How Google leverages your privacy to catch Facebook

/// How Google leverages your privacy to catch Facebook

October 30, 2013  |  Blog

You may not yet have heard but Google recently announced the development of a new advertising program starring you.

It’s called “Shared Endorsements” and essentially, it means that your reviews, recommendations, and other activities online may be displayed via ads, including potentially using your profile name and your photo as visual accompaniments.

In the digital carnival, you are now the barker, a shill, as well as the main attraction – at least, that’s what some would have you believe. The reality is much more nuanced.

In some ways, Google is not doing anything differently than other Internet media giants. In one sense, it’s playing catch-up with Facebook. It’s attempting to accelerate its ad revenue by leveraging your personal data to help its advertisers target consumers more effectively.

That data is quite valuable and something we often give up – to varying degrees – when we use “free” services like Gmail, Google +, or any number of no-cost applications.

You may be perfectly okay with that – which is great. Or you may be absolutely, unequivocally opposed to it. The point is that everyone has a different level of tolerance and comfort when it comes to personal disclosure. Some prefer to hold the reins of privacy quite taut. Others may take great satisfaction in becoming a micro-celebrity in a new endorsement economy, touting expertise in areas they’re uniquely qualified to promote. Call it your fifteen minutes of Internet fame.

The tricky part comes with really understanding just what could be revealed about you. It’s not yet totally clear how this will work for individuals in practice. Just imagine some possible scenarios. What if you write an anonymous review on your gynecologist while logged in to your Google account? What if you order bladder-control products for an aging parent? Or if you +1 your company’s competitor because you’re thinking about getting a job there? Picture the assumptions that could be made about you – correct or not, they can potentially impact your personal and professional lives.

All companies exist to provide something of value that generates value in return. The nice thing about Google’s “Shared Endorsements” is that the company seems to have done a good job of making it straightforward to opt out. In a way, it’s also a step toward the “Reputation Economy,” in which your reputation is useful to the marketing of products (though I wish there was a clear upside for you in these endorsements!).

But in the spirit of being privacy-friendly, I would have loved to see it set up as a program you have to choose to opt in to participate. Then, Google could be assured that the people who participate are doing so with full knowledge, consent, and enthusiasm. Perhaps the returns generated would be even greater. I also wonder if there’s room for Google and other Internet behemoths to make you a beneficiary of any transactions that result from the use of your data.

Now wouldn’t that be something to write home about?

Link: How Google leverages your privacy to catch Facebook

USA Today -  Michael Fertik, Special for CyberTruth


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