2013 10 11 NYT Daily Report: Google to Sell Users’ Endorsements – NYTimes.com

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/11/daily-report-google-to-sell-users-endorsements/?emc=edit_tnt_20131011&tntemail0=y

Daily Report: Google to Sell Users’ Endorsements

By THE NEW YORK TIMES

Google, following in Facebook’s footsteps, wants to sell users’ endorsements to marketers to help them hawk their wares, Claire Cain Miller and Vindu Goel report.

On Friday, Google announced an update to its terms of service that allows the company to include adult users’ names, photos and comments in ads shown across the Web, based on ratings, reviews and posts they have made on Google Plus and other Google services like YouTube.

When the new ad policy goes live Nov. 11, Google will be able to show what the company calls shared endorsements on Google sites and across the Web, on the more than 2 million sites in Google’s display advertising network, which are viewed by an estimated 1 billion people.

If a user follows a bakery on Google Plus or gives an album four stars on the Google Play music service, for instance, that person’s name, photo and endorsement could show up in ads for that bakery or album.

Such product endorsements, especially coming from friends and acquaintances, are a powerful lure to brands, replicating word-of-mouth marketing on a broad scale.

“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, a Forrester analyst, speaking generally about social ads.

But as Facebook has learned, many users have strong and skeptical feelings about their endorsements being used in ads without their explicit permission. 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.

Shared endorsements are the latest example of the continual push by Google and other Web companies to collate in one place the reams of personal information people share online and use it to personalize people’s online experiences.

Privacy advocates say companies do not generally get meaningful consent from their users before using such information.

“Users reasonably expect that their comments should be used as they intended,”said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which has tangled with numerous Internet companies, most recently Facebook, over the use of personal information in ads. “People don’t typically race around handing their friends leaflets and advertisements.”

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