Google has changed its terms of service in order to allow users’ recommendations and +1 actions to appear in ads
A change in Google’s terms of service will allow the company to display users’ images and recommendations in some of its advertisements in a practice that mirrors Facebook’s controversial Sponsored Stories ads.
Shared Endorsements are one-line reviews displayed beneath an advertisement or in other contexts, and include the user’s profile name and image. The feature is intended to display recommendations to people the user knows – such as their Google+ contacts – although reviews posted to sites such as YouTube, Zagat.com or Google Play are to be visible to the wider public.
The change, which takes effect on 11 November, means that whenever a user leaves a comment, follows or +1’s a page while logged in with their Google account, that content can be used in a Shared Endorsement.
“Your friends, family and others may see your Profile name and photo, and content like the reviews you share or the ads you +1’d,” Google said in a blog post. “This only happens when you take an action (things like +1’ing, commenting or following) – and the only people who see it are the people you’ve chosen to share that content with.”
Google said users may opt out of the feature by modifying their account’s Shared Endorsements setting. Users under 18 won’t be included in Shared Endorsements in advertisements and “certain other contexts”, according to Google.
The company also emphasised that the change doesn’t affect who the user shares content with.
“This update to our Terms of Service doesn’t change in any way who you’ve shared things with in the past or your ability to control who you want to share things with in the future,” Google stated.
Users’ Google+ contacts have already been able to see their +1 recommendations, but until now those recommendations haven’t appeared in ads.
Industry observers noted that Google’s policy change obliges users to take action if they don’t want to participate in the advertisements.
“It’s perhaps unsusprising, but a real shame, that Google didn’t encourage users to opt-in to this feature rather than requiring them to opt-out,” said security analyst Graham Cluley in a blog post.
The sharing of such information across all of Google’s services is made possible by the company’s move last year to combine all of its privacy policies into a single document. That change has riled regulators across Europe, and the company still faces possible sanctions from the European Commission over the matter.
Facebook has a similar advertising scheme, called Sponsored Stories, but unlike Google, it doesn’t allow users to opt out. In August a judge approved a £20m (£13m) settlement in a class action lawsuit that charged Facebook with violating users’ privacy through the use of their names and likenesses in Sponsored Stories.
Google is scheduled to report its third-quarter results on Thursday.
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Originally published on eWeek.