Google Ads…Starring You!

On November 11, 1918, the four long years of industrial slaughter that were the First World War finally ended (sort of) as an armistice went into effect.

The repercussions of the First World War were so Earth-shattering that we live with them still today: deeply altered national identities, continuing instability in the Balkans…Google.

Ok, maybe Google wasn’t a direct consequence of World War I, but regardless, on November 11 of this year, Google plans on putting you in its ads.

google ads user info

What a way to honor unimaginable suffering this Veterans’ Day, right, Google?

We shouldn’t be surprised, though. Google has a history of scheduling announcements and events on days meant for remembrance and meaningful reassessment: Penguin was announced on April 24, the same day as the Easter Rising in Ireland in 1916. Google’s IPO took place on August 19, the same day as the disastrous Dieppe raid during World War II. Even Google’s birthday that they chose for themselves—September 27—is the very day that in 1529 saw the beginning of the Siege of Vienna by the Ottomans.

Coincidence?

…Yeah, probably. As unlikely as it may seem, all of those facts above are, in fact, facts. Not least of which, as you may have noticed, is the one about Google starting to put people’s faces and names on ads.

If you’re worried by this, you have a right to be. The good news is, however, twofold:

  1. 1. First, the only people affected are Google users. So if you don’t have a Google+ account (which you do have if you’ve registered with Gmail, by the way), you can stop reading.
  2. 2. Second, you can opt out very easily. If you have a Google account and have logged in during the past week or so, you may have seen an alert at the top of your screen about changes to Google’s terms of service. If you clicked on this and read the term—

Who am I kidding? You didn’t read the terms of service, and neither did I until just now. So let’s cut to the chase.

Here’s what it is

This change makes it so your name and picture can appear on ads for businesses or products (not paid for by Google) that you’ve somehow “endorsed.” This endorsement can either be through a review on Google (all of which now must be publicly visible), a “+1” on Google+, and even follows or shares on Google+.

The idea is innocent enough: if you see that one of your friends on Google+ (if you’re active on Google+, that is) has positively endorsed a business in an ad, you will be more likely to trust that ad. Therefore, ads will become more attractive and valuable, potentially increasing Google’s cash flow from its current level at “Scrooge McDuck” all the way to “Louis XVI.”

One tiny issue, however, is that you won’t see any of this extra money by appearing on ads.

Google on exploitation: "It's good to be the king."

Google on exploitation: “It’s good to be the king.”

To be clear, this isn’t the end of the world in terms of privacy or exploitation, nor is it one of the shadiest things Google has done. Not only can you opt out of this one, but you can also change the settings so not everyone will potentially see your mug on an ad. This can (and probably will) change at some point, but for now it’s not that big of a deal. Think of having to even worry about it as a cost of using Google’s services. Does that help? Maybe just a little?

And here’s how to opt out

  1. 1. Log into your Google account.
  2. 2. Click on this link: http://plus.google.com/settings/endorsements?hl=en
    1. (Or, Click on your picture at the top-right, click “Account,” and click “Google+” on the left-hand side.)
  3. 3. Find “Shared Endorsements” near the top.
  4. 4. Edit so the word next to it reads “Off.” (Mine was “off” already.)
  5. 5. Exhale.

Now you may be asking, “but I want to have my face and name on ads for things I ‘endorse’ with my Google+ account!”

Well, um, I guess that’s your prerogative. In that case, follow the same steps as above, only check the correct box to make “Shared Endorsements” “On.”

We could debate the ethics of this move ad nauseam, but today I’ll let you make up your own mind. Just follow my example and stick with the facts.