Is Google Being Evil? – Part 2

In Is Google Being Evil? – Part 1 I stressed the importance of business owners protecting their brand. But first, you have to know where information is being written about your business.

Well, Google has come up with a way to post comments about your web site, on your web site, without your knowledge or consent.

It’s called Sidewiki. It’s part of the Google Toolbar and it opens up a separate window above your web pages for people to post and read comments from other visitors. You won’t even know about it unless you install Google’s Toolbar and use it on ALL of your web pages, loading page after page, to see what’s being written. To do this you must enable the ‘enhanced’ version of the toolbar, which means Google then tracks your web surfing.

Now, Google and only Google controls the comments in Sidewiki. They supposedly rank comments on the use of sophisticated language (they can do that with an algorithm?), the user’s reputation (other viewers can vote up or down on comments) and the user’s history (their Google Profile).

If there aren’t enough comments, Google may include links to blog posts. What?

You can also supposedly link your Sidewiki comments to Facebook, Twitter, et al.

Can you as a web site owner block comments or even the whole Sidewiki? No.

According to none other than Danny Sullivan (in an excellent explanation of Sidewiki) you can claim the first comment through Google Webmaster Central. If you are signed into Sidewiki you will always see your own posts, but you need to sign out, then use Sidewiki, to see what everyone else sees.

So what does this all boil down to? Google sees it as a way for “experts” to add helpful tips and perspective on pages covering heart disease prevention and the like, which brings to mind the quote “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions”.

As an analogy, I see it as an open invitation for anyone to scrawl graffiti all over my business’s walls that only people with special glasses can see. Graffiti that I can’t erase, by the way.

It also allows your competitors to post links to their sites on top of your site.

Google may do no evil, but others certainly do. As the site owner, I can control comments on my site. By providing access for evildoers to add comments to my site, that I pay for, without any control other than Google’s, means that Google should consider a new slogan.

[Update: 9/6/2011] Google announced they would be cancelling Sidewiki as part of their ‘fall spring-cleaning’ allowing them to “make things much simpler for our users, improving the overall Google experience” and “devote more resources to high impact products”. Halleluiah!