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Google Using User Endorsements To Advertise, Here’s How To Stop It

google-glasses-head

You may not know it, but Google is going to start using your name and product recommendations to advertise to your friends:

You’re considering buying a new pair of tube socks. A quick Google search pulls up some sock ads and below one of them you see your pal Kimberly’s face next to a four-star review she’s left for Sal’s Sock Emporium. “Great deals on super soft socks, and so many fun colors!”

Google is betting that this type of personal recommendation from a friend will make people more likely to click on an ad.

Starting November 11, Google will be able to include Google+ users’ faces, names and comments in ads. The content will be pulled from reviews they’ve made on Google+ or other tied-in Google services like YouTube or Google Play. The company updated its terms of service on Friday to include the new language allowing these “shared endorsements.”

The adver-dorsements won’t just appear on regular Google searches. Google ads are a sprawling business and a person’s face could show up on any of the 2 million sites that are part of the Google ad network.

Here’s how to avoid it:

If you don’t want your face popping up in ads, it’s easy to opt out. There is a settings page for Google+ accounts called Shared Endorsements. It explains exactly how the program works. Read through and if you’re still uncomfortable with the idea, uncheck the box next to “Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads.”

You will still see familiar faces in ads, but your mug should no longer appear in other peoples’ searches. If you hit +1 for a site, people in your network will still be able to see that you’ve liked it, which is not a new feature.

If you are really determined not to show up anywhere, just don’t hit +1 or leave reviews on Google products or in the Google Play store.

In case you missed it above, here’s the link to change settings, the appropriate box to un-check is near the bottom of the page. Already done on this end.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Thanks for that Doug. Done and done.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. Todd says:

    If I’ve gone to the trouble to write a review about something (even if just on my G+ page), why wouldn’t I want my friends to be able to see it if they’re thinking about making a similar purchase?

    Is the objection that Google is making money from this?

    Here’s the thing that too many people tend to forget about services like Google+, Facebook and Twitter …

    If something on the Internet is “free”, there’s an extremely good chance that you, the user, are the product, not the customer.

    If you’re concerned about “privacy”, it’s really simple, don’t put your information on the Internet … especially on the “free” sites.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  3. James Pearce says:

    I don’t think I have any friends on Google+ but I like opting out of things.

    It’s creepy enough that I keep seeing ads for things I’ve searched for. I suppose they think this is a great info age service, targeting ads so directly, but say I was searching for a new back door….which I was, thank you, 1000 year Colorado rains….and not only do I procure this particular back door and already have it installed…what good comes from then showing me ads about doors?

    They’re not reading my mind. They’re retracing my steps.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. Todd says:

    @James Pearce:

    It’s creepy enough that I keep seeing ads for things I’ve searched for.

    As much as I don’t personally stress about the privacy stuff, I did have a weird ad experience a couple of weeks back.

    My supervisor at work got a new assignment, so as a parting gift, he’d bought a few of us 6-packs of various types of beer. That night, as I was drinking it, I posted a picture to Instagram and Facebook. But I never typed anything about what type of beer it was. About an hour later, I was watching a video clip on the Daily Show website; when the video ended, there was an ad for a slightly different flavor from the exact same brand of beer (Newcastle Brown Ale).

    That was just a bit too “coincidental” to have been merely a coincidence. :-)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. michael reynolds says:

    @Todd:

    I don’t want people knowing what I buy. It’s as simple as that. Frankly it turns me off the idea of using Amazon at all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. Todd says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I completely understand. And actually your Amazon comment is exactly what i was talking about. There’s a tradeoff to doing anything online (actually anywhere in today’s world). If privacy is more important to a person than whatever benefits they might derive from a product or service, they should choose not to use it.

    Reading the article though, I think this is talking about sharing reviews that you’ve written … not necessarily your purchase information. On that count, I’d be totally onboard with calling it a bridge too far. I should have to knowingly “opt-in’ for just the fact that I’ve purchased something to be shared. However, if I go to the website and “rate” or “review” the product/service that I’ve purchased, to me that is the equivalent of opting-in to public sharing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. PJ says:

    @Todd:

    If I’ve gone to the trouble to write a review about something (even if just on my G+ page), why wouldn’t I want my friends to be able to see it if they’re thinking about making a similar purchase?

    While I agree with your point in general, I guess an issue here would be that Google doesn’t allow G+ accounts that’s not using your real name and people may then forget that likes and reviews are all made under their real names.

    There may also be an issue with who will see your recommendations. Friends? Neighbors? Parents? People from work? etc.

    And there’s also the difference between being able to search a person’s name and find information about him/her vs. being given it when you search for something else.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. Rafer Janders says:

    @Todd:

    However, if I go to the website and “rate” or “review” the product/service that I’ve purchased, to me that is the equivalent of opting-in to public sharing.

    See, to me, that’s not. Similarly, me telling a friend I really like, say, Johnny Walker Black is not the same as me standing on a street corner with a megaphone yelling “I REALLY LIKE JOHNNY WALKER BLACK!” If I didn’t know my face and name was going to be used in a public advertisement, then it’s not the equivalent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. Ernieyeball says:

    @michael reynolds: I don’t want people knowing what I buy.

    So you wear a disguise when you go to the grocery store?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  10. Todd says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Again, to me, there’s a simple solution to this; no privacy toggle button required. If you don’t want other people to know about your purchase, don’t rate or review it. Again, if they’re sharing, without your explicit permission, just the fact that you’ve purchased something, I’m onboard with the protest; that’s bullshit. But nobody is forcing you to click that star icon, or write down your thoughts about Johnny Walker Black.

    @PJ:

    This sounds more like a “why do you feel you need an anonymous account?” problem. I personally appreciate the fact that Google+ requires people to use their real names. How useful is a review if it’s given by someone who won’t even reveal who they are?

    As for this:

    There may also be an issue with who will see your recommendations. Friends? Neighbors? Parents? People from work? etc.

    Even if you think you’re being “careful”, just about anything you do on the Internet has the potential to eventually become public. I think people really should apply the “mom” rule to most things they do online … if you wouldn’t want your mom to know about it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it … even anonymously. p.s. not being self-righteous, as I have been known to violate this rule myself from time to time. ;)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. PJ says:

    @Todd:

    I personally appreciate the fact that Google+ requires people to use their real names. How useful is a review if it’s given by someone who won’t even reveal who they are?

    There are a number of commenters on OTB who are using, what I assume, are their real names, and for a subset of those it’s pretty clear that they are the person in question and that they aren’t using a fake “real name”. I don’t think their comments are more useful than those made by those not using their real name.

    Again, I see a clear difference between someone searching for a certain person and finding out that that person likes X and being told when searching for X that that a certain person liked it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  12. michael reynolds says:

    @Ernieyeball:

    I don’t consider leather chaps, a fringed vest and a sombrero to be “a disguise.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  13. Tylerh says:

    For those of us of a certain age and background, a more obvious solution jumps to mind:

    Use GoatSe for your user pictures.

    And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, be glad. Be very, very glad.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  14. rodney dill says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I don’t consider leather chaps, a fringed vest and a sombrero to be “a disguise.”

    No, but it would make a unique caption contest.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0