Google Profiles: Reputation Management for the Price of Your Soul
Well this is news to me. Google apparently is now including Google Profiles in search results. On a semi-occasional search for my name, I found a message that said “Are you Brad Frost? Click here to create your profile”, to which I happily obliged. Now Google Profiles has been around for a while, at least since 2007, but it was mostly used behind the scenes to integrate all your profile info between Google products. Big whoop. Added convenience.
Now that the cat is out of the bag and the profiles are visible on the Search Engine Results Pages, Google Profiles seems less like a nice little feature and more like a crucial aspect to managing your online reputaion. You can dictate how much or little you want to share with your profile, including work info, interests, links to your other sites, and even photo galleries from Picasa and Flickr. Its a wonderful little place to aggregate all your pleasant little nooks on the internet.
This is all well and good, but this little phenomenon is going to open the floodgates for a whole host of issues. For starters, Google’s got your number baby, and now they can put it on display for the world to see. I can see this possibly triggering a gold rush to stake a claim in your name, to force you to get on board before the other scary, one-eyed pirate rapist Brad Frosts (yes there are more than one) outweigh your relevance. Now this gold rush puts that oh-so-important personal information in the hands of the gatekeeper, the Big G.
Now that its specifically targeting the individual, Google can promote, demote or do whatever with anyone brave enough to attempt to manage their online reputation. Will people who have the balls enough to post ALL their information on Google Profile outweigh those who try to maintain some deal of privacy in this online world? For example: “Hi I’m John Smith and I’m an accountant” will rank far below “Hi I’m John Smith and I’m a 42 year old puzzle maker living at 24 Wendy Way in Sandusky Ohio. I like long walks on the beach, Beethoven, and punching people in the face. I have 3 cats, a pig, and a shriveled turnip that I use to……” You get the point.
And out come the tin foil hats. Is Google preparing for the eventual harvest of humanity, riding around in their Street View cars now affixed with laser-beams to thin the herd? Is Google looking to undermine Facebook as the largest network of people? What can they do with a gigantic network of people and a near-monopoly on search? Will “Do No Evil” eventually become “Holy crap! We have everyone’s info, time to do some evil!”? Doubtful, but I think its important that while Google Profiles can help quickly and easily help you set up a home base for your internet presence, the gun-to-the-head pressure of hopping on the G train might raise some red flags.
In the meantime, if you’re interested in seeing what Google Profiles looks like, check me out.