30 October 2013

Google will allow its advertisers to use your image and comments in ads for their products, via a new feature called Shared Endorsements. This change raises privacy concerns for some people, and if you use Google Plus, the company's competitor to Facebook, you need to understand these changes.

From November 11, the names, images and comments of Google Plus users will be available to Google advertisers for incorporation into the advertisements that appear when users run searches on the site. The changes are reflected in new Terms of Service that are understood to be accepted whenever you use Google services.

Google's business is built on advertising, and this move is designed to boost the perceived legitimacy of advertisers' products by implying an endorsement from people you are already connected to on Google Plus.

An example of these ads can be seen here.

For example, if you search Google for a Thai restaurant you might be shown an ad including a friend's name, face, and their review of a local Thai restaurant. Similarly, someone searching for a particular music band might be told about a song that you have liked, with your face and your review used in the search results to convince you to buy the song too.

The service applies to Google Plus subscribers only and will not use the images of users under 18. Other technical conditions may also apply.

If you are a Google Plus user and are concerned about the use of your name and image for this purpose, Shared Endorsements can be disabled using the following steps:

  • Sign into your Google account.
  • Go to the Shared Endorsements setting page.
  • Untick the option that says 'Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads.'
  • Click the Save button to apply your new settings.

While many users may find great value in the recommendations that Google's search provides, you may prefer that your identity is not used in this way.

If you are a Google Plus user, we advise you to check your Shared Endorsements.

More information

Google explains the Shared Endorsements concept.

Updated Google Terms of Service outlining the new feature.

Sophos advises how to remove your face from the ads.

The information provided here is of a general nature. Everyone's circumstances are different. If you require specific advice you should contact your local technical support provider.

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Disclaimer

This information has been prepared by Enex TestLab for the Department of Communications ('the Department'). It was accurate and up to date at the time of publishing.

This information is general information only and is intended for use by private individuals and small to medium sized businesses. If you are concerned about a specific cyber security issue you should seek professional advice.

The Commonwealth, Enex TestLab, and all other persons associated with this advisory accept no liability for any damage, loss or expense incurred as a result of the provision of this information, whether by way of negligence or otherwise.

Nothing in this information (including the listing of a person or organisation or links to other web sites) should be taken as an endorsement of a particular product or service.

Please note that third party views or recommendations included in this information do not reflect the views of the Commonwealth, or indicate its commitment to a particular course of action. The Commonwealth also cannot verify the accuracy of any third party material included in this information.

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