Google updates terms of service -- can use your online activity for advertisements

As Google's involvement in our lives increases, monitoring any and all changes in the terms of service becomes important. For the most part, I am guilty of not reading long terms and conditions and other small print. I tend to base my trust in a company on experience. Largely, my experience with Google has been very good. However, since the company was named in the PRSIM scandal, I have been a bit less trusting of not only Google but online services overall.

Today, Google updated its terms of service and, by and large, it is innocuous. However, one aspect of it has given me a reason to pause, and I warn you to do the same. You see, Google plans to use your online activity to target advertisements at your Google+ circles. For example, lets say you use Google+ to like a product online with a +1. Google can then share your endorsement with your friends, family and co-workers. The search-giant calls this "shared endorsements".

Google explains this by saying "we want to give you -- and your friends and connections -- the most useful information. Recommendations from people you know can really help. So your friends, family and others may see your Profile name and photo, and content like the reviews you share or the ads you +1'd. This only happens when you take an action (things like +1'ing, commenting or following) -- and the only people who see it are the people you've chosen to share that content with".

The company lists the following things to quell concerns:

  • You're in control: Your content is only shared when you choose, and shared endorsements don't impact who can see your content or activity.
  • To help your friends and others find cool stuff online, your activity (such as reviews, +1s, follows, shares, etc.) may be used along with your name and photo in commercial or other promotional contexts.
  • When it comes to shared endorsements in ads, you can choose whether your name and photo may be used to help your friends find stuff you love (and avoid stuff you don't) -- you can control this with the setting at the bottom of this page.
  • The name and photo shown in shared endorsements are the public profile name and photo you have chosen on Google+.

Does this sound creepy to you? At first, I did feel a little creepy. The idea of a friend or coworker being told that I endorse a product, just did not sit well from a security perspective. However, I then realized that the online activity Google would be using is public. And so, it became less of a security issue and more of a financial one. If the search giant will be making money off of my endorsements, where is my share? Surely spokespeople deserve compensation.

Thankfully, if you are unhappy with this change, you can opt-out here.


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