Google changes rules: But what rules?

A screenshot of Google's new terms of service.

For the last few weeks, Gmail users have seen notices from Google above their inboxes: "Hey, our terms of service are changing." Something about using your picture in ads. The new terms go into effect today.  

First, if you find it creepy that Google would use your name and face in ads, you’re not alone. Jeff Jarvis may be the company’s number-one fan. He’s the author of "What Would Google Do?"

He says it’s one thing for him to publicly “plus-one” something on the company's social network Google Plus. (Think: “like” on Facebook.) But for Google to then cast him as the pitch guy in an ad for that thing? Nope.

"Maybe in some cases, I really do like the product," he says. "But you know what? If that’s the case -- pay me."

So I might want to opt out. I talked with Lance Ulanoff, editor-in-chief of Mashable.com, a giant website reporting on digital innovation. I asked him to help me find the opt-out page.

It took a while.  ("Let me just try this," he said, clicking and tapping. "Give me one second here... Nope... Let's see... Yeah, that's totally not what I want...")

This went on for more than a minute, and I have to mention: Ulanoff runs a giant website about the Internet. If he’s confused, we’re all sunk.

(Except, I've got your back: Here's Google's summary of the new rules. And if you're signed into Google or Gmail, this link will take you to the page where you can opt in or out.)

When we did get there, Ulanoff found a surprise.  He was already opted out.  

So, does this mean that the new rules only apply if you opt IN? 

"Who would do that?" Ulanoff said. "This will be incredibly unsuccessfuly if they do it that way. Because there aren't a lot of people who will say 'yes' to this."

Later, Google spokeswoman Katie Watson explained that this new policy simply expands an existing practice. 

Your "plus-ones" on Google’s social network, Google Plus, were always used this way. Now the same goes for other platforms, like the Google Play store where users can leave reviews. 

And if you opted out of being a shill on Google Plus, those preferences carry over here.

All-righty, then. 

About the author

Dan is a sustainability reporter for Marketplace.

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