All those Google +1's that you've been scattering over the Web are about to come back to haunt you.
Google's move in 2011 to combine user data under one profile will begin impacting its ad business on November 11, as the company prepares to use your user name, profile photo, and implied endorsement in more of its display ads.
The company revealed changes to its Terms of Service on Friday. The most important one is that Google clarified how your profile name and photo might appear in "Google products," including display ads. Google reminded its customers that they can opt out of appearing in Google ads from its Shared Endorsements settings.
Google emphasized, in bold font, in its Terms of Service changes notice that "you're in control of what you share," another step aimed at avoiding further legal entanglements.
An industry source noted that Google is not changing users' old +1 Personalization settings. So, if you've already declined to have your name, profile photo, and endorsement appear in Google ads, it will continue to respect that decision. The default setting for Shared Endorsements, however, is to use that information in display ads.
It's possible that the ads will wind up resembling Facebook's Sponsored Stories, which it recently settled a lawsuit over to the tune of $20 million. If Shared Endorsements do follow in Sponsored Stories' footsteps, Google could soon be on the receiving end of more Federal Trade Commission scrutiny. Clearly, then, Google's cautions and opt-out toggle are aimed at providing protection against legal action.
Somewhat confusingly, though, opting out of having your profile used in display ads will not affect having your profile used on Google Play. "This setting only applies to use in ads, and doesn't change whether your Profile name or photo may be used in other places such as Google Play," Google explained in the TOS changes.
Google pointed users to its Ad Settings tool, for more granular control over what ads you see.
Google declined to comment on the changes, but from what it sounds like, your profile name, photo, and endorsement could appear in display ads not only on Google Play, where they already appear, but in display ads for Google Search and other Google services such as Gmail.
Google also made further minor changes to the Terms of Service, reminding its customers to not use its services while driving and to not give out their passwords.