Your Google likes and comments may soon be used by companies for advertisement purpose according to a Terms of Service update the company released earlier today (for a non-lawyer speak summary check here).
This feature may attach your +1s, comments that you have left on Google properties, and people that you follow as endorsements to advertisements.
If you liked a coffee shop around the corner, a movie that you watched in cinema, or a naughty sex toy that you bought on Amazon, then your friends may soon find your photo and name attached to advertisement or listings on Google for that product.
Google limits the exposure of ads to the same visibility level that you have set initially. If you have shared a comment with your friends, only those friends will see the endorsement while none-friends won't.
This means that if you make a public statement, it may be used publicly as well.
If you think sponsored stories on Facebook now, you are not far off. The social networking site launched a similar feature some time ago where your information may be used on the site to promote contents.
Disable Shared Endorsements on Google
The core difference between Google's and Facebook's implementation is that Google has created an opt-out for its users. This means that you have two options to avoid being used in advertisement on Google:
- Avoid sharing, liking or commenting on Google sites.
- Opt-out of Shared Endorsements.
The first option may not be that practicable, while the second takes care of the feature altogether.
Let me show you how you can opt-out of Shared Endorsements:
- Visit Google's Shared Endorsements website.
- Note that you will be asked for your password even if you are currently signed in to your Google account. This is a security precaution and designed this way by Google.
- The page explains what the feature is, gives examples of how advertisement can look like, and provides you with an opt-out form at the bottom.
- Make sure that the "Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads" check box is not checked. If it is checked, remove the checkmark from it and click Save afterwards.
Note: Users under 18 years of age are not affected by Shared Endorsements. While they may see them on Google properties, their profile photo and name won't be used in ads.
Users who previously opted out of their +1s being shown in ads, may notice that the Shared Endorsements preference is disabled by default for them.
Update: As John pointed out in the comments, you may also want to check the Shared Endorsements settings on Google Plus. Here you need to open the Settings page of Google Plus and locate the Shared Endorsements setting near the top. Make sure it is set to off. It if is set to on, click on edit to change that. You will be taken the the main page linked above where you can disable the feature.