Thursday, December 23, 2004

Google is as Google does...

An recent post to the Google Blog talks about something that interested me for a while. If you put my name into Google it returns a whole bunch of results and you'll find that I take up most of the first few pages, although you get the odd hit for the SNP politician of the same name. On the other hand, if you put my name into Google Groups you have to filter the returned hits a lot to figure out which posts are mine. Quite a few of the returned hits, pointing to Usenet posts which aren't mine, I wouldn't want to be associated with...

We rely on Google a lot, but where should this stop? The first port of call for someone who'd just recieved my CV will probably be Google. Over the years I've posted a good deal on Usenet, but I've used a lot of different routes to do so, and posted using several different email addresses. It might be hard for someone who doesn't know about my non-work interests to figure out which posts are mine, and which posts belong to someone else. Would they even go to the trouble of doing this? I could end up not getting a job because of what someone else with the same name said five years ago. That's pretty scary!

But what's more scary? What happens when you insurance company starts googling you before giving you a policy, you really shouldn't have mentioned your love of hamburgers on your blog. Or, maybe it isn't your blog at all? Want to try and convince your insurance company?

The Register had an article earlier in the year about the dangers of exposing material you didn't mean to be seen to the web at large, but what happens if it isn't you that's doing it? Identity theft is pretty scary, but in a world where your reputation is coming to mean more and more what happens if someone who isn't you can damage your reputation just by the accident of birth, by having the same name...