A few days ago, Google rolled out a potentially invasive new feature — if you have both a Gmail address and Google+ account, other Google+ and Gmail users will soon be able to send messages right into your inbox, even if you never gave them your email address. By default, Google says it is letting anyone on Google+ send messages to your inbox, even if you don't have them in a circle, making the service completely opt-out rather than opt-in. However, we've confirmed that isn't the case across the board.
For "high-profile" users who may have thousands of users following them, Google has decided to make the default more limited. Those users will only be able to receive messages from Google+ users that they have actively put in circles. "Because you have a lot of followers on Google+, only people in your circles can contact you by default," reads the email Google sent out announcing the new feature to users with thousands of followers. This divsion between regular users and more popular Google+ users was reported earlier by MarketingLand and Reuters.
An email message announcing the new feature sent to Google+ users with "lots of followers":
The feature announcement email sent to most Google+ users:
So while these Google+ emails are opt-out for most, Google does seem concerned with respecting the privacy of a small subset of its users. It's a baffling decision — there's little doubt high-profile users are more likely targets to receive unwanted messages, but the very fact that Google decided to make some accounts more private is a tacit admission that its new "feature" is rife with the potential for abuse.