How to remove your face from Google's upcoming Shared Endorsement ads

Filed Under: Featured, Google, Privacy

Eric Schmidt. Image by Guillaume Paumier, CC-BY.Some Google users who don't want their faces used to pimp bagel shops (or spas, or Nexus 7, or whatever ads Google can squeeze money out of) are replacing their photos with one of Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.

The backlash - the scope of which could be tiny, for all I know, given that news of it apparently comes solely from a retweet by Daring Fireball's John Gruber - apparently is in reaction to Google's announcement to grab user's profile pictures, names, photos and product reviews as harvested from Google+ and plug them into advertisements.

Google is calling the planned advertisements Shared Endorsements.

Google announced new Terms of Service that will go live on 11 November which explain that it will use content in this way.

On top of our images, Google will also display reviews of restaurants, shops and products, as well as songs and other content reviewed or bought on the Google Play store, when our friends and connections search on Google.

Google adverts

Of course, the move is a no-brainer for Google.

The company's revenues come almost entirely - reportedly 96% in 2012, and at 97% in 2011 - on ad revenue.

Google doesn't make any bones about it. The company said in an annual report from 2012, "We generate revenue primarily by delivering relevant, cost-effective online advertising."

The move is identical to Facebook's Sponsored Stories boondoggle, with one exception: It's looking to not be a boondoggle. Google is doing it right.

Namely, Google is offering users a way to opt out, and that will in all likelihood sidestep the legal swamp that Facebook fell into over Sponsored Stories.

For its part, Facebook paid out $20 million in a personal ads class action lawsuit settlement in August 2013, and another $10 million to settle a lawsuit in 2012.

Antagonising Google by swapping a profile photo for Schmidt's may feel like fun, in-your-FACE-Google! hijinks, but the chances that Google will roll back the tasty revenue source are approximately, in rounded percentage points, "hahahahahaha!"

It's likely that the only way to opt out is to opt out.

Here's how to opt out of Google's Shared Endorsements:

  1. Sign into your Google account. If you're in the process of setting up an account, finish that first, then come back.
  2. Go to the Shared Endorsements setting page. If you're not already a Google+ user, you will be asked to upgrade your account.
  3. Toward the bottom, you'll see a checkbox that says "Based on my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads."
  4. Uncheck it and click Save to opt out of the new program.

Google will grab at your ankle to try to drag you back into advertising land, but one extra click saying "Yes, I do, in fact, want to unpeel my mug from your advertisements" won't kill us, I suppose.

UPDATE: Many readers have asked if this will impact users with Google Accounts who haven't enabled Google Plus. Are they already opted out or do they have to climb further into bed with Google and enable Google Plus account just to opt out? Google's information is ambiguous on this point. We have asked them for clarification and we'll update this article when we have an answer.

Image of Eric Schmidt courtesy of Guillaume Paumier, CC-BY via Wikimedia Commons

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31 Responses to How to remove your face from Google's upcoming Shared Endorsement ads

  1. Leo · 381 days ago

    I'm sorry but the sentence "The move is identical to Facebook's Sponsored Stories boondoggle, with one exception: It's looking to not be a boondoggle. Google is doing it right." shows me the author didn't quite understand what was announced.

    There is a very big difference between showing my restaurant reviews to my friends - and my friends only, which was why I wrote it - when they're searching for it (google) and showing my 14 year old niece endorsing a phone she has never used on a company that doesn't exist in her country (facebook).

    • Lisa Vaas · 381 days ago

      oh dear, you're right, I did sound flip. You're right, Facebook's boondoggle is a boondoggle in many egregoius ways, as you point out.

  2. Eric S · 381 days ago

    "If you're not already a Google+ user, you will be asked to upgrade your account."

    Does this mean that even if you have tried to avoid being sucked into Google+, they will still harvest data from a "non Google+ Google account" for this endorsement system, and to prevent this you have to sign up to Google+?

    Ever since Google's change in privacy rules, I have tried to avoid Google accounts or where I have to have one, have a separate one for each function (and just hope - probably forlornly - they do not aggregate data from different accounts based on IP address)

  3. Alex Van Schuylen · 381 days ago

    I am not on GOOGLE+ nor do I intend to be as it is insidious...but...does this mean -- even with no pic already posted -- that I will be subjected to this irritating boondoggling?!! I am curious and nosey about this, so let me know! Thx...

  4. Guy · 381 days ago

    Am I to understand that I can't opt out unless I upgrade to Google+ first? (Which I don't want to do.)

    If I don't have an opt out option, does that mean I haven't opted in yet?

    Thanks.

    • Spryte · 381 days ago

      Great question !!

      I am in the same position and would like to see an answer for this.

      • Dalip Singh · 376 days ago

        I too find myself in the same position.Await the answer.

  5. Eddy · 381 days ago

    We have created accounts for our students, using a domain name we own, as part of Google Apps. Are our students subject to being used to endorse products? They are not part of Google+ nor will they be. I need to know this ASAP!

  6. Bastion · 381 days ago

    I'm with Alex, Eric, and Guy -- if I DON'T have a Google+ profile, why would I create one, just to then limit my exposure of it?!??!

