privacy2We all value and cherish our privacy. Any invasion of it rouses all the less than pleasant emotions that we would prefer not to feel. Respect for an individual’s preference for privacy must be universally applied.
If it is good for Anita to invade Sergio’s privacy, or to spy on him, then it must be good for Sergio to do the same to Anita. Anita’s action to invade Sergio’s privacy cannot be universally preferable behavior, for if it was, she would not have invaded it without first letting Sergio know. Prior to committing an invasion of Sergio’s privacy by spying on him, Anita implicitly recognizes the fact that what she is doing must be done surreptitiously. If it is good to invade one’s privacy, then the person being spied on must be okay with it. And so, there is no need for the person doing the invading of privacy to do so without being open about it. Not being open about it opens up something else – a can of worms – for there is an inconsistency that either must be resolved (if it can), or accepted (if it can’t). If it is accepted, then the conclusion must be that invading another’s privacy cannot be universally preferable behavior, and thus cannot be morally correct. If it cannot be morally correct, then anyone seeking to be moral ought to refrain from such behavior.

Tell that to Google, who is starting to look a lot like Anita, the privacy-invader from the paragraph above. Google has decided that it is now their prerogative to take your name, your picture, and whatever other content it wants from your Google+ page and convert all that into what they call “shared endorsements.” And if you do not know what “shared endorsements” means, don’t beat yourself over the head. That was Google’s intention. Instead of calling what they are doing “an invasion of your privacy for our profit”, they have chosen the very clever and nebulous appellation “shared endorsements.” The easiest way to get people to stand behind and accept a committed wrong is to just distort the language. Google knows this, and their knowledge of this is on full display here.

If you do not have a Google+ account, then no worries. This doesn’t apply to folks who just have a Gmail account (or at least not for now). And since very few folks do not have a Google+ account yet, this article may not be the rabble-rouser that it could have been had we been talking about Facebook instead.

If you do not want an advertisement slapped onto your name and picture, then there is one thing that you can do – for now – until Google gets its legal stuff figured out and finds a way to prevent you from doing anything at all. For now, there is an opt-out procedure. The opting out can be done by going to your account settings and unchecking the box that says “enable shared endorsements.” If you have an account, just click here.

Do it. Now! Who knows what further shenanigans Google might pull off in the near future. You may not have a choice to decide whether or not you want to participate in “shared endorsements” in the future.