Social endorsements are coming to Google, starting November 11th, 2013.

Similar to what Facebook has been doing for some time, Google’s social endorsements show users’ names, photos, ratings, and comments in ads across the web, endorsing a marketer’s product. On Friday, October 11th, Google announced this update in their new terms of service.

Unlike Facebook’s privacy settings, fortunately users are able to opt out of Google’s Shared Endorsements, by changing their Google+ settings. An article written by Claire Miller & Vindu Goel of the New York Times explains the change in detail:

Privacy Concerns

On Thursday [Facebook], too, took a step to show personal information more broadly by changing its search settings to make it harder for users to hide from other people trying to find them on the social network.

Both companies characterized these changes as minor updates. They are, though, the latest example of the continual push by Web companies to collate the reams of personal information shared online in the chase for profits. As Twitter prepares to go public and faces pressures to become profitable, it too will increasingly need to figure out how to make money from the information it collects.

Google and Facebook say that with the most recent changes, they are trying to offer users more comprehensive and personalized services. The problem, privacy advocates say, is when Web companies use or display the personal information of users in ways the authors did not expect when they originally posted it.

“People expect when they give information, it’s for a single use, the obvious one,” said Dr. Deborah C. Peel, a psychoanalyst and founder of Patient Privacy Rights, an advocacy group. “That’s why the widening of something you place online makes people unhappy. It feels to them like a breach, a boundary violation.”

“We set our own boundaries,” she added. “We don’t want them set by the government or Google or Facebook.”

Google said it would give users the chance to opt out of being included in the new endorsements, and people under the age of 18 will automatically be excluded

What Advertisers should know about Google’s Social Endorsements

Many users, though, have strong and skeptical feelings about their endorsements being used in ads without their explicit permission. Facebook learned this the hard way when it was sued in a class action by users who claimed the company had not adequately notified them about how it was using endorsements.

“The trick to any advertising like this is to avoid coming across as creepy to your user base and have them say, ‘I didn’t want anyone else to know that,’ ” said Zachary Reiss-Davis, an analyst at Forrester Research.

If a Google Plus user has shared comments with a limited set of people, only people in that circle will see the personalized ads. Ratings and reviews on services like Google Plus Local are automatically public and can be used in ads, unless a user opts out of shared endorsements.

The Social Advertisement Market

Though Google Plus has significantly fewer users than Facebook — 190 million users post on Google Plus and 390 million use it indirectly by sharing on other Google sites, compared with 1.2 billion users on Facebook — Google’s variety of services and broad ad network gives it a potentially wider reach.

Facebook has been aggressively marketing social endorsements, which it calls sponsored stories. For example, if you post that you love McDonald’s new Mighty Wings on the chain’s Facebook page, McDonald’s could pay Facebook to broadcast your kind words to all your friends.

Facebook does not allow its users to opt out of such ads, although users can limit how their actions on the social network are used in some other types of ads.

Twitter also enables advertisers to show public tweets in their ads, but requires advertisers to get the permission of the original author of a message before using it in an ad.

Google, which is under the supervision of the F.T.C. for a previous social networking privacy violation and faces privacy audits and fines for privacy misrepresentations, is taking pains to show that it has considered the privacy implications of the new ads. For instance, it will notify users of the change with banners on Google’s home page, in search results, in Google Plus notifications and elsewhere.

Read the full article here.


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