Google (GOOG) is tinkering with the ever-delicate balance between selling advertisements and creeping its users out. On Friday the company said it would begin including recommendations that Google+ users make in advertisements. The new policy kicks in on Nov. 11.
Here’s how it works: You use Google+ to rate some product or service. It turns out the company behind that product wants to advertise on Google. When the company purchases an ad, your friends will see a version that includes your photo along with what you said about the product.
If this all sounds familiar, that’s because critics have been up in arms about a similar advertising scheme from Facebook (FB) called sponsored stories. The ads resulted in a class-action lawsuit, and the social network eventually had to pay a $20 million settlement and clarify its privacy settings. Inevitably, the clarification provoked another round of outrage.
Google’s plans clearly demonstrate what we have been saying for a long time: Google’s offerings are not really free. If you use Google offerings, you are the product. And if you accept Google’s defaults, your privacy gets disregarded whenever Google cooks up a new scheme for making money.
In this case, people who have signed up for Google+ but didn’t uncheck a certain box are going to be automatically enrolled in Google’s new advertising program. It’s opt-out, of course, because if it wasn’t, probably not many people would opt in. Google uses defaults to its advantages to wage its war on user privacy, and has done so remarkably well.
The New York Times has a smart, sassy take on this news… Google to Sell Users’ Endorsements:
Google on Friday announced that it would soon be able to show users’ names, photos, ratings and comments in ads across the Web, endorsing marketers’ products. Facebook already runs similar endorsement ads. But on Thursday it, too, took a step to show personal information more broadly by changing its search settings to make it harder for users to hide from other people trying to find them on the social network.
Those who don’t like the idea of being used as pawns by Google to make Internet advertising even more lucrative should leave Google behind. We’re here to help. Take a look around this site and begin making plans to break up with the Monster of Mountain View.