Me, Myself, and Google’s Me on the Web

Is Google using 'Me on the Web' to promote Google Profiles and compete with Facebook? Sure looks like it.

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Me on the Web does offer one cool new tool: a quick-n-easy way to set up Google Alerts, so you can get notified whenever your name or email addresses appear online. This sounds good in theory, but in practice Google Alerts are often than less meets the email.

Being an egomaniac, I already have Google Alerts set up for my name, my Web sites, my pseudonyms, and various other items. Given how frequently I publish stuff and how often it gets syndicated, republished, or flat out stolen, I should be swimming in alerts. But I'm not. What Google Alerts actually alerts me to seems entirely random. I probably get one alert for every ten bylines, tweets, or links with my name in them.

Google Alerts are not always what they seem.Google Alerts are not always what they seem.

Another complaint: As you're setting up an alert, you can click "View results" and Google will display a search page with your spiffy new profile at the tippy tippy top. Impressive, right? But that only happens when you're logged in, and it only displays the profile in that slot to you. If you run the same search from an incognito page (in Chrome) or a private browsing session (in Firefox), your profile may show up much lower in search results, if it shows up at all. So much for managing the information people have about you.

The other parts of Me on the Web involve links to old FAQs about how to remove mentions of you from Google's search results. Those rules haven't changed a bit. If you want something removed from Google results, you have to first get it taken off the Web, and then removed from Google's cache. That means going to the Webmaster where the material was originally published and asking/pleading/threatening them until they take it down. It may also mean going to any other sites that also published this stuff and doing the same. It can be a tedious, frustrating, seemingly endless process (and here's where I put in the usual plug for Reputation.com, which will do this for you for a fee.)

The cynic inside me wonders whether Me on the Web is really just another attempt to promote Google Profiles, using privacy as a hook. What do you think?

[UPDATE: After this post was published I was contacted by a Google spokesperson, who pointed out a couple of errors here. One: While you do need to a Google account to use Me on the Web, it doesn't require a Gmail address -- any email address will work. Two: You don't have to create a Google Profile either, though without it Me on the Web is really just Google Alerts + some FAQs. TY4NS regrets the errors.]

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