June 16, 2011, 1:54 PM — Don't look now, but Google has just unleashed another tool to allegedly help you manage the scoodles of information the search giant has collected about you. It's called "Me on the Web," and Google's Public Policy Blog describes it thusly:
Today we’ve released a new tool to help make it easier to monitor your identity on the web and to provide easy access to resources describing ways to control what information is on the web. This tool, Me on the Web, appears as a section of the Google Dashboard right beneath the Account details.
Sounds good, right? Alas, Me on the Web is really just a bunch of old services and FAQs cobbled together and repackaged under a catchy name. It doesn't have much to do with enhancing your privacy, but it does have a lot to do with Google's deep desire to out-Facebook Facebook.
First, in order to use Me on the Web you have to have a) a Google account, which means signing up for a Gmail address, and 2) a Google Profile. Google Profiles are not about being more private, they're about managing the information other people can gather about you by, essentially, providing more of it.
[ See also: Google wants to be your wallet. ]
A Google Profile will snarf up as much personal data as you're willing to cough up -- photos, jobs, schools, places you've lived, relationship status, things you want to brag about, nicknames, identifying scars and tattoos, etc -- all of which is visible to Google search by default. It also can link to all your social profiles, blogs, and so on, if you so desire. (Does that sound just a bit like Facebook? It’s no coincidence.)
In theory, the more info you put in your profile, the more likely it will show up higher when people search for you. That means they’re more likely to see the stuff you want them to see and not necessarily the stuff you don’t want them to see (like those photos of you going wild in Cabo).
You can of course make your profile invisible to Google Search, thus rendering it almost entirely pointless -- unless the only reason you want a profile is so you can use Me on the Web. Frankly I’m not sure that’s worth it.