Gmail messagingA forthcoming new feature for Gmail will allow users to send messages to other Gmail users without having to use their email address. The move has drawn concerns from some, who believe the ability to communicate directly with people on Gmail without being granted express permission to do so is in danger of violating privacy laws.

The new feature will work for anyone with a Gmail or Google+ account. The web giant has attempted to allay privacy concerns by stating that the direct messaging system will simply enable friends to stay in contact with each other more easily.

When the messaging system is introduced, Gmail users will begin to see their Google+ connections appear when they begin typing in the ‘To’ field of new messages. No prior knowledge of the person’s email address is required; if they’re on Google+ and a connection exists, the user can send them a message.

On Google’s blog, product manager David Nachum said the feature would make it “easier for people using Gmail and Google+ to connect over email”. Nachum also highlighted that user email addresses would not be visible to Google+ connections until the original message is replied to.

As you would expect, users can disable the direct messaging option entirely, or alternatively only allow those in their Google+ ‘circles’ to be able to contact them. The default setting is for it to be turned on, however, which sparked the concerns.

Gmail users will be alerted about the introduction of the new setting in the next few days.