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Google to publish identity of reviewers

SAN FRANCISCO – Google, following in Facebook’s footsteps, will sell users’ endorsements to marketers to help them hawk their wares.

On Friday, Google announced an update to its terms of service that allows the company to include adult users’ names, photos and comments in ads shown across the Web, based on ratings, reviews and posts they have made on Google Plus and other Google services like YouTube.

When the new ad policy goes live Nov. 11, Google will be able to show what the company calls shared endorsements on Google sites and across the Web, on the more than 2 million sites in Google’s display advertising network, which are viewed by an estimated 1 billion people.

If a user follows a bakery on Google Plus or gives an album four stars on the Google Play music service, for instance, that person’s name, photo and endorsement could show up in ads for that bakery or album.

Google said it would give users the chance to opt out of being included in the new endorsements, and people under the age of 18 will automatically be excluded.

Such product endorsements, especially coming from friends and acquaintances, are a powerful lure to brands, replicating word-of-mouth marketing on a broad scale.

But as Facebook has learned, many users have strong and skeptical feelings about their endorsements being used in ads without their explicit permission.

“The trick to any advertising like this is to avoid coming across as creepy to your user base,” said Zachary Reiss-Davis, a Forrester analyst.

In a notice to users posted on its site Friday, Google said, “Feedback from people you know can save you time and improve results for you and your friends across all Google services.”

Google Plus users will be able to opt out on the social network’s settings page.

If a Google Plus user has shared comments with a limited set of people, only people in that circle will see the personalized ads. Reviews on services like Google Plus Local are automatically public, unless a user opts out.

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