Google's Going to Start Sticking Your Face and Name in Ads

This was bound to happen. Following Facebook's highly controversial attempts to make social endorsements ubiquitous on the site, Google just announced a Terms of Service update that will enable the company to use your name, photo and endorsements in its advertising network.

So how does that make you feel? Google obviously wants you to feel okay about the changes. The company assured users in its announcement blog post, "On Google, you're in control of what you share." (Emphasis Google's) And that's technically true. You can opt out of the face-flaunting new feature through this settings page in Google+, but if you don't do anything, Google says it will use your information without explicit consent.

Ugh. Doing anything from leaving a YouTube comment to starring something in Google Play to giving it the +1 treatment will cause your face to show up on ads. (Users under 18, however, will not appear in ads.) Google is also somewhat vague about who will see your face: "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." Facebook, however, is less vague: "If you have selected a specific audience for your content or information, we will respect your choice when we use it."

Although the new changes don't sound awesome, Google's learned from Facebook's mistakes in a way. Facebook similarly uses your likeness in so-called Sponsored Stories, however you can't opt out. When Facebook started doing this, users freaked out and said that Facebook hadn't properly notified them about how the social network was using their endorsements. And when we say "freaked out," we mean "filed a class action lawsuit"—which they won—prompting Facebook to change the site's privacy policy. The FTC has since opened an investigation into the matter.

Obviously, Google wants to avoid the shitstorm that Facebook has endured, so they're trying to be better communicators. That doesn't detract from the fact that the search giant is going to start slinging your face and name all over the internet without your explicit consent. You'll be notified with some banner ads on Google's homepage before the new Terms of Service goes into effect on November 1. But it's up to you—and only you—to opt out if you don't like that. [Google via NYT]