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Transgender woman is outed by Google Hangouts

Google account exposes a sex change
Tue Jan 07 2014, 16:20
Google Hangouts now supports global contacts search

A TRANSGENDER WOMAN who was still known to colleagues as a man following gender realignment surgery has been outed by her interaction with Google Hangouts.

The balls-up came about after Google removed the separate messaging app in Android 4.4 KitKat in favour of a unified SMS and Hangouts inbox.

The woman had changed her Google Plus profile to reflect her new identity, however she had not come out to co-workers who still knew her as a man. When she sent what she thought was an SMS to a colleague, she accidentally sent a Hangouts message linked to her new identity, revealing to her colleague that she no longer identified as male.

She told The Guardian rather testily, "I'm just glad I live in a state where it'd be illegal to fire me, somehow I didn't think through the potential consequences of Google+ embedding itself ever deeper into stock Android stuff."

Although it is possible to tell whether an SMS or Hangouts message is being sent, it isn't made very clear in the app, meaning that switching from one to the other can be dangerously easy.

The Hangouts SMS integration is the latest in a series of initiatives by Google to integrate its Google+ social network into everything, which has received criticism from users. Android 4.x KitKat also removes the Gallery app for photographs, replacing it with a Google+ Photos app combining device and cloud photos.

Google+ has proved unpopular with many due to its insistence on real or at least "established" identities, meaning that it is difficult to maintain privacy between disparate groups of people, which, ironically, goes against what was one of the main selling points of the service at launch. µ


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