Man jailed for a G+ invitation to ex-girlfriend
It sounds absurd, but sometimes the truth can be just that. Unsolicited Google+ notifications are usually nothing more than a repetitive annoyance, but for Thomas Gagnon, it turned out to be more than that, it translated to jail time. Gagnon’s former girlfriend received a notification to join one of his Google+ Circles and used this to claim a violation of a restraining order.
Although a Google+ notification does not seem like anything that warrants jail time, but less than two hours later, the police arrived to arrest Gagnon. Upon their breaking up, Gagnon’s girlfriend had obtained a restraining order. Consequently, when she received the Google+ invitation, she printed it out and headed to the local police station to prove he had violated the restraining order. Less than two hours later, the police arrived to arrest Gagnon; charging him with violating the restraining order that prohibited any contact with her.
He didn’t know he was sending any requests
The problem with this is he contends he did not send the request. His attorney is arguing he “has no idea how the woman got such an invitation… suggesting that it might have been sent by a robot.” This is not entirely impossible.
Every time you move someone around in your Circles, for example, if you move your brother from your “family” Circle, to your “friends” Circle, he will get a notification asking if he wants to join your Circle. Google+ does not take in to consideration that he was already a member of your Circles, or that you may not want to notify people of the change at all. And this could very well be the case with Gagnon.
AGBeat recently covered Facebook’s attempt to mine private messages for data and it appears Google is doing the same thing. Users have complained that Google is mining Gmail contacts to send out Google+ notifications without permission. So when users register for Gmail, they automatically receive a welcome to Google+. You will receive a notification with an invitation asking you to add the person to your Circle.
What you can do to safeguard yourself
If you are worried about Google+ sending out unsolicited invites on your behalf, you can change this from your settings page. Simply log in to your Google+ account, click the “home” dropdown box, and navigate to “settings.” You can also change your settings to disallow other G+ users from emailing you.
It is a good idea to consider your settings and what your accounts may be sending out on your behalf, even if no restraining orders are in question.