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Facebook did it first. They took users' posts, reviews, and "Likes" and began to use them (without permission, or the ability to opt-out) in advertisements for products. Did you say nice things about Chipotle on their page? Your profile picture and review may have ended up in one of these "sponsored stories."
Of course, that resulted in a class action lawsuit (with a settlement that is on appeal to the Ninth Circuit), as well as an FTC inquiry. Legal woes won't stop the $9.5 billion business of social advertising, however. Google plans to do the same thing, beginning on November 11th, reports The New York Times.
The company, perhaps wishing to avoid the headaches that plagued Facebook, or because of their own repeated clashes with privacy regulators in Europe, as well as at home, is handling things a bit more transparently.
For one, they have a page that explains what the "shared endorsements" are all about. Your Google+ profile picture, as well as that five-year-old review, can pop up in Google ads for that restaurant. Ditto for things like albums, apps, or devices from Google Play.
The company is also notifying users of all of their services of the impending change to the company's terms of service, a full month in advance. More importantly, they are offering a way to opt-out.
If the thought of your review of the local Olive Garden popping up in friends' search results is less than appealing, Google has provided a simple way of opting out, requiring only that you uncheck a box and hit "Save" in your account settings.
If you do wish to opt-out, be sure to remember to do so under all of your accounts. Many of us have different accounts for work and play, and though most of your ad-worthy reviews are probably under a single account, it's worth being extra-cautious, especially with professional accounts.
Are you concerned about major social networks' use of your likeness and prior activity in advertisements? Join the discussion on Facebook at FindLaw for Legal Professionals.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.