Monday, October 14, 2013

Google, Ads, and Choices

Google Ads and Endorsements:

The choices you have and how often you have to repeat those choices

by Alan Regan

On November 11, 2013, Google will make changes to its privacy and terms of service. You can review the changes.

There are two specific settings you'll need to review:
  • Ads settings (not new, per se, but they don't make it easy to persist!)
  • Endorsement settings (new!)


First things first.  When using Pepperdine's Google Apps for Education service (via, you will NOT receive ads in Google Mail or Google Search.  Also, we have disabled the Google+ endorsement feature at the domain level, so when using your Pepperdine Google account you do not need to worry about those ads or endorsements! These are some of the benefits of the Apps for Education service that we enjoy.  Also, there is additional storage (30 GB!) plus enhanced Google Drive and Google+ sharing options to better adhere to FERPA guidelines.  When using Google services for academic purposes we strongly recommend that you use your Pepperdine Google account instead of your personal Google account.  When using Google services for official Pepperdine work, you should only use your official Pepperdine account.  You can learn more about Pepperdine's Google policies at the bottom of the following page:

Of course, we are "mostly" immune, since Google owns a number of sites and services.  It's great that we won't receive ads in Google Mail or Google Search.  Of course, other Google sites that are not core Google Apps for Education services will still display ads. Example: YouTube.


When using your personal Google account, you'll need to make some decisions on how you want Google to use your searching, Google mail, and other content to deliver ads.  You also need to decide whether you want Google to share your comments and +1s related to specific products.  The latter is the brand new item that's making the news, since your profile photo and comments may be displayed to your friends or the public, depending on your settings.

Ads: Your Choices are Fragile

So, you have choices when you use various services.  You can opt out of marketing emails.  And you can opt out of some ads, but usually not all ads.  Afterall, most online services make their money just like newspapers do -- by ad placement.  You enjoy "free" services because of the advertising model; it's the bargain you make when you choose one of these services.

At Google, you can choose to opt out of targeted ads through the Google Ads setting.  Basically, asking Google not to use your mail, search, or other online footprints to deliver ads specific to you interests, gender, or other factors.  Rather than deliver targeted ads, they'll simply deliver general ads.  So, you'll receive ads one way or another.

But I mentioned that the choices you make are fragile.  What do I mean?  The "catch" is that your choice is specific to the browser and computer/device you are currently using.  The choice is stored in a "cookie" in that browser.  So, it's fragile in that it's not global (you must repeat the process on each web browser and device you plan to use) AND it's temporary.  If you ever clear your cookies, then your choice is cleared and you'll need to update your ad settings again... and again... and again.  They don't make it easy!

Endorsements: Your Name and Photo Exposed

This is a new feature. Basically, Google wants to use your comments or ratings about a product or service to promote them to your friends or the world.  Facebook already does this, when you see in your news feed that friends like specific company pages, etc.  Google wants to leverage its social media platform, Google+, in a similar way.

If you never sign up for Google+ on your personal account, you shouldn't need to worry.  If you do, then you'll want to decide whether you want to opt out of this feature.  You can opt out here:

Remember, Google Apps at Pepperdine is not impacted by these changes since our education domain is immune to ads and the Google+ endorsements feature.  You'll make these choices on your personal Google account(s).