    Is this some secret ploy by Google to plant this article to then actually ENCOURAGE us to create Google+ profiles????

    Sorry, but I WON'T be following these instructions.

    Google doesn't have my picture on a Google account, so I don't think I need to worry about it somehow showing up next to my friend's searches (which if I don't have a Google+ profile, how would Google even know who my friends are?).

    "... when our friends and connections search on Google."

    Doesn't having "friends and connections" require a Google+ profile?

  7. Sean · 381 days ago

    I'll add my voice to the chorus of Naked Security readers who want to know whether users that have a Google account must "upgrade" to Google+ in order to opt out of shared endorsements.

    Amending the article to include that information would actually make it useful to those of us who already are protecting our privacy and security by NOT letting ourselves get sucked into the Google+ monetizing machine.

  8. "AntagoniZing". Please fire your roof peter.

  9. Lisa Vaas · 381 days ago

    Commenters, thank you, great question! I interpreted Google's instruction about upgrading to Google+ to mean that Shared Endorsements are only going to pull in information from Google+ users, but now that I look at their information page, I don't see any such indication that it will be so restrained—particularly given that they're pulling in data from realms such as Google Play.

    Let me get clarification from Google, and I'll provide it as soon as I get it. Be back ASAP.

    Thanks!

  10. Lisa Vaas · 381 days ago

    Haven't heard back from Googltopia and unfortunately must head out to a therapy appointment which has nothing whatsoever to do with me being a desanguinated paid Google stooge zombie journalist, because believe you me, if I were paid, I'd be a desanguinated Google stooge zombie journalist with better shoes.

    Seriously, though, I'll hopefully get an answer to the good question in a few hours, if Google gets back to me.

    • Zoé · 378 days ago

      No answer on this yet? All the instructions I find assume that I'm a Google+ member, while I only have a Gmail account.

      • Wondering · 373 days ago

        Same question here. Would love to see a follow-up on this.

  11. I have never used a picture of myself as an account profile picture anyway...on any social media.

  12. Glen · 381 days ago

    i have a gmail account and i`m on G+ and have been for about 2 years now. not a paid account. i followed your instructions and i can`t find anything that says "shared endorsement" settings page.

  13. Mark Longson · 380 days ago

    The option you are referring to is by default turned off!

    I just checked mine and it was not enabled and ive never been to that setting page before

    Have a read of the page they give you to choice of opting in, it is not being forced on anyone as far as i can see!

    https://plus.google.com/settings/endorsements

    • Chester Wisniewski · 380 days ago

      Sort of. It depends on what country you are in. It appears that only US accounts are opted in by default. I have confirmed with users in the UK, Canada and Germany that it is unchecked. It is also possible it is based on other privacy preferences you may have set previously. I had opted out of Google ad tracking, and the others I checked with may have as well.

      The current best theory is that it is only launching on by default in the United States.

      • Lisa Vaas · 380 days ago

        Thanks, Chester. I'm in the US, and it was on by default when I checked.

      • Porpoise · 380 days ago

        It's possible that it's opt-in elsewhere due to elsewhere's better privacy legislation (EU for example) and they feel that they've paid enough fines already! ;-)

    • Eric Miraglia · 380 days ago

      Mark --

      The Shared Endorsements setting is an update to an existing setting (it used to e called "+1 Personalization"). The state you find your setting it depends on your choice about +1 Personalization -- if you turned that off, Shared Endorsements is off for you.

      -Eric

  14. Mark Longson · 380 days ago

    hmm here's an interesting point!

    change your profile picture to a QR code picture of your website

    that way when or if google use your picture you get free advertising!

    it takes some doing resizing the image so it fits into the circular space but it can be done

  15. Maybe it's all just a scam to get people to upgrade to Google+

  16. Niall · 380 days ago

    I am not sure I understand what the problem is. As I understand it Google will use the fact I have rated or reviewed an advertiser when presenting ads to people on Google+ who I am known to. Or is it I have it wrong in what Google are going to do.

    If I do have it right I personally would have thought it was a good thing, with all the 'astroturing' (fake reviews) about I personally would find it helpfull to see someone I know and therefore know is real has reviewed somewhere/thing. Especially as I can then take into account what I know about them when considering their rating.

    Generally though if I publically endore something I would accept in doing so that those who know me may find out about it.

  17. Mac · 372 days ago

    > UPDATE: Many readers have asked if this will impact users with Google Accounts who haven't enabled Google Plus. Are they already opted out or do they have to climb further into bed with Google and enable Google Plus account just to opt out? Google's information is ambiguous on this point. We have asked them for clarification and we'll update this article when we have an answer.

    Still checking back ...

  18. Jonas · 342 days ago

    Still no news from Google on the requirement to activate Google+ to be able to opt out? I guess they being mum point to the possibility that they just want to sit back and see millions of Google+ profiles get activated which would in turn increase their "active" user base. Evil.

  19. zadvocate · 321 days ago

    This is disgusting! I cant even bypass the 'upgrade now' page...even though I just signed into my account. I therefore cant get into my mail or my blog...on my laptop...unless I upgrade now! Obviously, I missed this post and haven't tried to open my gmail account on computer since the 11/11 deadline! EVIL is right!

    Is there still no advice on getting around this?

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.