Google Profiles – New Feature A Smart Answer To A Potentially Tricky Problem

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Profiles in Google SearchI happened to be on Google this morning for various things and noticed in one of their blogs, a post regarding Google Profiles.  A Google Profile is an interesting potential solution to what is surely a growing issue on the Internet in general, and of course,  in Google’s own search results.

One upon a time, Googling yourself was a potentially fun exercise in vanity and hubris.  Whether or not you existed at all in Google’s search results was the first thing one looked at, and then one moved on to how you were listed.  But, as the Internet becomes ever more commonly used for any number of tasks, how you are listed on Google is no longer just a cocktail party conversation starter.

Control Over Your Own Online Identity

Whether it is business colleagues, a former roommate, or a long lost girlfriend, there are plenty of people who might try to find you by typing your name into Google.  For most of us, this is a relatively benign experience for which the only real issue is how to find YOU out of the others who share your name or similar names. However, for some people, a potentially unpleasant situation may be on the rise. 

My name is very common and thus there are numerous versions of “me” in any search.  That is to be expected when we are talking about the entire globe worth of people.  Sorting through all of those people is the responsibility of Google’s oft touted search algorithm and the user running the query, but whose responsibility is it to make sure the data is correct, or at least not defamatory.

That is where things get tricky.  Google is not in the business of verifying the data that appears on the Internet, merely indexing whatever data there is so that it can be found by those who are looking for it.  There is little comfort in that for anyone who discovers that their name is linked with something inaccurate, or unpleasant.

There have been numerous news stories about Wikipedia entries for celebrities being modified with incorrect information, including their status among the living.  Likewise, politicians are frequently pilloried, justly or not, on numerous sites.  This category of people have endured such things since long before the Internet existed, and people are used to taking any information they find about them, whether in tabloids or online, with a grain of salt.

However, the pervasive nature of Google’s search now means that John Dough can end up on a website being called a liar and fraud over a dispute about a parking spot, and more importantly, that website can be easily found by someone looking for information on John Dough.  Without any context or knowledge of the situation or the people involved, such data could come across in such a way to prevent someone from doing business with John, buying a used air hockey table from him, or even dating him, or hiring him.

It is even possible that someone could be impersonating Mr. Dough in any number of online places.

A Chance To Have Your Say About Who You Are

While a Google profile does nothing to remove such information from the Internet is does ensure that your own information is displayed along side such data.  The best profiles will include information that can be used by those searching for someone to find good sources of information as well as provide some “from the horse’s mouth” data as well.

Additionally, a profile helps ensure that the data most likely to be sought by casual searchers of your name is present, or at least accessible in some form.  That old college roommate is probably looking for a phone number or email address, and no matter how many times your name shows up in newspaper articles about how you invented cold fusion, there is likely no such info to be had at those links.  Conversely, a Google Profile allows you to either display your contact information.  In very well thought out touch, there is also the ability to let people contact you without divulging your actual information, something akin to the temporary forwarding email that Craigslist provides when you place an ad to sell that air hockey table.  Thus, you can retain control over your contact information while still letting someone who knows you better as “Chugger” drop you a line to get in touch.

I updated my Google Profile today.  I’m in the middle of other tasks, so the effort put into it was minimal, but in just a few minutes I was able to link my name with the name of my company, as well as head off at the pass the occasional person who contacts me thinking that I grew up in Buffalo (I didn’t).  If that person puts up a Google Profile too, then maybe “Ripper” will be able to find “Chugger” a little bit faster, and without the embarrassment of contacting me first.

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