Your Face in a Google Ad?

Category: Privacy

On October 11, Google announced changes to its Terms Of Service (TOS) that take effect November 11. If you continue to use any Google services, you agree to be bound by the new terms. So what’s new? Most importantly, Google wants to put your face in their ads. Learn how to avoid that, and see what else is new in the TOS...

Google Announces New Terms of Service

In the Google Terms of Service set to take effect on November 11th, there are three changes that may affect you. If you use any Google service (Search, Gmail, YouTube, Maps, Drive, Calendar, Picasa or a bunch of others you should read on.

First, Google “clarifies” how it can use your profile picture and name on Google products and in ads or reviews that appear on its products. Your profile info may appear in association with things that you +1, or “like” in old-fashioned Facebook terms.

A casual “+1” is now a “shared endorsement” in Google parlance. You might look at your face next to a glowing ad for a product or company and think, “Wait a minute, I LIKED it but I never meant to ENDORSE it!” Well, be more mindful of what you +1 from now on.
Your Face in Google Ads

Google devotes a lot of words to explaining why this is beneficial to you and your circles of family, friends, and acquaintance. They mention that it can "help your friends and others find cool stuff online," and that "Recommendations from people you know can really help." But the bottom line is that people pay attention to ads that include familiar faces.

Fortunately, you can control the use of your name, face, and Google profile in ads. There is now a “Shared Endorsements” setting, but it’s well hidden. To opt out of Shared Endorsements in ads, follow this simple 10-step process.

  1. Go to and sign into your account.
  2. If it’s not already a Google+ account, upgrade.
  3. Click on your profile picture in the upper right corner.
  4. Click on the “Account” link.
  5. Click on “Google+” in the left sidebar.
  6. Find “Shared Endorsements” on the page, and click the Edit link.
  7. Scroll down to the checkbox that precedes the words “Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads.”
  8. Uncheck that box.
  9. Click the blue “Save” button.
  10. You're not quite done. Google says: "Are you sure? When you disable this setting, your friends will be less likely to benefit from your recommendations." Click the blue “Continue” button, but only if you're really sure that you don't want your face plastered all over the Web, to help Google sell stuff.

Obviously, Google really, really wants you to leave Shared Endorsements turned on. It could just be a matter of semantics, but the TOS seems to be saying that this opt-out applies only to ads, and that you have no choice about your name and face appearing in reviews and other things. I hope I'm wrong about that.

The second change to the TOS is harmless enough. Google wants you to agree to drive safely; so don't check your Gmail or watch YouTube videos when behind the wheel, please. They also ask you to follow the law while driving. This I found interesting, but maybe I'm just paranoid. If you have an Android phone with a GPS chip (as they all do), and you're logged into your Google account (as you most certainly are), does Google know how fast you're driving on any given road? Yes, they do. Just saying... :-)

Finally, Google reserves the right to implement two-factor authentication, app-specific passwords, and other security measures for your protection. This is a really good thing. See my article SECURITY TIP: Two Factor Authentication to learn more about why you should be using two-factor authentication to protect yourself from data loss and identity theft.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome! Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Your Face in a Google Ad?"

(See all 26 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

28 Oct 2013

I followed instructions to uncheck Shared Endorsements. I do not have a photo on my profile, so when I got to edit page the box was not checked. I clicked Save and nothing happened. I imagine if you delete your photo from your profile Google has nothing to share.

Posted by:

al zimmerman
28 Oct 2013

Excellent, implicit instructions. Would never have figured out how to opt out if not for Bob's help. Bought him a granola bar to say thanks!

Posted by:

28 Oct 2013

If Google or Facebook wants to use my likeness in an ad, they may do so....the product in question will be endorsed by the image of a frog with a set of false teeth, lol! I never post my own photo on these sites.

Posted by:

28 Oct 2013

Here is an interesting post by Mike Elgan - another Internet person I follow. He contends that "Google got it right" essentially saying that Facebook does all the same things, but without giving you a chance to opt out the way Google has.

Posted by:

28 Oct 2013

I Don't have a pic in my Google account. In fact I have very little information in my Google account. Why would I want to upgrade? I expect upgrading would probably would require I add more information? Google already hassles me about adding a cell phone number and another email account for verification.

Posted by:

28 Oct 2013


>>>>If you use any Google service...

I use several Google services and I do not care about Google's TOS because Google knows nothing about me.

You can use Google services without submitting your picture and even without revealing your name. You can use Google Search, YouTube, Maps, etc. without providing any information to Google.

If you do have a Google profile, why don't you just remove it?

