Google’s New Ads Will Include Familiar Faces

Search giant follows a Facebook tactic that has alarmed privacy advocates

Meet the new face of Google advertising: You.

The search giant, in the grand tradition of social advertising pioneered by Facebook, will plaster users’ profile photos from Google+  next to brands they recommend.

The company announced new policy changes today that alert users that their images could pop up alongside searches for restaurants, products and services.

“If you search for ‘Italian restaurants,’ you might see an ad for a nearby restaurant along with your friend’s favorable review,” Google said in a blog post today. “Or, in Google Play, you might see that another friend has +1’d a new song or album. We call these shared endorsements.”

The advertising feature is an extension of the “+1” that Google rolled out as a rival to Facebook’s “Like” button. Google’s +1 notifies Google users of friends’ recommendations. Of course, the function is a part of Google+, the search company’s social network.

Google+ has more than 350 million users, according to some estimates. Only users who have an account created with a profile photo uploaded in the system would show up in the new ad format. Google also said there are privacy setting that allows users to opt out of the shared endorsements.

Facebook has been sued over similar advertising products like Sponsored Stories showing friends’ profile pics next to brands they liked on the social network.

Regulators are scrutinizing the practice of running such ads without a users expressed permission. The New York Times was the first to report on Google’s new social ad play. Google declined to comment beyond its announcement.

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