A couple of years back, Facebook changed their terms of service that allowed your images to start appearing in contextual advertisements offered across the social network. More recently, they announced plans to remove a feature that allows people to prevent their names being found in search results. This means that those using Facebook can now be found by strangers (or by past friends, lovers, enemies) simply by using Facebook’s internal search tool.
Facebook explained that this feature was only being used by a small percentage of people. However, it’s a part of what seems to be an ongoing test-and-learn experiment about how much private information its 1.1 billion users are willing to share. Earlier this year, Facebook’s Graph Search revealed just how big “big data” can be – with over 500 terabytes of new data being produced each day. And based on their recent earnings announcements, that big data/privacy play is paying off – with revenue up 53% over the previous year.
And now, Google are following a similar path, tapping into all your reviews, recommendations and endorsements in their search results and advertisements. You probably noticed that Google provided a top of screen notification about changes to their terms of service a couple of days ago. If you waved it away without investigating, here is the section most relevant to you:
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.
This new policy that comes into effect on 11 November 2013 will show shared endorsements on Google sites and on more than two million sites that use the Google display advertising network. What will this look like? In the sample image below from the Google Support blog, your friend’s recommendations/ratings appear in Google places, search results and ads.
You can, however, opt out of this system, but there is a catch – you need to have a Google+ account.
Simply follow THIS LINK to Google Endorsements and uncheck the box and click the Save button.
This may well give Google+ membership a much needed shot in the arm. Or it may just increase the cynicism of the internet using public. But if the lessons from Facebook’s privacy test-and-learn approach is anything to go by, it will slip by largely unheeded and little understood – with Google claiming the benefits of your personal recommendations.