The media reported earlier this month (June) that Matthijs R. Koot, a PhD student at the University of Amsterdam, was able to create a database of 35 million Google Profiles (by developing a simple script which he shared on the Internet), scraping real names, email addresses, biographical information, Twitter feeds, links to Picasa photos, etc. This information is actually already available on the Internet! 🙁 Did any of you know about what Matthijs did ? How many of you have ever reviewed your Google Profile status recently? I suggest you review your Google Profile status right now, if you want to protect your Profile and Internet Status from spear phishing.
So, for those of you who use Gmail, Picasa or any other Google services you may or may not know that you have a Google Profile (you’d be amazed some people don’t know why they have a profile and why it is needed). This profile can reveal as little or as much information about you as you choose. What I can tell you is that you might be surprised just how much of your profile information can by default be seen by others.
Here are the basic features on securing and managing your Google Profile:
- Visit: http://profiles.google.com
- Click ‘Edit profile’ under Profile on the main Google accounts screen
- Click ‘Create a profile’ if you don’t have one
- Click on the ‘About me’ tab to review your basic personal information
- Consider disabling ‘Display my full name’; ‘Allow people to contact me’ and ‘Display the list of people I’m following’ options on the right of the page
- Also at the bottom of the page you will see who has linked to your profile along with the option to delete your profile if you wish
- Hide your profile – click the ‘Search visibility’ field and untick the ‘Help others find my profile in search results’ box and then click save
Note: The data here is visible at www.google.com/profiles/your Google account name
IMPORTANT: Do not customise your URL with your Gmail username as you will make the email address publicly discoverable in search engines!!!
Some additional simple steps to secure and manage your Google Profile
Email address: Your birthday and phone numbers are hidden from public view by default. Your email address isn’t visible, people will still be able to email you through your connected account. You might want to disable this feature. Click ‘Email’ under the profile picture and untick the ‘Allow people to email me from my profile’ box and click Save.
Linked accounts: You might also want to manage your linked accounts using the Links box. To edit a connection you will need to click the pencil icon. Click the cross to remove a connection. You can also hide connections by selecting ‘Manage connected accounts’, then untick the ‘Show on my public Google Profile’ box.
Manage your photos: Click Scrapbook then ‘manage photos’. Under the My Photos TAB you will need to click ‘Edit visibility’. You will need to use the drop-down menu – change ‘Public on the web’ to ‘Anyone with the link’, so they are visible only to those you want to allow.
Of course if you want to show your profile you can. Facebook has driven the ‘share with everyone everything’ social revolution which has encouraged people to feel rather inclined to share their everyday lives openly with everyone – this includes their friends and their friends and so on. If you want to have some control of your online status, then 10 minutes is all you need to secure and manage your Google Profile.
Safe surfing folks!