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The Fine Print that Allows Google to Use Your Name in Ads

Google Endorsement adLast week, Google followed Facebook’s lead to announce that it was changing its terms of service so it could use your name and photo potentially in future endorsement ads for products that you have liked or written about. And they are doing so without paying you or getting your explicit permission in each instance.

Here, in part, is that announcement:

How your Profile Name and Photo May Appear
(including in reviews and advertising)

On Google, you’re in control of what you share. This update to our Terms of Service doesn’t change in any way who you’ve shared things with in the past or your ability to control who you want to share things with in the future.

… your friends might see that you rated an album 4 stars on the band’s Google Play page. And the +1 you gave your favorite local bakery could be included in an ad that the bakery runs through Google. We call these recommendations shared endorsements and you can learn more about them here.

When it comes to shared endorsements in ads, you can control the use of your Profile name and photo via the Shared Endorsements setting. If you turn the setting to “off,” your Profile name and photo will not show up on that ad for your favorite bakery or any other ads. 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.


Here is more detail about “shared endorsement” ads and how to set your preferences.

Google ads

Oddly, the circled text says to click the box below if you want to prevent your name and photo from being used, but the text next to the box says the exact opposite. By clicking it, you are allowing Google to use your words and pictures in ads.

This may be a matter of timing, since the new policy does not go into effect until November 11, so in the meantime, it is “opt-in.” News reports, however, indicate that once the change is in effect the only way to prevent your likeness from being used is to opt-out.

And in the actual language of their new terms of service statement, it clearly says “you can choose your settings so your name and photo do not appear in ads.”

The trouble with all this is that most people either won’t know that this new advertising policy exists, or won’t be able to find the spot to turn it off.

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5 thoughts on “The Fine Print that Allows Google to Use Your Name in Ads”

  1. Maybe I’m giving them too much credit, but I suspect the difference between the checkbox wording and the TOS wording is an error. I think the checkbox is an opt-out, not opt-in.

    Remember, to Google, we are not their customers, but their product.


  2. My issue is, I do not have a social media account, but if someone else puts a picture of me up and it potentially gets used somewhere, in no way did I give permission.

    What is going to happen the first time they use some celebrities photo/name to endorse a product? Say some celebrity that already does advertising for Ford (Mike Rowe) but now Google or Facebook attaches their likeness to Chevy? Maybe that is what it will take, plus a large lawsuit, to stop this? I mean, most every celebrity now has a presence on these platforms.

  3. Personally I think that people who do not read these kinds of policies on social networking websites don’t care about their privacy as much as they say they do.

    Google has to make money somehow. The alternative is charging users as customers instead of using them as products.

    I limit my activity on social networking sites to social networking only. I don’t post a bunch of pictures of everything I do or interact with a bunch of different corporations by liking their page and granting them access to my information. I am not sure why people feel like they can easily put private stuff on the internet and expect it to stay private.

    It should be fun to see how this works for celebrity endorsements as Tina stated above. I noticed that companies on Twitter have started to hijack user profiles in order to post advertisements. That may be a future Mr. Consumer post.

    The way the wording is in the new terms of service is questionable though. It’s like Google is purposely trying to confuse users.

  4. The text in the red circle says “This setting below allows you to limit the use of your name and photo in shared endorsements in ads” The text next to the button says “Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads”

    The first text does not say “click here to opt out” and it does not mean “click here to opt out” it means “this is a way to control opting in or opting out” The button itself clarifies that clicking it is opting in. No contradiction. Its a failing of basic reading comprehension on behalf of Mr Consumer not an error on googles part.

    Edgar replies: You have to read the Google website in conjunction with the news stories about this issue and how Google is said to be setting this up. The news stories indicate that the only people by default who will be opted-out are kids. Every one else will have to individually opt-out. This page on Google, however, shows that you appear to be already opted-out, and clicking it will opt-you in, contrary to a fair reading of the language that precedes it.

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