Posted by:

28 Oct 2013

Mine was disabled by default. Is this a geographic thing so only affecting certain regions?

Posted by:

Frank Starr
28 Oct 2013

I don't have my face uploaded anywhere on the Internet. Most certainly not on GOOGLE. I use a Holloween pic of the late Wolfman Jack as my avatar for Facebook. I would think I have no worries about Google, unless they want to use names with no faces for their ads. I haven't "liked" anything on GOOGLE, and nothing much on Facebook, either.

Posted by:

Patty Mac
28 Oct 2013

Help, I'm confused. I don't recall ever signing up for a google account. I use google search, maps and You tube. I have google chrome on another computer. Does that mean I actually have a google account somewhere?

Thanks in advance for any help.

Posted by:

28 Oct 2013

The only Google service I have an account with is YouTube and my "profile picture" there is a green donkey. If they want to use that flog one of their products they're more than welcome.

Posted by:

Roman Athens
29 Oct 2013

I'm glad I checked . . . My "Shared Endorsements" is already in the "OFF" position.
BTW, why don't people just remove their profile photo from GOOGLE so that all that's left is a generic-looking avatar?


Posted by:

29 Oct 2013

Many thanks. I really have problems with Google+.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2013

I use Google search, email, maps and news. I understand that their motive for providing everything that they do is to make a profit. However,I think that many of the recent changes to Google will tend to drive users away.
I have begun to use Startpage ( my searches more and more.

As far as the profile picture goes maybe we could have some fun with that. Change your picture to something that an advertiser would not want associated with their product.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2013

Great article Bob! Its not only good but a service to the community specially to most of us that jut accept the conditions of service w/o reading that long document full of legal terms. I disagree with other comments and I hope you keep doing this good work and keeping us out of trouble and able to exercise our God given rights.

No persons picture should be used w/o their approval that is why i never submitted one specially in this environment where personal identities are robbed daily.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2013

Thanks Bob for your help & clear instructions - much appreciated!

Posted by:

29 Oct 2013

Why do you advise us to upgrade to Google+? I am not interested in belonging to another social site. Like Tenika said, isn't the easiest way just not joining in the first place?

Posted by:

Shady Character
29 Oct 2013

Apparently if you haven't uploaded a picture of yourself there's no problem. Clicking on the icon which represents a missing picture does not offer a link to "shared endorsements".

Posted by:

29 Oct 2013

Thank you for a very important advice. I spend about 30 minutes to find Shared Endorsements and fix the other privacy settings. I want privacy and I do not care of finding people to chat with or folks who I can share pictures of “my baby’s first stool” or “my new lover caught by his wife”. I have no time and I do not want to waste my intelligence on FB type of brainless activities. I see that Google is trying to do the same to take people's minds of serious political and economical problems and make on us more money. How much is enough to stick to their greedy rears? Two-factor authentication will keep you logged in with Google forever or I something do not understand. Amazon and social websites keep you signed in even after your reboot your computer to spy on you. I have had recently a shocking experience with Amazon. The seller (stranger) and I both were on the phones (one-land line-home phone and another – mobile-not a smart phone). At the same time we were logged in to our Amazon accounts and logged it to our email accounts that were associated with our Amazon accounts. I was happy with the nutrition supplement that I received from seller and wanted to ask more questions about it. I thank the seller and told that I posted a positive review under her listing and forwarded to her the notification email from Amazon, stated that my review has been posted. She did not ask me for the review and I did not ask her for a favor. This was one in a life time a phone condensation. She received Amazon notification email from me, opened it and clicked on the Amazon link that brought her to her listing to see my review. In a second my review disappeared...Amazon customer service answered that their computer detected that I’m in a contact with seller or may be I’m this seller and they do not want any biased reviews. This was ridicules! The Amazon customer service is showed lack on wisdom and absolutely no respect to buyer and seller. I hope the nuc button never will be trusted to computer or third world temporary worker from Amazon sweat shop. Where is American privacy, American quality and American customer service? This is scary.

Posted by:

Marc de Piolenc
29 Oct 2013

I stopped at the second step, requiring me to upgrade my account to Google Plus. I closed my Google Plus account after learning the privacy implications, so having to re-open it to protect my privacy seems contrary to purpose. Now come to think of it, Google doesn't have a picture of me, so that takes care of that, but I suppose they will use my name... Time to start disconnecting from Google entirely.

Posted by:

Keith Mann
29 Oct 2013

Bob, thanks for the wealth of information you provide on a regular basis.

I "opted" out. Would have never found out without your "10-step" program.


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