Google: Do as we say, not as we do (Social Endorsements via @btabke)


Google introduced their social-empowered ads that would place users' photos and names below the ad. Sounds much like Facebook sponsored stories that have always caused lots of privacy-related discussions...

When the new ad policy goes live on 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 two million sites in Google’s display advertising network, which are viewed by an estimated one billion people

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


... but the default is that you're opted in for this. ...

Of course it wouldn't have any traction if the default was that you're opted out.  Who in their right minds would opt-in to a process like this.

Google has handled this much better than Facebook did

It's a separate debate about whether doing this sort of thing is good, wise, ethical, fattening or whatever. But let's be clear about one thing:


Google+ learned from Facebook's mistakes in how it handles privacy updates of this type.


Over the past two days, users of Google+ have been informed in no less than three different ways about the change, what it does and doesn't mean, and how they can opt in or out of it.


Since yesterday, I have seen:


  1. An email from Google+
  2. A blue bar at the top of the screen when I log in to Google about the change, with "Learn more" and "Change settings" links
  3. A notification in my Google+ notifications about the change and my options.


Again, even if you don't like that they are doing this associating people with ads thing, you hae to admit they are handling it proactively and transparently with users.

Google Is Pushing Shared Endorsements On Everyone ...

Mark, I profoundly disagree with your apparent support of Google's approach to Shared Endorsements.

The usual approach would be that the default choice is what most people would want.  Google should have made the default choice of not accepting Shared Endorsements.  Only those who wanted it would then actively accept.  Google knew that would result in probably zero acceptances.  So they force you to opt out, otherwise you're in.

Your defence of their proactivity I also find a trifle thin.  They announce just prior to a long weekend in the USA and Canada so probably few would have the time to explore this and take a rational choice. Many may blindly go along with Google's approach here.  After all, isn't their motto, Do No Evil.

In this case, it is blatant commercialism to maximise ad revenues that is Google's motivation and intent.

Thanks for our pushback

Thanks for our pushback bwelford. I, of course ;-) have some responses:


It's important to understand that this is a change to the Google+ Terms of Service (TOS) that will take place, not this weekend, but on November 11. By definition, when the TOS of a site changes, you are "opted in" to that change. It is the duty of any platform to inform you that their TOS has changed. It is not their duty to give you an opportunity to opt out of a particular change in the TOS. That's what is being done, in my opinion, above and beyond the average here. 


Facebook has notoriously made changes like this (as a matter of fact, almost exactly this same change, showing user's "likes" in association with ads) with little or no advance notice to users, and no clear instructions on how to opt out. In this case, Google has alerted users to the change, provided full disclosure on what it means, and made an easy and accessible way to opt out. Compared to Facebook, the larges social network on the web, I call that "above and beyond" behavior and applaud them for it.


Therefore, I maintain that it is prejudicial and unfair language to say that Google+ is "forcing" you to have to opt out. They are providing you an opportunity to opt out, which once again, is far more than Facebook does.


Your objection about the timing of the annoncement is also irrelevant. First, as mentoned above, the change isn't happening this weekend but rather on November 11, meaning the announcement is weeks in advance. Furthermore, the notifications show up when the user next logs in to his/her Google account. Even if they don't log in again until after November 11, they still a) had the email notification in their email inbox and b) could still opt out at that point.


And as for "blatant commercialism"? Hello, were you not aware Google is a for-profit business? Did you think Google+ was being operated as a public service? Do you not watch "free" network television because, you know, they show those ads, and that's just "blatant commercialism" right?

Which is the better default choice - opt-in or opt-out ...

Mark, I'm sure we'll agree to differ on this, but I still think Google had a choice on the default: either opt-out (the default they chose) or opt-in.  I'm convinced that if they had chosen opt-in as the default, then few would have chosen it (even if they saw the 'memo').


My default was to opt-out if I wished.  However a TechCrunch article suggested that some were served up the opt-in default.

I'll have to agree with bwelford

I love Mark but sometimes he is too pro-Google :)

In the same blue "Update" they were showing all over the place, Google could have forced you to opt in / out right away and keep that choice to you... That would be the right way to handle that

Yes, they had a lot to learn from FB (not that that's making them better, that's just making them non-innovators) but they had to sacrifice on fairness and risk hoping to have more adopters..

Sounds much like Google :) And I still use it to search :)

Avoid lawsuits

The primary reason Google displayed an opt out option is probably because they didn't want to lose the same kind of lawsuit Facebook did >>




I wonder if they showed "opt-in" to people who have "talked about" privacy issues. I got the "opt-in" setting, but I've posted about privacy issues on Google+ using the #privacy hashtag. Google is reading emails and social media posts, and they have the capability to do that. I've also written about privacy issues on my blogs that are linked to me through Google authorship.

That would be too sneaky even

That would be too sneaky even for them :)


I'm pretty sure that it is something that Google would do. They have the software to do it, since they are already scanning everything that people are posting online in order to serve ads. They saw what happened to Facebook, so they are being very careful. :)


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