Facebook isn't the only company that's tweaking its privacy policies this week. Google has just announced new Terms of Service that will enable advertisers to display user names, photos and comments made about a products or services on any Google site, including Google Plus and YouTube. Users make the recommendation, and advertisers will reap the rewards.
The new policy, which goes live on Nov. 11, affects what Google calls "shared endorsements," which uses comments or ratings an adult user may have made about a business as feedback within the business' ads on the Google display ad network. This new policy expands on an earlier program that displays a user's +1s in display ads.
This latest attempt to monetize content on the Google networks is being promoted by Google as a way to create friend-based recommendations that will be far more effective than the comments of anonymous strangers. You would be more likely to accept a restaurant recommendation from a friend or associate than a total stranger.
To its credit, Google is emphasizing that users can control who would see their +1s, comments or ratings, using the Shared Endorsements settings.
"If you previously told Google that you did not want your +1’s to appear in ads, then of course we’ll continue to respect that choice as a part of this updated setting. For users under 18, their actions won’t appear in shared endorsements in ads and certain other contexts," the announcement indicated.
That first statement seems to be true; my own account's setting had shared endorsements turned off already, which is in line with what my preferences were for sharing any +1s I may have made.
Users who have not taken steps already to control the sharing of their recommendations on Google, may want to take the time to evaluate their privacy comfort zones. Once Nov. 11 rolls around, it won't be just their +1s that get shared, but their likenesses and names.
Shared endorsements are a natural evolution from Google's continued insistence that identities on its online services be real. Real peoples' recommendations are far more valuable to advertisers and Google than anonymous ones.
But that value is only collected by the advertiser and Google—certainly not the end user who made the recommendation in the first place. They won't get any cut of the money that changes hands or from the potentially increased sales stemming from such shared endorsements.
For years, Facebook, Google and other social media platforms have made their money off of user-generated content. This is just social media figuring out how to make money even faster and more explicitly and calling it "helpful."
Image courtesy of Reuters/Stephen Lam.