Safe to Google Yourself?

Google yourself screenshotIn an environment of increasing concern over identity theft, misplaced photos and videos (ahem) posted online without owner consent, it now appears it may not even be safe to Google yourself.

In a series aired this week “The End of Privacy,” CNN’s nightly news anchor Campbell Brown shared and scared.

One reason not to Google yourself

A short segment Online privacy tips included the warning “Don’t Google yourself.”  According to Brown, here’s why:

“Most search engines collect and store records of your search queries. Though each user’s logs are typically only associated with a random ID number, it could be easy to discover your identity based on their search queries. Don’t do ‘vanity’ searches for your own name from the computer you usually use.”

Is this true? Yes, and no.  There is a degree of validity to the random ID number argument, but the alarmist element is disproportionate.

A better question: Is it safe not to Google yourself?

Search results can show where you might want to take action and request Google remove content that compromises your security or reputation.

And the weakness of Brown’s argument leaves the door wide open for Google to step in and recruit even more converts. Google records data not specifically associated with your account. To protect your privacy, this data is stored separately from your Google account. Recent enhancements, specifically the creation of a dashboard, provide users a greater ability to manage their online footprint, including:

Gmail: conversations

Web history: Web, images, news, products, video, maps, blogs

And Google, unlike Bing and Yahoo, not only offers these services, but also a single click “clear Web History” option. Caveat:  This magic does not extend to the Way Back Machine archive, which for better or worse, has a long memory.

Bottom line: Taking control and  making an informed decision is preferable to running scared.  The tools and means are available. Use them.

Especially because you  – and no one else – should own your online brand. Many companies  follow the same strategy – and if they aren’t by now, they really have no excuse.

Look for more on online branding in an upcoming feature.

For more information:

Google Yourself!
Google: The End of the World as We Know It
Why Google Wants You to Google Yourself

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Alison Cummings is a Web Strategy consultant and Social Media blogger based in Montreal. You can find her on Twitter @alisoncummings and Facebook.

About Alison Cummings

Business Writing, Copywriting, Content Marketing.
Communications + Marketing + Technical Expertise.