Don’t we all just ignore it when a website informs us of updating its new Terms of Service? We assume it’s something irrelevant or boring when it might actually be a really important issue. When that website is Google, a website that we use daily and for the simplest of things like searching for the meaning of a word or getting the latest news on Miley Cyrus, or that we use for major stuff like locating a certain place on a map, one has to stop and read. In their newest update, Google Terms of Service highlighted a new feature titled: Shared Endorsements in Ads setting. This setting allows your name, reviews and profile picture to be used as ads in any of the websites that are part of Google’s display advertising network.
This means that whenever you like a video on YouTube, star-rate a restaurant or +1 a page, your info could be used as relevant ads as the so-called “shared endorsements”. Shared endorsements are small, one-line reviews that are shared underneath an ad or a search result for a bakery that you reviewed or a song that you +1’d. The endorsement appears as your name, profile picture along with the review or +1 that you made, and you can control whether you want your name and picture displayed in the endorsement or not through the “Shared Endorsements setting”.
According to Google, your endorsement will only appear with people you choose to share your information with and you can control your sharing preferences through your privacy settings. You can only opt-out of this setting to a limited extent, you can uncheck your endorsement from being viewed with the public but still your information will be visible to your tight group of circles. The company also mentioned that new advertising policy would apply only to the 390 million people who have signed up for Google Plus social network and that it will automatically exclude data of people under the age of 18. Farewell, internet privacy. But hold on, was there even such a thing?
This change in Google is not the first of its kind. It is in fact a part of an emerging trend on the Internet. Advertisers have found that consumers mostly confide in reviews, ratings and recommendations given by a friend or family member. Haven’t we all liked a page or tried a certain restaurant just because we saw an ad for it on the Facebook’s “sponsored stories” on our newsfeed? Web companies are taking the social advertising experience to a whole new level, the “word-of-mouth” era. But is that on expense of our privacy?
Critics argue that the greed of advertisers has exploited our internet surfing experience. New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum tweeted:
“This is despicable and makes me hate Google.”
When people signed up for Google, they didn’t intend for their +1s and shares to go public, displayed in front of strangers. Now the minimal move could be tracked back to the person who posted it, and people would become more careful before +1-ing anything or writing a review because you may not know how it would wind up on the internet and who would view it.
But still, according to other critics, a lot of people love having their reviews and their recommendations out there. They feel like they are making a change by influencing others whether this song is any good, or if that local bakery store actually sells fresh bagels. Jules Polonetsky, executive director of the Future of Privacy Forum mentioned that those who are bothered by the new setting could simply opt-out and praised Google for announcing its privacy setting change one month in advance.
For or against being the new face for Google ad, it is still a small world and through our changing internet experiences it has become even smaller.
Written by: Jaylan Salah