How to keep strangers out of your Gmail and your face out of Google ads

You might have received an email from Google(s goog) last week, explaining changes to Gmail that now let Google+ members send messages to your Gmail account without actually needing to have your e-mail address. And if you’re anything like me, you might have deleted that email before reading it. But after reading my colleague David Meyer’s take on the integration of Gmail and Google+ this weekend, I decided to opt out of this new feature, as well as Google’s new privacy agreements that allow it to use your name and photo in ads.

You can read Google’s blog post for more information about the new link between Gmail and Google+, but basically, as long as you have both Google+ and a Gmail account, Google will automatically let you other users search for you on Google+ and send you emails from there. This can be useful in certain instances, like when you realize you don’t have a friend’s email address. But it also opens your Gmail account up to anyone using Google+. Users won’t actually be able to see your email address unless you send an email back, but it does leave you wide open for spam and other unsolicited messages.

Luckily, it’s really easy to opt out of. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Log in to Gmail and click the gear icon in the upper right corner
  2. Select Settings
  3. Click the General tab at the top (it should open to this automatically)
  4. Look for the setting that says Email via Google+ (it’s about halfway down the screen in my menu)
  5. Change your preference to No one (or whichever setting you prefer)
  6. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen and click Save Changes

Gmail privacy opt out

Note: If you have a lot of of followers like my colleague Kevin Tofel — who has over 70k — Google sets your default settings to only allow emails from people in your Circles, as noted by The Verge. It isn’t clear, though, how many followers you need to have for this to go into effect. Most people will automatically be set to receive messages from anyone on Google+.

While you’re at it, you might also want to change your Google+ privacy settings as well. Google announced an update to its terms of service last year that allowed your name and face to appear in ad results for products that you’ve “liked.” This change finally went into effect last week. It’s probably not a big deal if you don’t go around “+1’ing” lots of stuff on Google+, but don’t forget Nick Bergus, who unwittingly became the spokesman for a 55-gallon drum of lube after Facebook(s fb) changed its advertising policies.

To avoid a similar fate, simply follow these steps:

  1. Log in to Google+ and click on Home in the upper left corner
  2. Select Settings
  3. Look for Shared Endorsements and click Edit
  4. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and uncheck the box that says, “Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads”
  5. Click Save

Google+ privacy

And remember to always read updated privacy policies and pay close attention to any e-mails that Google sends your way in the future. They don’t always make for interesting reads, but you never know when you’ll be opted in to a new feature you’d rather opt out of.