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Google Gets Into the Public-Profile Business

Earlier this week, Google upgraded a little-known feature on its site -- the ability to set up a profile page with your name, photo, contact info, relevant links and any other tidbits you care to share (i.e., the same info every other social network wants you to provide).

Instead of leaving it to you to advertise your profile page, Google now includes a link to it when people search for your name. I don't exactly feel like Google needs still more business from me, but I also recognize the kind of publicity it can provide.


So I logged into my Google account and filled out my own profile. As you can see in the screen shot below, I left most of its fields blank and only provided things I was comfortable sharing with the general public. (Although Google provides fairly detailed privacy controls, I don't need yet another set of friends lists, each with their own access permissions, to manage.)

There's my name, the same picture I've posted on a bunch of other sites, a link to e-mail me (Google hides your address, only showing the domain name) and links to my Twitter updates, my public Facebook page, this blog and my LinkedIn profile. Oh, and I couldn't resist giving a shout-out to my alma mater, Georgetown University.

Have you set up a Google profile, or are you going to resist any further assimilation by the Google collective?

(On a related note, the Post is preparing more detailed "about this reporter" pages that contain more than just a short bio and a list of recent articles; see, for instance, Dana Milbank's souped-up page. At some point in the next few weeks, I should have one for myself. What would you like to see on it?)

By Rob Pegoraro  |  April 23, 2009; 6:03 PM ET
Categories:  Digital culture , The Web , The business we have chosen  
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Sure, it's annoying to create Yet Another Profile, and if Google's last attempt at social networking is any guide, well...

But I think the Google Profile could be interesting. It sounds like they intend to make this one of the top results when someone searches for your name. Right now, unless you have a personal, search-optimized blog, there's no telling what people will see. And I'll bet that most people look first to Google, not Facebook or LinkedIn, when they're searching for personal or contact information. (Who ever heard of Facebooking a blind date?)

Of course, this will inevitably become yet another cat-and-mouse game, as people register Google Profiles with the names of much-sought-after people. But it's a nice idea.

Posted by: JayL1 | April 23, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

> in the next few weeks, I should have one for myself. What would you like to see on it?

Naked pix of you and your wife.

...Well it's true, and you DID ask.

--faye kane, homeless brain.
Read more of my smartmouth opinions at

Posted by: Knee_Cheese_Zarathustra | April 24, 2009 1:04 AM | Report abuse

rob, i'd be real interested to hear about three acts of kindness you performed in the past two years. not necessarily the kindness that looks like an act of kindness. sometimes acts of kindness are very subtle. when you're out running or biking, ask yourself if you have performed any acts of kindness that might not overtly look like an act of kindness. i want to know about that.

it might take a while to figure out what these acts of kindness are. it's worth the effort to mindfully engage in this pursuit.

kindness is a subtle friend. find out how you are friends with kindness, and then tell us.

Posted by: pshapiro99 | April 24, 2009 5:54 AM | Report abuse

I read Mr. Milbank's page. I can do without "fun facts." You are not my friend; you are a reporter. I do not read the Post to have fun.

That columnist with the hat drives me bananas. He is a good writer, but he should write about serious things.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | April 24, 2009 6:08 AM | Report abuse

No thanks. I've managed to not have my real name associated online with "wiredog".

Oddly, my Slashdot user page is on the first page of results when you google wiredog, all the other results are dog kennels and an ISP.

The name people call me in Real Life is apparently a common google term for a commercial product. Google "first_name middle_initial last_ name" in the town I live in and you get 6 results, none of them me.

Heck, you can't even google my facebook page.

Maybe I don't really exist?

Posted by: wiredog | April 24, 2009 7:38 AM | Report abuse

I put mine up too. But it's somewhat meta, MC Escherish to have a profile linking profiles (FB, LI) as you've done. A neverending trail of breadcrumbs. Maybe we should all just meet at cafes to discuss our favorite films, books, or where we grew up. ;)

Posted by: davezatz | April 24, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

I just put up my Google Profile also. Luckily, I did not have to fill in all the blanks.

"My superpower

Examples: flying, teleportation, time travel, eating chips and salsa"


Posted by: Bitter_Bill | April 24, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

An important underlying issue is if Google's profile data could be construed as PII (Personally Identifiable Information) defined by the government as:

"Information which can be used to distinguish or trace an individual's identity, such as their name, social security number, biometric records, etc. alone, or when combined with other personal or identifying information which is linked or linkable to a specific individual, such as date and place of birth, mother’s maiden name, etc."

Most people read disregard in their minds the key wording, "when combined with", i.e. certain profile fields alone do not make it PII.

Their privacy policy was last updated March 11 of this year, and I looked and there is no section about PII. Google makes clear user supplied names, email and other information including credit card details (although the latter is encrypted). They also include in their policy the following:

"We may combine the information you submit under your account with information from other Google services or third parties..."

So one should be very careful in the what information they supply, and since Google is a private company and not subject to government regulation of this type, don't count on them to be ethical.

Posted by: JimGoldbloom1 | April 24, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Google is trying all possible ways to get users information which is annoying. People don't realize that setting themes on gmail is a way to get the city and more info about user location. People don't realize that using this new system will be the way to get all info to google. Google wants all the cake and google said: "This a service for making easir users life" but at the end of the day: "It is just bussines for them" It is ADS.

Posted by: kobbynk | April 24, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I created one, sure. Google offered, and I figured I'd be the first person with my name to get it.

Interestingly, Google does not return my profile page in a web search for me. It doesn't seem to recognize my name as a name. (To be fair my first name is also an adjective, and my last name is both a noun and a verb.) Whatever. I'm very easily found on the web for those who care.

Posted by: tonybreed | April 27, 2009 6:04 PM | Report abuse

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