Outlook Calendar for Reclaim is almost here! Join the waitlist
< Productivity Glossary
Calendar Privacy

Calendar event privacy: private & public

As we rely on platforms like Google Calendar and Outlook, understanding and using privacy settings is crucial for maintaining a balance between sharing relevant information and protecting sensitive details.

Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar, and other major calendar platforms typically offer two layers of privacy for events: private and public.

  • Private events: These events are visible to others as busy, without revealing specific details such as attendees, descriptions, or titles. They simply know that there's an event on your calendar, and that’s it.
  • Public events: In contrast, public events display all details (even those without explicit access to view your calendar details), including titles, attendees, and descriptions. While useful for open and collaborative scheduling, it requires careful consideration to avoid unintentional exposure of sensitive information.

The privacy settings on your calendar are really important to internalize because they can result in embarrassment if not used properly. 

For example, if you have an event on your calendar called “Discuss layoffs” or “Acquire Acme Corp Discussion,” and it is marked as public, it may be visible to those who shouldn’t see it.

But if all your events are marked as private, it makes it difficult for people to see what you're working on. This is valuable context to help you defend or negotiate times on your calendar asynchronously.

Calendar privacy settings

Beyond the privacy of calendar events themselves, calendars also have broader privacy settings that control who can access and view your calendar. These settings include:

  1. Make available for public: This option makes your calendar visible to the entire world, but is not enabled by default. It's recommended only when necessary for sharing your calendar with individuals on different platforms.
  2. Make available for (Organization): This setting allows your calendar to be visible to others within your organization. Sub-settings within this option determine what information people can see by default.
  • See only free/busy (hide details): Shows when your calendar is busy without revealing event details.
  • See all event details: Provides details for all events except those marked as private.
  • Make changes to events: Allows adding, editing, and managing events.
  • Make changes & manage sharing: Grants additional privileges to change sharing settings and permanently delete the calendar.

Lastly, you can override calendar privacy settings for a single user, or for a set of users. This is useful if you don’t want people to see details of events, but you want some of your teammates (or closer colleagues) to see more details, or even be able to edit or make changes to your events.

When do people see events based on event privacy?

People will see events based on their privacy settings when using Google's Find a Time feature. If they have the necessary permissions to view event details, those details will be visible to them. 

Conversely, if they don’t have the required permissions, the details will remain hidden.

Also, individuals will have visibility of events if they explicitly toggle on a shared calendar. For instance, if someone has shared their calendar with others, and those individuals toggle the shared calendar on in the left-hand navigation, they will be able to see the associated events.

Challenges with Google's privacy settings

While Google Calendar's privacy settings are fairly comprehensive, they have limitations. They are kind of all-or-nothing. It’s hard to convey a sufficient amount of context to someone if all they see is busy, but it can also be dangerous to show everyone all the details of your stuff for obvious reasons. 

Also, the visibility granted to IT admins and super admins into shared calendars may raise concerns about unintentional exposure of personal information. If you share your personal calendar with your work account, for example, you may find that certain admins can see the details when you don’t want them to.

Increasing your calendar privacy through smart events

To address these challenges, platforms like Reclaim offer increased flexibility in managing privacy. For example, you can use Calendar Sync to block events from your personal calendar without showing all details, and can instead have them show as “Personal Commitment” to your colleagues. And you can actually create a firewall between your work and personal schedule, because to use Calendar Sync, you don’t have to share your personal calendar with work – you can just sync it from its native Google account.

Similarly, Reclaim automatically toggles privacy for things like Habits and Tasks by ensuring that free events are always marked private, which means that when people view your calendar in any forum, they won’t see those times as blocked and also won’t see the details. Once the event is marked busy, Reclaim flips the privacy to use your default calendar settings so that you can convey context to your coworkers.

Ready for an AI calendar?

Auto-schedule your tasks, habits, breaks, & meetings on Google Calendar.

Start scheduling →

It's free! 🎉