles in Google. It was around the time when rumours of Google+ started leaking out in the form of Circles.
Here is the wording (emphasis mine):
The purpose of Google Profiles is to enable you to manage your online identity. Today, nearly all Google Profiles are public. We believe that using Google Profiles to help people find and connect with you online is how the product is best used. Private profiles don’t allow this, so we have decided to require all profiles to be public.
Keep in mind that your full name and gender are the only required information that will be displayed on your profile; you’ll be able to edit or remove any other information that you don’t want to share.
If you currently have a private profile but you do not wish to make your profile public, you can delete your profile. Or, you can simply do nothing. All private profiles will be deleted after July 31, 2011.
What does this signify? I see only positives in this. While the gender of some people might be difficult to determine from their names, our names are public information through the electoral roll and other public documents. Making our full name and gender visible may help others to find us, but we need not display a photo or phone number. Those who want to be truly anonymous can invent a name.
From Google’s perspective, directing conversations to a platform that requires a profile reduces spam (but can never eliminate it). The use of a real identity is very strong in Facebook but weak in Google Groups, for example. People are careful (one hopes) about what they say when they put their name to it.
Offering no privacy also removes the risk of litigation following, say, a leak of profile data through cracking (what the press refers to as hacking).
I restrict my online information to the minimum – no telephone numbers or home address. Real-life friends get this information offline.