This month Google rolled out 'shared endorsements', the concept of using your credibility to market products to your friends. The concept is that Google helps your friends make more informed decisions by displaying your reviews and recommendations against products and services shown in search results. What information will Google actually use, how will they use it, and how you can opt out if it isn't for you?
If you +1 or write a review for a product or service when you have a Google Plus account, Google will use this information along with your headshot as an endorsement for the product to show to your friends. Obviously this will only work when logged into your Google account as this is how it works out who your friends are.
The bottom line is for Google to make more money via their advertising. The theory is that with products and services being endorsed by people you know will make you more likely to click to read more, which will raise Google's click through rate (CTR).
At the end of the day, Google is only presenting information that you've given them - if you say you liked a product by giving it a +1, Google are just letting your friends know about it. As many products or services we choose to use are based on recommendations, this does have the potential to be quite useful. The question of course is do you want to be used as a marketing tool for a particular product? While you may have liked something, it doesn't necessarily mean you want to be directly associated with recommending it to your friends.
More and more these days the information that we add to the Internet gets used beyond our original intentions, so it really just comes down to awareness of how your data is being used. Google have been transparent with these new changes by showing notifications linking to their terms of service.
If Google shared endorsements isn't for you, follow these steps to opt out:
"Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads."
What I found slightly confusing is that despite this already being clicked on my account, it read:
"Based on your domain's current settings, your name and profile picture will not appear in shared endorsements paired with ads. If your domain administrator changes this in the future, your choice here will be honored."
Presumably this is related to the higher level administration for accounts that use Google Apps.
After changing this on my account, I noticed a couple of days later that you separately have to apply the same settings for Google Plus pages, you'll find the following in the 'Settings' tab for your google page:
"Based upon this Page's activity, Google may show the Page's name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads."