If you’ve been paying attention to the Internet this week, you might be under the impression that Google is about to freely give out your email address to stalkers, scammers, and trolls. While this is grossly dramatized – because this is the Internet – there is some truth to the story.

Google recently began alerting users to a helpful new feature that is being rolled out right now – a way for Google+ connections to send messages to your inbox without having to know your email address. Creepy? Maybe a little. End of the world? Likely not.

For those who use Google+ for small business and/or networking purposes, this really is a positive addition; you just need to know how to manage it. And we’ll get to that in a moment. The positive aspect of this update is that you can now send private messages to business contacts you have made through online networking activities, but with whom you haven’t yet exchanged email addresses.

The downside of this update, if you don’t manage your settings, is that people you ‘know’ well enough to connect with on Google+ are not always people you want to interact with directly though email. These people can now type your name into their email ‘to’ field and you will pop up as a suggestion, even though they don’t have your address.

Google product manager David Nachum is quick to point out, however, that this person cannot see your email address unless you actually email them back. Connections will display differently than Gmail contacts. What they see on their end will be this:

Via Official Gmail Blog

This is the way that Google safeguards your privacy through this feature update. If you want to take your privacy to the next level, that part is up to you. Luckily it only takes a few seconds.

Step 1: Log into your Gmail account.
Step 2: Click the gear icon in the top right corner. Choose settings.
Step 3: Under the General tab, scroll down to Email via Google+
Step 4: Click to choose who can email you (no one, Circles, etc.)

If you’re a more visual person, here’s a helpful .gif from The Daily Dot.

Choose whichever level you feel is right for you. I personally have my account set to ‘no one’. This is not because I am a curmudgeon, but because I have a LOT of Google+ connections whom I do not know personally, due to the nature of the content marketing work I do. However, if you’re a small business owner whose Google+ connections are mostly vendors and clients, setting to Circles or Extended Circles could be really useful for you and your contacts.

What do you think of this new update from Google? Useful, or unwelcome? Let us know in the comments.

About the Author: Sarah Matista is the resident blogger at Webs, where she also manages marketing for Pagemodo – a suite of social marketing tools. Loves marketing, small businesses, and whales. Get more from Sarah on the Webs Blog and Google+.

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