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"We will respect the choices you make to limit sharing or visibility settings in your Google Account."
Google moved forward with its plans to personalize ads with users faces this week. If that's something that sounds a bit unsavory to you, you can make sure you've opted out so your friends don't start seeing your likeness pop up in ads as you're browsing around on Google products.
In a move the tech giant announced last month, Google revealed that "endorsements" could associate user names and profile pictures with recommendations made in a shopping context, like those made in the Google Play store.
"Don’t worry, your account’s privacy settings are not affected," Google stated. "You get to decide whether you want your name and photo included in shared endorsements that appear in ads through the Shared Endorsements setting. And for users under 18, their actions won’t appear in Shared Endorsements in ads and certain other contexts."
What Google's shared endorsements with someone's profile picture might look like. (Image source: Google)
Here's a step-by-step from Google to turn the use of one's photo and name on or off:
- Sign into your Google account. If you came to this page while still creating your account, finish that process first, then come back here.
- Go to the Shared Endorsements setting page. If you are not already a Google+ user, you will be asked to upgrade your account.
- To allow people to see your name and photo in shared endorsements appearing in ads, check the box next to “Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads.” Then, click the “Save” button to save your new setting.
- If you’d like to disable this setting, just uncheck the box and click “Save.” Remember, unchecking the box means that Google won’t be able to share your recommendations with your friends in some cases where they might otherwise see and benefit from them.
Earlier this year, Google changed its terms of service to accommodate this shared endorsements feature.
"If you have a Google Account, we may display your Profile name, Profile photo, and actions you take on Google or on third-party applications connected to your Google Account (such as +1’s, reviews you write and comments you post) in our Services, including displaying in ads and other commercial contexts," the terms of service state. "We will respect the choices you make to limit sharing or visibility settings in your Google Account. For example, you can choose your settings so your name and photo do not appear in an ad."
Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told The Wall Street Journal that he didn't think the use of people's profile photos in this context was lawful.
"It's a commercial endorsement without consent and that is not permissible in most states in the U.S," Rotenberg said.
But Gigaom pointed at at the time of Google's original announcement that it's not only lawful, but Facebook, you might remember, does it too:
The key word here is “permission.” You gave those companies permission when you signed up and agreed to their terms of service.
The terms of service for Facebook, Google and other internet companies include a clause that give them the right to modify their terms from time to time. When you receive an “update,” that’s what is happening — the companies are letting you know the rules have changed and, if you don’t like it, you can quit.
It’s true that Facebook had to pay $20 million over Sponsored Stories — but that’s because they went ahead without updating their terms first.
In short, if you don't like the idea of participating in Google's shared endorsements, make sure the box at the bottom of Google's settings page is not checked. Otherwise, "learn to live with being a product spokesperson," as Gigaom's Jeff John Roberts put it.
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