Google's 'Me on the Web' Tool Alerts You to Personal Data Leaks
Google has launched Me on the Web, a new tool allowing anyone with a Google account to monitor what personal information about them appears online.
Me on the Web allows users to create e-mail alerts that will be sent as soon as the information is uncovered by Google's search bot. Alerts also can be sent daily or weekly.
Alerts are sent whenever the user's name is mentioned, or when their e-mail address is made public. Alternatively, users can create their own alerts -- perhaps based on a phone number, for example, or home address.
The new feature also makes it easier to access existing Google tools that help users remove personal information from the search engine. Google is also taking the opportunity to flag its advice about how to protect personal information online.
Google says Me on the Web is designed to help users manage what others post about them online.
"Your online identity is determined not only by what you post, but also by what others post about you -- whether a mention in a blog post, a photo tag or a reply to a public status update," a posting on Google's Public Policy blog says.
Me on the Web is exactly the same as the existing Google Alerts service, which sends users e-mails whenever a specified search query is encountered by Google's bots. However, Me on the Web is part of the Google Dashboard, by which users configure their account, so it is more obvious and accessible.
Although Google doesn't mention it, Me on the Web might be an attempt to combat online vigilantism, wherein a community attempts to expose individuals or hold them up to ridicule.
Recently, Gennette Cordova found private details of herself being posted online when she was innocently caught up in the scandal over Representative Anthony Weiner's photographs.
Earlier this year, a user on the hugely popular social link site Reddit posted personal details about a suspected charity scammer in an attempt to unmask her. However, it turned out that both she and her cause were genuine. Following yet more vigilantism attempts, Reddit introduced a rule than automatically bans users who post personal details about others.
However, other sectors of the Internet don't require a cause to deliberately post personal information about others. The LulzSec hacking group recently posted 26,000 e-mail addresses they claim to have reaped from pornographic websites, for example.
Privacy is a politically hot topic, particularly in the mobile arena, with various senators proposing new laws to protect users. Facebook frequently runs into privacy issues, most recently with its photo tagging implementation.