Google June 15 added an identity management tool to its Google Dashboard Web services palette, a move to help users keep track of what others are saying about them online.
Since November 2009, Google Dashboard has collected information on application data Google account owners generate from Web services such as Gmail, YouTube, Google Docs and dozens of other apps.
Me on the Web is the new Dashboard tool, sitting right under the Account details section. The tool helps users track their identity on the Web at a time when social networks and other social media Websites have made it easier for users to publish and share content online.
Think of Me on the Web as do-it-yourself social media monitoring that alerts users to what people write about them in blogs, photo tags on Facebook and in Twitter tweets, all supported by Google's search algorithms.
Me on the Web surfaces links to accounts users have already listed on their Google Profiles, which let users list information about themselves and their favorite Websites. Examples of Profiles info include Facebook, Twitter, Quora accounts and blog destinations.
The tool also lets users set up Google Alerts so that they are notified when their name or e-mail address is mentioned on Websites or news stories. Me on the Web also automatically suggests search terms users may want to monitor.
However, Me on the Web will also help users remove unwanted info about them from Google's search results, such as a telephone number or an embarrassing photo they don't want to appear publicly.
Media and pundits see Me on the Web as something aimed at Facebook, which religiously protects its user data even as it pushes the privacy envelope with facial recognition and other information-sharing tools.
This may be true, if only indirectly. Me on the Web seems like another move to get more users to create Google Profiles, which are certainly an attempt to challenge Facebook. With a profile, a user cannot manage data about them that appears on Google as effectively.
As Google noted in this section on managing online reputation:
"With a Google profile, you can manage the information--such as your bio, contact details, and other information about you--that people see. You can also link to other sites about you or created by you. For example, you can link to your blog, online photos in Picasa, and other profiles such as Facebook and LinkedIn."
Facebook's profiles provide the same service, though they are not completely indexed on Google's servers. This puts Google at a disadvantage, and it's a big reason why it created Profiles.