Google profiles and online self-ownership
Does the advent of the new Google Profiles service solve the thorny online identity problems discussed by Danielle, Deven, and others? As Danielle notes, one of the many serious problems in cases like Autoadmit harassment was the attempts to co-opt or silence the person’s online persona, causing victims to effectively lose ownership of their online identity:
The attackers waged a “Google-bombing” campaign that would ensure the prominence of offensive threads in searches of the female students’ names. Posters made plain the goal of their Google-bombing campaign: “We’re not going to let that bitch have her own blog be the first result from googling her name!”
Deven has also discussed the importance in having some control over one’s online persona. And Frank has suggested a standard of Fair Reputation Reporting much like the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
What does a Google Profile provide? Google’s own description is this:
A Google profile is simply how you present yourself on Google products to other Google users. It allows you to control how you appear on Google and tell others a bit more about who you are. With a Google profile, you can easily share your web content on one central location. You can include, for example, links to your blog, online photos, and other profiles such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and more. You have control over what others see. Your profile won’t display any private information unless you’ve explicitly added it. You can also allow people to find you more easily by enabling your profile to be searched by your name. Simply set your existing profile to show your full name publicly.
Google profiles will appear as results in searches (if you elect them to); this is sporadic at the moment, but profiles are expected to become a top window in a google search.
Does this change address Danielle’s and others’ concerns about mob seizure of a victim’s online self-identity? It just might. In an ideal world, Google profiles fill the gap perfectly. It puts top billing on a person’s self-description, thus restoring a portion of online self-ownership to its rightful place. (It sounds a lot like Frank’s approach, doesn’t it?)
On the other hand, Wired has a more doubtful take, suggesting that this isn’t really about self-ownership, but about Google ownership. Google will take your profile and monetize it for marketing.
Is that better than the alternative? Maybe.
Or maybe we just need a national, state-owned web profile for everybody. After all, we can always trust the state.