Why bother with Google when I have a wife who knows everything about everything!—Akshay Kumar
I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the nonsense surrounding presidential politics because I’ve already decided for whom I will vote and, beyond that, the rest is little more than a poorly-put-together entertainment spectacle. No one could write television as bad as the debates and keep their job. Yet, those debates keep happening and the amount of bovine excrement from them continues to mount.
There was one brief moment of hilarity this past week, though, when a certain former senator from Pennsylvania suggested that people, “Google me.” I’m not going to mention the candidate by name, because I want nothing to do with furthering his infamy. However, those who have watched the former senator’s nonsense for a while immediately burst out laughing, then picked up their smartphones and started tweeting. Google him? Unfortunately, we already had.
The candidate, you see, has a Google problem. He made some enemies back in 2003 due to an anti-gay statement he made. Since then, those offended by the statement have made sure the former senator’s name is associated with, “The frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.” Multiple websites were purchased containing the candidate’s last name and before long the entire Internet associated that name with this definition. The former senator, or more likely his staff, has gone to great lengths to make sure that searches on his full name bring up the more desirable response of his campaign website. However, if one looks only for his last name, the results are not suitable for viewing with children in the room. Google is clearly not this candidate’s friend.
While, in this case, the punishment would seem appropriate to the crime, it’s not so funny when the rest of us do a search on our name, or worse—your parents do a search on your name, and the results come back less than flattering. This happens often and frequently there is absolutely nothing you can do to prevent those results from coming up time and time again.
Without getting too terribly technical, there are a number of reasons for why you can’t control this problem.
- There’s no controlling the Internet, no matter what you’ve heard.
- There are almost certainly people other than you with the same name, or one similar which can be just as bad.
- You can’t prevent other people from using your name in online conversation.
- The Internet never forgets, even if you do. That dating file you had before you met your spouse? It’s still out there.
All of this can amount to some very embarrassing moments. I’ve had a few of my own. Probably the most disturbing was when someone purchased a domain similar to mine. The contents of that hastily constructed site were false and unflattering. Had it stayed up, it might have severely damaged my reputation. Fortunately, there are laws and rules against such things and it only took one letter to the correct people for the site to be taken down. Still, that result continued for come up in search results for several months.
We can try to control our names as much as possible, but even when one has one as relatively unique as mine, there are still other people in the universe with the same name and, in my case, one poor soul with the same name and the same occupation. I go to a lot of trouble to make sure this website comes up at or near the top of most search engine results, but before getting to the bottom of the first page, one might be directed to a page or article that has absolutely nothing to do with me.
Even more confusing is the fact that different search engines have different formulas for displaying information. If one Googles my name, without the middle initial, the results, in order, are:
- this website
- my tumblr
- my Twitter
- my Facebook
- my About.Me profile
- a sample of photographs
- my LinkedIn
- my rarely-used Saatchi Art profile
- a spam-filled white pages search
Nothing I can do about the white pages nonsense; that’s going to show up everywhere. Do the same search on Bing, though, and in addition to the same information, you get a link to the top 25 LinkedIn profiles for Charles Ledbetter. Note the difference in the spelling of the last name. None of those results are going to be me. Search Yahoo! and the first result is an ad for Charles Schwab, which is definitely not me. If you use Ask.com, the first result is my Model Mayhem profile. Fortunately, all the top results actually do link to pages I control in some form or fashion, so any content is of my own doing. Still, the speed with which the results point to someone else is rather unsettling.
On the other end of the spectrum, if one searches for Kat, one gets — nothing. Sure, it displays some results, but either they’re not her, or they’re spam phishing information off public records. In one case, the link is to a social media account abandoned by someone in Canada with the same name. Kat has been diligent about keeping her social media accounts locked down for security reasons, and those efforts have paid off. The one link that does actually contain information about her is the link to this website, and that is always more than half-way down the page.
Now, we could cause some major embarrassment for other people. I have taken pictures of a lot of people in various stages of undress, or sometimes worse, badly dressed. Over the past few years, we’ve stopped mentioning those people’s names in conjunction with their photos not merely to prevent embarrassment (which wouldn’t bother most), but also to prevent stalking, which is another serious online issue. Not only do we not credit nude models on the website, we do not share their names with anyone unless they have specifically asked us to do so. We appreciate the people who pose for us and do not want to place them in any danger.
Since you’re not doing anything today (don’t lie), you might take a moment to Google yourself, then check the other search engines as well. You might be surprised by what you find.