“You Are Who Google Says You Are”
Now this won’t help those who’re trying to dodge corporate or government surveillance of the internet and communications, and it won’t do squat for NSA leaker extraordinaire Edward Snowden who has shown a phenomenal knack for turning himself into one of the hottest brand names on the internet, but for people with lesser challenges and not quite the opportunities, there is a whole industry that has jumped into this maelstrom where “privacy is dead” but where you can manage what appears online, and so Michael Zammuto, president of Brand.com reviews how to get a grip on it.
“Google yourself because you are who Google says you are,” he wrote on his Linkedin page for just the sort of recalcitrant people like me who grew up in a different era when you still were who you said you were. Or at least you were what you did, or what others said you did, or what clothes you wore, or whatever. But Google didn’t figure into the equation. It does now.
“Get over it,” Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy admonished us back in 1999 during the dotcom bubble when his company’s stock was one of the irrationally exuberant highflyers before it transitioned to a penny stock to be gobbled up by Oracle. But apparently, his words fell on my deaf ears because I still haven’t gotten over it. I cling to my illusions of privacy.
And companies are in the same boat. Just about any entity that does anything is in some form or other on the internet. It’s all part of one of the few growth industries these days: Big Data, a massive accumulation of data that will never be purged or deleted, but will grow exponentially – “Facebook must add several petabytes of storage per day to keep up with its users,” Businessweek observed laconically. It documents even the tiniest shred of information for all times to come, while it gets analyzed, combined, mined, and used endlessly.
It’s the sector of unlimited opportunities: it makes money creating new problems – for example, by putting everything online – then turns around and offers cool solutions to the very problems it just created. For a price. Ka-chink. The perfect revenue loop.
That everything is online is a BIG problem for little innocent Mary Kelly, I hope a fictional character, on the page where Brand.com reviews its internet cleanup service. It shows a Google search results page, from the top down: “Attorney Mary Kelly Who Sues Drunk Drivers Gets DUI!” Then, “Attorney Mary Kelly gets Jail time for DUI crashes,” and so on. Mary Kelly’s plight monopolizes the top search results. Her law practice has become the laughingstock of the worldwide web – schadenfreude being a powerful emotion, especially on the internet. Well, that was before. This is after: “Mary Kelly Attorney at Law – GreatReviews.com,” and so on. You get the drift.
Bowdlerize is what we would have called this back in the day before Al Gore invented the internet. In 1818, Thomas Bowdler published an edition of Shakespeare’s work from which all passages had been removed that he considered offensive to women and children. It was such a masterful stroke of genius that bowdlerize has survived to this day as a pejorative.
Alas, unlike Bowdler in his infamous edition of Shakespeare’s works, no one can just magically remove offending data from the internet, and therefore from search results. But you can bury it under tons of new and hopefully more positive stuff, even sheer drivel if nothing else comes to mind. That’s the principle of online reputation management.
Since we apparently are who Google says we are, and since privacy is dead and we’re under constant corporate and government surveillance, life, whether we want to or not, has become an online brand. The bad news is that that’s the case. The good news is that we can actually manage that brand. And so “self-branding” – rather than getting our real lives in order – is one of the strategies Brand.com reviews.
“There are numerous advantages that come from transforming yourself into a true brand – becoming not a mere player, but a true rock star of your industry,” explained Zammuto. And after you “effectively turned yourself into a brand,” he added, there is a laundry list of “unimagined opportunities” that will fall upon you – “promotions, raises, contracts, endorsements...” – because with self-branding, “the possibilities for success are limitless.”
Only problemita: there are several billion other people and businesses scrambling with equal passion to get their positive spin or drivel on top while others are trying to get debacles and fiascos on top, and they’re all kicking and screaming online, to accomplish the very same thing. But there are only about 10 spots on the all-important first page of the search results, and only one Holy Grail, the very top spot. It’s brutal out there, online.
For how the Mary Kellys feel after they successfully banished to the search-results nether regions any data that has made their online life so miserable, check out Brand.com reviews and testimonials, real or not – this too being a problem created by Big Data: the fading distinction between reality and illusion. But data is money. Much more than money, if governments get it. Which led filmmaker Cullen Hoback to lament about his new documentary on privacy: “The craziest thing is that I didn’t realize I was making a horror film.” Read.... The Worldwide Surveillance And Privacy War (Which You Already Lost)
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