October 31, 2014

Roundup: Google Updates Terms of Service So They Can Sell Endorsements from Adult Users

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From The Wall St. Journal:

Google updated its terms of service Friday to say that beginning Nov. 11 it has the right to sell adult users’ profile names, photos and comments in reviews and advertising.

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Here’s how its “shared endorsements” would work: If you rate a product on Google Play or give a product a +1 (the Google equivalent to Facebook’s “like”), those actions can be shown to your friends and connections. So if you gave a +1 to your favorite fashion retailer, your mom might see an advertisement from that retailer that says you like it. Google is drawing that information from your Google+ account (and you might have one, even if you don’t use it).

From The New York Times

Privacy advocates say companies do not generally get meaningful consent from their users before using such information.

“Users reasonably expect that their comments should be used as they intended,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which has tangled with numerous Internet companies, most recently Facebook, over the use of personal information in ads. “People don’t typically race around handing their friends leaflets and advertisements.”

From The Next Web:

As a user, you can choose whether or not this information is shown at all through the ‘shared endorsements’ setting. If you choose to turn it off, neither your name or photo will appear alongside Google’s ads. It’s worth stressing that this will be an opt-out feature though; a large number of users never read the terms of service and will probably be unaware of the changes.

From Marketing Land:

Not long ago Facebook paid $20 million to settle a class action lawsuit over its “Sponsored Stories” ads. Those are ads that show friends’ endorsements/Likes of companies or products. The litigation claimed that Facebook had misappropriated users’ likenesses and content without consent.

Google is taking pains to learn from the Facebook episode and trying to be more explicit about what it’s doing in advance with Shared Endorsements. Nonetheless the company is courting major controversy, negative publicity and another FTC investigation potentially (when the FTC reopens that is).

Direct to Updated Terms of Service (Effective November 11, 2013)

Direct to Summary of Changes

UPDATE: How To Opt Out Of Google’s Plan To Sell Your Endorsements To Advertisers

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Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.