Google just introduced a new tool that can help wholesalers and general merchandise suppliers with reputation management, adding another social layer to its search services. The tool is called Me on the Web and allows anyone with a Google account to monitor their personal information on the web by creating email alerts that are delivered as soon as the information is found by the Google search bot.
Me on the Web is now a part of the Google dashboard, appearing under account information. Here, you can set up search alerts for your data very quickly without having to go to the alerts setup section. Alerts can be set up for your name, email address and other information, like a web address. From the dashboard, you can also click links for information on How to manage your online identity, How to remove unwanted content and About Me on the Web.
The post on Google’s Public Policy blog says Me on the Web is supposed to help users manage what others say about them online. It also indicated this new service supports three types of data use: unidentified, pseudonymous and identified, with each mode having its own particular user benefits (quotes below from Google’s Public Policy Blog).
“Unidentified. Sometimes you want to use the web without having your online activity tied to your identity, or even a pseudonym—for example, when you’re researching a medical condition or searching for that perfect gift for a special someone. When you’re not logged into your Google Account (or if you never signed up for one), that’s how you’ll be using our services. While we need to keep information like IP addresses and cookies to provide the service, we don’t link that information to an individual account when you are logged out.
“Pseudonymous. Using a pseudonym has been one of the great benefits of the Internet, because it has enabled people to express themselves freely—they may be in physical danger, looking for help, or have a condition they don’t want people to know about. People in these circumstances may need a consistent identity, but one that is not linked to their offline self. You can use pseudonyms to upload videos in YouTube or post to Blogger.
“Identified. There are many times you want to share information with people and have them know who you really are. Some products such as Google Checkout rely on this type of identity assurance and require that you identify yourself to use the service. There may be other times when it’s more desirable to be identified than not, for example if you want to be part of a community action project you may ask, “How do I know these other people I see online really are community members?”
Me on the Web uses the existing Google Alerts service that sends emails to users whenever their requested search query is found by the Google bot. However, you can request Me on the Web alerts directly from the Google Dashboard, which is much easier than requesting an alert.
Google cautions that users should know what mode they’re in when using Me on the Web and other Google services. They recently updated the top navigation bar (upper right hand corner) in many Google services, indicating to users whether they are signed in or signed out.
While Google doesn’t specifically mention it, Me on the Web can also be used to fight against online vigilantism, where a person or a community attempts to expose individuals or malign their reputation. We’ve seen some recent examples of this in politics and in other personal attacks – some genuine and some non-genuine with devastating effects.
Even though Me on the Web concerns privacy, Google says it is not another privacy setting, it simply is a way of providing “the freedom to be who you want to be.” The tool is particularly timely, since privacy issues are a political hot potato. Currently, legislators are considering new laws to protect users in view of the many Internet privacy invasions that have spread online, like the recent furor over implementation of Facebook’s photo recognition technology.