Google+'s own special brand of stupidity

G+ is now open for business -- literally. But Google+ Pages is a wet hot mess that makes it too easy for fakers to hijack your business online. UPDATE: G+ responds.

Big news yesterday in the social media world. Google+ is finally open for business – literally.

Yesterday, Google announced Google+ Pages, a way for brands and businesses to establish a presence on the social network. But like its disastrous introduction of Gmail apps for the iTunes Store last week, Google has once again dropped a large load of manure onto the Web.

As commentator Ike Pigott points out in this video rant (“Google+ is still Business-“), unlike Facebook Google+ offers no vanity addresses. So instead of being able to hand out plus.google.com/Joe’s-Plumbing as your URL, you’re stuck with plus.google.com/112134531373479129748 (or whatever). Not exactly a friendly way to do business.

Problem #2: Every brand page can only be managed under one account; there’s no way to share admin duties with your lackeys. That may be fine for Joe’s Plumbing, where Joe is the sole employee; not so fine for corporations with hundreds of employees, where a page might be administered by half a dozen marketing minions.

The third and most problematic, err, problem: Anybody can register any page for any business, regardless of whether you own the company or any trademarks associated with it. As Piggot says, “it’s on the honor system.” Welcome to domain squatting 2011.

How easy is it to grab someone else’s G+ page? I decided to find out by creating a page for the Walt Disney Company. (They’re not litigious or anything, right?) It took me about 10 minutes, nine minutes of which was spent searching for and downloading the right images.

[img_assist|nid=222291|title=Meet the happiest (fake) Google+ page on earth|desc=|link=none|align=center|width=599|height=391]

The things Mickey and Minnie will be getting up to on Google+? Well, I’d tell you, but this is a family friendly publication.

As of this writing, about 15 hours hence, the Walt Disney Page is still live on G+. At some point, I expect G+ to cotton onto this and nuke it, or to be receiving a nastygram from Mickey’s attorneys (Huey, Dewey, and Louis, Esq.).

But the same thing can happen to any business. Again, just to prove a point, I took a business local to me (my chiropractor) and created a G+ page for it. I just searched on his phone number, selected from a list of hits, uploaded an image, and I was done. Easy peasy. And that one is highly unlikely to be caught by Google or noticed by my favorite spinecracker, despite how big a geek he is.

There are two problems here. Obviously I just hijacked the doc’s presence on one of the largest social networks on the planet. More important though: What if I didn’t like him? What if I decided I was going to use this page to smear his reputation on G+ by posting really hateful stuff? There’s little a business owner can do to prevent this beforehand.

Yes, you can report profiles for impersonation, copyright violations, or just being fake, and presumably Google will nuke them – but you have to know about them first. And here’s an ironic twist: If you’re reporting that someone is pretending to be you, you need to submit a scan of a photo ID.

[img_assist|nid=222293|title=Somebody faking you on G+? Be prepared to jump through hoops to prove it.|desc=|link=none|align=center|width=596|height=336]

If you’re reporting a fake company profile, you need to be an authorized representative of the company, and prove it by submitting your ID or adding a snippet of Google code to your company Web site.

In other words, the fake isn’t required to authenticate his or her identity, but you are. Think about that for a minute.

Want to know how bad Google+ Pages is? Even Robert Scoble doesn’t like it, and he likes Google+ the way bees like honey.

What this means, of course: If you’ve got a business that uses social media, you need to high tail it over to G+ and sign up for a brand page before somebody else does it for you. Which means Google is either incredibly inept or extremely cunning.

The cynic in me is leaning toward the latter. How about you?

UPDATE: Eight days after I created that fake Disney page, G+ finally cottoned on and suspended it. It's unclear whether they found it on their own or somebody (ahem) ratted me out.

[img_assist|nid=224617|title=Mickey finally gets subtracted from Google+|desc=|link=none|align=center|width=597|height=350]

Got a question about social media? TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan may have the answer (and if not, he’ll make something up). Visit his snarky, occasionally NSFW blog eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter: @tynan_on_tech. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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