Google Plus Invite Results In Man's Arrest For Violating A Restraining Order

from the requesting-permission-to-post-on-your-behalf,-jailbird dept

To many people, Google’s social media platform, Google+, remains a conundrum. Is it a Facebook competitor? Is it Google’s efficient way of consolidating its power disparate services into a cohesive whole? Is it an ASCII penis generator?

One thing it might be is a brand new way to get in trouble. Matthew A. Sawtell sends in this story of one man whose dip into Google’s social media pool resulted in his arrest.

Prosecutors say Thomas Gagnon violated a restraining order by sending his former girlfriend an invitation to join his Google Plus circle.

But Gagnon’s attorney says his client has no idea how the woman he once planned to marry — popping the question with a $4,000 ring earlier this month — got such an invitation, suggesting that it might have been sent by a robot.

Gagnon’s attorney may not be far off. If Gagnon’s estranged ex used other Google services like Gmail to communicate with Gagnon back in happier days, there’s a good chance she was inserted into a list of potential Google+ “friends*” in order to easily insert them into Circles.

Then again, how Google generates its suggested contacts is considered a black art by much of the population, although the prevailing notion is that if Google owns it and you use it, you’re on the list. The judge presiding over Gagnon’s somewhat unexpected appearance in court had this bit of insight on the social media platform.

A Salem District Court judge yesterday admitted he wasn’t sure exactly how such invitations work on Google’s social media site…

That didn’t stop him from setting Gagnon’s bail at $500 and ordering him to stay away from his ex-girlfriend.

Gagnon’s attorney continued to maintain that Google+ auto-violated the restraining order. The judge countered by expressing his doubt of Gagnon’s ability to follow court orders, suggesting something went a bit off the rails during the original hearing.

Whether or not Google+ attempted to widen Gagnon’s social circle by including a woman who had taken out a restraining order against him is still unclear. What’s perfectly clear, however, is that the situation behind Gagnon’s current legal problems escalated very quickly.

On Friday, Gagnon gave his momentary fiancée a $4,000 engagement ring. The next day (Saturday) she broke up with him. By Monday, she had taken out a restraining order. By Thursday, Gagnon was back facing the judge after his allegedly inadvertently “mailing out” a Google+ invitation to his ex. (This itself was the result of some speedy escalation. Gagnon’s ex took a printout of the invitation to the police who had him in custody less than ninety minutes later.)

What could have provoked this expeditious onslaught of small, personal calamities? Details are sparse, but the article signs off with these lines.

It’s not clear from court papers whether the ring has been returned to Gagnon.

A status hearing in the case is set for Feb. 6.

If Gagnon wants to stay on the good side of the law, he should probably just unplug from the internet. Plenty of social media services mine contact lists and are more than happy to mass mail out invitations with a single click of the “accept” button.

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Comments on “Google Plus Invite Results In Man's Arrest For Violating A Restraining Order”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I’ve long had a serious distrust of Google, Facebook, and Myspace to name a few. However unlike our troll, I rare say much about it. There is this thing that if you don’t like them you don’t have to use their services.

Free with this group comes with a hidden price I’m not willing to pay. Maybe some others are finding the price a bit steep as well.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“There is this thing that if you don’t like them you don’t have to use their services.”

Quite another matter when you are using someone else’s service (original YouTube for example), which is then “purchased” by Google, who then, after completely obliterating it’s usability, subsequently pulls the rug out from under one’s feet (whilst sliding a new one beneath) in furtherance of deceiving both advertisers and investors saying: “Look at how many Google+ users we have!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This is different, it used to be that if you didn’t like their service, then don’t use it.

Then suddenly, google started eating those services, and now it’s trying to unify them. I didn’t opt into Google+, I didn’t opt into gmail, or google docs. But I certainly own an account with all those things now.

Why? Because at one time, long ago, I made a youtube account. Now that information is available to google. Is that fair? Is that worth be forfeiting my rights because one giant entity ate another and now owns all of my stuff?

blaktron (profile) says:

I always thought when someone has a restraining order against you, it details that you cannot be within X feet physically, or directly contact the person. You can, however, use a 3rd party to contact that person (such as a lawyer, accountant etc) otherwise a restraining order would be a license to steal from someone. It seems to me that Google is a 3rd party, and as long as the Circles invite were a standard form (ie, he did not customize the invitation) it should be open and shut.

mischab1 says:

Messed up

Something is messed up. You don’t get an invite asking if you want to be added to someone else’s circle. They can add you if they want. You only get a choice on if you want to add them to one of your circles. Google does send you notices about what people in your contact list are doing on Google+ though.

Anonymous Coward says:

It happens

I can personally confirm that Google has sent false notices to me and a friend that each other had added each other to circles.

Neither I nor my friend added the other, yet we both received notice of having done so.

Hardly surprising, really, given G+ has been one big failure after another. The judge’s failure to recognize the possibility is not at all surprising either.

New Mexico Mark says:

My verdict? After about five seconds of "deliberation"?

To her: Put your big girl panties on, pay the court costs and his legal costs for wasting everyone’s time today, and don’t accept the invitation whether deliberate or not.

To him: Take a break from social media for a while. Maybe once this is all settled you can find another gold dig…er… marriage prospect to help relieve that uncomfortable bulge in your pants. (No, no, no, not THAT one! I mean your wallet!)

Anonymous Coward says:

“Whether or not Google+ attempted to widen Gagnon’s social circle by including a woman who had taken out a restraining order against him is still unclear.”

It should therefore be clarified in a court of law, but like every other branch of the government, Google believes it is above the law, unwilling to clarify anything at all for any reason whatsoever.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That’s a murky water, he never contacted her at all, a robot did it.

I’m sure this will become apparent in the court hearing, or not, because it seems the judge wants to avoid all technology and keep his head stuck in the ground, Maybe him and the judge that was caught texting the prosecution can get together sometime.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Also unplugging from the internet wouldn’t have helped him, Google has been doing this with other services as well. Some people who ‘liked’ a youtube video I made in 2008 now have most of their personal information available to me because they were suckered into putting their real info on their google+ account. I imagine real scammers and phishers are having a field day right now.

Sesquatch says:

no automatic invitations from Google+

There are two different things, which are mixed up here.

1. google never sends automatic invitations to put someone to your circles. It however proposes possible candidates to be included in your circles based on your emails (i think), or based on the number of common “friends”, people who appear in both of your circles.
This should not be considered an invitation from the other party (i.e. this case her ex), as it is not an invitation from the other person, rather an automatic suggestion for you to put someone in your circles (which can be anything, e.g. “most hated men on Earth”).
If this was the case, the lawsuit should be dropped, as the exgirlfriend only got an automatic suggestion from Google, based on common friends.

2. The ex-boyfriend might have put the ex-girlfriend into one of his circles. The ex-girlfriend in this case got an automatic report on this fact. Google then suggest, that she can also put him in one of her circles. Again, this is something totally different from Facebook. Putting someone into my circles does not mean anything. It can mean that i can share information in the future with her more easily (if I want). It can also mean that i created a circle where i put the craziest persons I ever known.
It does not imply however, that the other person needs to put me into her circles at all.
So – unsimilar to Facebook, where invitations for “friendship” are sent, putting someone into your circle does not mean you want to become their friends.

(of course if you put someone in your circle, by default you will receive updates on their PUBLIC activity, which is shared with the public)

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