Democratic Senator Ed Markey from Massachusetts has put in a request to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Google’s recently announced ‘Shared Endorsements’ ads. These are the ads which will automatically pull information from social networks and use images and information about an individual to promote a product. If, for example, you rate a new movie with 4 stars, your image may appear next to an advertisement for that movie in Google’s ads displayed to your friends and family.
Markey said in a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, “Without users’ explicit permission, Google should not take consumer posts and turn them into product endorsements.” He continued saying, “I urge the FTC to look into this new proposed change to determine whether Google violated the terms of its consent agreement, and I will continue to closely monitor this latest development.”
Google has provided people with the opportunity to opt-out of the program, so their personal information won’t be used in advertisements. Even those who don’t opt out don’t need to worry about their picture being displayed to strangers since the content from your social network will only be displayed to those who already have access to it (those in your ‘circles’). Google is pulling the information from Google+ profiles, so those without a Google+ account also don’t have to worry about a thing.
Google doesn’t have any reason to be immediately concerned about the Senator’s request to investigate, however, since the people at the FTC who would perform the investigation are furloughed due to the government shutdown. Even after they return, however, it is unlikely that the FTC will find any deceptive practices going on since Google has been up front and very open about what they are planning, and how to opt-out of the program.
Of course, it is never a good thing to be investigated by the FTC.