Google has been updating their services a lot lately. The latest news is of their Shared Endorsements feature, quietly introduced in their updated terms of service. It states that users' information submitted through Google services, such as online reviews, Google Plus profile photos, etc. may be used in online advertising through Google's expansive advertising platform. This has sprouted into a major privacy concern for some users. While Google is offering a way to opt-out of this feature, it has a lot to say about where internet advertising is heading. Watch today's video to learn more about Google's Shared Endorsements and the state of internet privacy.


Hello, and welcome to our Brown Bag where today we’re going to be talking about Google Shared Endorsements. I’m Chad Hill and I’m joined by Adam Stetzer.

Good morning, Chad. So, the news breaking here is about shared endorsements on Google and what they’re going to do with this information for online advertising. So, they made an update to their terms of service that most people probably click right through and don’t really read or understand what it means. But, what it means, and let’s dissect this a little bit, is that names, profile information, photos, your preferences, and your comments and reviews from the Google Plus network and any of the Google services can now be used in ads, so this is what shared endorsements really mean. It means that the things you’re saying on the Google Plus network can now be used in advertisements. So, what does that really mean?

Well, there are two million sites that show ads, and it’s estimated that the reach is about a billion people. So, this means that your face, now, could appear somewhere on these 2 million sites. Something you said about a product could be used to drive advertising revenue. So, Google’s obviously doing this because they want to jump into the sort of social advertising movement that Facebook’s been pushing and other networks have been pushing. Let’s keep in mind that online ad revenue is at an all time high at about $20 billion, but this is a big play to take it even further as their next frontier of where to do social advertising. I would guess that this is very controversial. What’s your take, Chad?

Yeah, definitely, and I think it was just a couple weeks ago that we were saying, “There aren’t ads in Google Plus today.” Well, we knew there was something. Google is a huge advertising company and we knew that they would be following the trend that Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest have taken in terms of trying to figure out how to monetize their user base. So, let’s talk a little more about what this really is. Now, what’s not new here is that for a while now you’ve been able to use your Google account and your identity associated with your Google account for writing local reviews that showed up on different restaurants and other businesses as well as reviews that you’ve written about apps and things in the Google Play store. So, that’s not really new, here.

What’s new is that they can now take your reviews that normally were sort of hung off of a particular business, you had to go to that business or go to that app to see your online review. But now what they’re going to be able to do is actually figure out who your friends are and use what you’ve recommended or viewed in advertisements, as you’ve said, Adam, not only in just those current services like Google Local and the Play Store, but also also on these millions of other websites. So, your potential for being the spokesperson for different companies individually has gone up tremendously. Now, before we go further with this, we should also state that, as you mentioned, this is in the terms of service and you can opt out of this. But, getting to those settings pages in your Google Plus profile to remove yourself, I’m sure most people won’t do it, but, there is a way to opt out. Also, people below 18 will be opted out automatically.

Now, we’ve already seen this migration in advertising style happen in Facebook. If you like things on Facebook, there are now little ads popping up, saying, “So-and-so liked this from the Hershey Company,” or whatever it was that you liked, showing up on other feeds. I have been monitoring that and watching a fair amount of backlash as people are actually now being dissuaded from using the “like” button on Facebook. I wonder if the same thing will happen here. There’s actually some data to back up these concerns, because it does seem like these privacy issues have been out in the news quite a bit, and I think there’s about to be another privacy reaction to what Google’s doing here. We know people are concerned about online surveillance and data theft already. This is advertising, this isn’t malicious, but it is seen as intrusive.

The Pew Research Center did an interesting study, and they found that 50% of people online are really quite concerned about data theft and privacy. Eighty-six percent have taken action to either remove or mask their digital footprints, and this next one’s very interesting, Chad. Sixty-eight percent think laws do not currently do enough to protect their privacy online. So, I really think we’re in the early stages of these big advertisers like Facebook and Google pushing the limits on what Google is calling “shared endorsements” and Facebook has another name for it. But I do think there will be some public outcries. It’s sort of plus/minus on the user side. It might be a little bit of an intrusion, or maybe if it’s useful, they won’t mind it. I guess on the advertisers’ side, it just makes things that much more complex.

Absolutely, and I think this is really interesting for me, because I’ve watched this whole Google privacy debate and process bubbling up. I think most people probably don’t follow it very closely, but I’ve always been interested in how in Europe, the laws around privacy are so much stricter than they are here in the U.S. But, I think that these companies are pushing the envelope for what Americans are comfortable with. Here’s another survey that we have, the Reason-Rupe Survey from September, which asked people whether they trusted different companies a lot, some, only a little, or not at all, and here are some of the results from that, Adam.

  • Facebook- 75% said a little, not at all
  • Google- 68% said a little, not at all
  • Your ISP- 61%

Now, what’s really interesting is that those seem high. Let’s compare them to some of the other people in the news. The NSA- only 59% of people said that they trust the NSA a little or not at all. So what’s interesting there is that Facebook and Google are less trusted than the NSA with all the stuff that’s going on in the news about them, so it’s really interesting data.

Yeah, fascinating. Once the darling companies that everyone loved when it was all free, and we all knew that would shift. They do their IPOs, they grow bigger, they need to make more money, and those public opinions are sliding as they’re introducing more intrusive advertising. Well, we’re certainly interested in your opinion. We’d like to hear from you in our comments section. Are you worried about privacy? Are you opting out of these things on Facebook or Google, or, on the internet marketing side, are you excited about the new specialized and more targeted advertising opportunities? And, of course, if you like our videos, we ask you to subscribe to our YouTube channel.