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Summary:

Google’s new Terms of Use allow the company to scrape and sell user information from YouTube, reviews and other Google products in order to offer “endorsements” of products.

An update to Google’s terms of service today may make some users think twice about leaving a comment or a rating on a website owned by the search giant. The change, reported by the New York Times“allows the company to include adult users’ names, photos and comments in ads shown across the Web, based on ratings, reviews and posts they have made on Google Plus and other Google services like YouTube.”

To put it plainly: Google now has the ability to collect comments and ratings from users and sell them to companies as “endorsements” for use in internet advertising. The new ad policy, which goes live November 11, will feature users’ names, comments and photos alongside things that they’ve liked, followed, reviewed, or favorably commented on.

These sorts of user endorsements are not uncommon — but many have bristled at the idea that their names and personal information can be sold to a company for a price. Both Instagram and Facebook have endured lawsuits for their policies, both of which allow the platform to sell user content as advertisements (known colloquially on Facebook as “Sponsored Stories”). While Instagram’s fight fizzled almost immediately in court, users are appealing the $20 million settlement Facebook offered in court.

Both lawsuits are indicative of the drama surrounding user-involved advertisements: where Facebook, Instagram and Google see the opportunity to “personalize” ad space, users see a ploy to make money from their social media activities.  While there has been uproar — and Google is likely not going to be exempt from it — these kinds of advertisements are becoming the new normal for social networks.

Users have the opportunity to opt out of Google’s new ad policy on this Endorsements page,  but it’s unclear how easy — or permanent — that opportunity will remain.

  1. Just yet another reason to not leave a comment on Youtube. Last time I left a Youtube comment it reactivated my Google+ account which I had purposefully deactivated.

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  2. Wait wait wait, so you’re telling me that things I submit publicly on the web, can be viewed by others? When did this happen!?!?!?!

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  3. Thanks for the heads up. I immediately went to the link you gave and unchecked the box approving the sharing. A message popped up warning me that my friends won’t be able to see my comments and ratings, like I care.

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  4. Brilliant. Google is curating commentary, which is far easier for them to do with automation than for every one of us to do on our own.

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  5. Google needs to compensate the content creators — share the monetizing of the data! Fortunately I have a very common name & I am a dedicated Disconnect user. I actively limit my support of Siren Servers. Low footprint = no worries. Thanks for the link above to disable Google’s default opt in.

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  6. Does this make Google and others liable for user’s comments?

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  7. I have no qualms about my review about a restaurant I like showing up with my name. I have no issue with a product I like and would recommend being recommended. It’s no big deal to me to have a video I publicly commented on having my comment be publicly dispersed.

    Regarding anyone saying “Google should compensate us”…. they have…. with all manner of free products that you can use freely at no expense to you. There generally is no such thing at truly “free”, so instead of having to pay money for their goods, I pay them in participation.

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  8. I am okay with this. It may even be fun – with my fictitious name and bogus photo I use for accounts.

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