This weekend my partner was researching Crete Hotels and attractions for an upcoming trip we are planning when she discovered the latest of Google’s bold moves at using yours and our data. No I’m not talking about spilling all our beans to the NSA, but offering your google mail address to businesses via search, this may be even more Machiavellian. I got your attention, I know.

The screenshot below shows my private email address revealed on page one of the SERPs, an email I seldom ever use for business, but generally for only for personal correspondence. Google is now using this feature to entice and add value to third party ads obviously, and once you click on the “get offers” suggestion, you see the big confirmation: “✔ You have successfully signed up to receive offers.”

Google screenshot of email

With all the tech headlines hammering away at Facebook these days, one has to ponder how Google escapes a lambasting over such user privacy instigation. Looking in my own “inbox” just now, I find a notification from the Google Team entitled An Update for Google+ Page Owners and Managers. The intro makes no mention of hooking business people up with direct email connect to “opted in” searchers, but the links do carry you to the Google updated TOS describing the “offers” ad move. I quote from the gmail intro:

October 11, 2013

Hello, We're writing to let you know that we will be updating Google's Terms of Service on November 11, 2013 ; you can read a summary of the coming changes here. We've also added a new setting that gives you more control over where your Page's name, photo and actions appear on Google and across the web. Now, if you click that first link you’ll be taken to a basic TOS only about one percent of you would bother to dig down into. If you actually read beyond the same old hum drum “Welcome to Google” jargon, the fist paragraph contains a linkage to a so-called “summary of changes”, which Google has even simplified, for those of you intent on legitimate anal retentive discovery.

The only reason I actually read it was to find it for you. That said, here are the changes Google is making November 11.

  • First, clarifying how your Profile name and photo might appear in Google products (including in reviews, advertising and other commercial contexts).
  • Second, a reminder to use your mobile devices safely.
  • Third, details on the importance of keeping your password confidential.

For those of you who have not been trained in the art of communicative stickiness, the subtlety of this list will escape you. Is should be obvious Google only really made one change here. Can you guess which one? Yes, they just told you they’re going to use you in as far as is machine capable to sell their ever slowing advertising business.

To sum up what we are looking at here, the “drill down” into this particular Google announcement reveals the real intent of the changes. Why Google’s “Do no evil” motto has gotten convoluted like the “transparency creed”, this is fodder for another discussion. What’s going on here is another ad sales pitch for Google. The key phrase here being – “how shared endorsements work” – only a business site owner would discover this. If you follow that link you’ll see what amounts to sharing reviews enhanced to target you and your circle.

Of course, you can turn on or off your preferences for whatever, but the default is always something Google can sell to advertisers. What’s most disturbing for me is how people so seemingly intent on eradicating SPAM, have potentially contributed to filling all our mailboxes with it. In conclusion, Google is about to begin using your profile name and photo in reviews, advertising and other commercial contexts. If you do not want this to happen, you can choose to not share your data here. For those people with zero time or inclination to read Google legal mumbo jumbo, those consumers – uh, I mean Google users will more than likely never even see these pages.

It’s very interesting my partner received no email as a private user, but we both received mails as mentioned as multiple page owners. Does this mean Google wants our businesses to know about new ad value, and not us? Maybe only business owners will be protected from unwanted sharing of their stuff? It’s hard to tell with this sort of “limited communication” from Google. As the New York Times so ably suggested in their coverage of this, users may not mean all their clicking and liking as if they “endorse” products.

Corporate brands love explicit endorsements of their products, while some people are averse to being “used” period. My opion is, our privacy is being userped in big chunks a la NSA-Google, and in little bites off all of us via these TOS changes.

What’s your take?

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