In a blog post earlier today, Google announced the release of a new tool, “Me on the Web”.
Basically, this service is designed to bring reputation management to your Google Dashboard and help you keep track of mentions of your name as well as data leaks related to your personal information. It does this by having you fill out your Google Profile and then suggesting terms for you to set up alerts on, that way you will be notified when someone mentions your name, your email or your phone number on the Web.
Unfortunately, while the tool certainly sounds like a good idea, it falls far short of providing a much-needed service. Any savvy Google user has long had access to all the tools in “Me on the Web” (MOTW) and Google’s own solutions for what to do when you find leaked data are, in a word, useless.
To see why MOTW is such a disappointment, one has to look a bit deeper at the tool and the slew of things it can not do.
What Me on the Web Does
Google’s MOTW has three basic parts:
- Links from Your Profile: This is a list of sites that you’ve put in your Google profile and instructed Google are about you. These are all links under your control.
- Alerts For Your Data: Google makes it easy to set up search alerts for your data and recommends terms that you should consider, such as your name and email address. As with regular Google Alerts, these alerts will be emailed to you at the intervals you requested.
- Help Pages: Finally, MOTW offers links to various help pages on how to control your information online, including a page on removing unwanted content from Google.
All in all, there certainly isn’t anything “new” here but it is convenient to have it in a single place and Google making suggestions on what to monitor may be a good way to reach out and help less-savvy users who might not know what Google Alerts are and how they can be used for this.
Unfortunately, convenience factor aside, there just isn’t much reason to be excited about MOTW and many reasons to be disappointed.
Where Me on the Web Falls
The first problem with MOTW is that it is connected with your Google Profile. Unfortunately, Google profiles are not available to Google Apps users, such as myself, forcing me to use a backup Google account to even test the service out.
In short, if you use Google Apps, you can’t use MOTW or Google Profile at all.
But once you get access to it, it quickly becomes clear that MOTW’s best feature, it’s alerts, is just another skin on Google Alerts, a tool that has been around for many years and is already widely used for this purpose.
This also means that the alerts are going to come with the same limitations, namely that people with common names won’t have much use for it and it won’t help finding any leaks already out there, just new ones that come up.
Second, the links to your own sites is a fairly pointless feature. Considering that you provide those links to Google, it merely repeats what you already know.
Finally, and most importantly, it’s guides for removing unwanted content from Google are effectively useless. Though the guide instructs users on how to remove such leaked content using their URL removal tool, it only works on sites that are under the user’s control.
For site’s outside of Google’s control, Google simply instructs the user to contact the webmaster involved, which is a fine strategy unless the leak was malicious. In cases where personal data is leaked to the public, Google won’t be of any help unless the other webmaster agrees to remove it first.
All in all, there’s nothing new in MOTW and no real reason to use it, considering all the tools it points to have been around for a long time and are very well-known.
When I read about MOTW, I was optimistic that it might be useful not just for tracking private and personal information, but also for tracking mentions of a creator and, possibly their content as well. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
But even with that, perhaps unrealistic, disappointment aside, MOTW simply doesn’t add anything new to the arsenal and actually verifies how uncooperative Google can be with certain types of leaks. Granted, the laws don’t require Google to take any action nor does it provide an easy mechanism, like the DMCA, for them to do so, but it’s also clear Google hasn’t invested much into solving this problem either and its big gesture is just curent features in new wrapping.
In the end, MOTW is just a well-rounded disappointment, not terribly useful for anything, let alone its intended goal.