Google A Curse To Those With Common Names

from the time-to-get-some-SEO dept

For people with embarrassing incidents in their past, Google can be a nightmare, as it's become the closest thing there is to an individual's "permanent record". But people whose pasts are fairly clean can have the opposite problem: their Google permanent record gets lost among everyone else who shares their name. This is particularly hard on the John Smiths of the world, who have to compete with thousands of others to receive a prominent listing on the search engine. This also effects people who change their name due to marriage, as a lifetime of electronic references aren't attached to their new name. Parents have even begun using Google before they name their baby, to make sure that the name they choose doesn't have too much online competition. If that practice were to become more widespread, it may force the Freakonomics guys to revisit their theories on baby naming, and the idea that parents intentionally latch onto popular names associated with elite classes. Instead, the moment a name starts to get even remotely popular (or crowded), parents will start searching for something new.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Nick, May 8th, 2007 @ 10:54pm

    I'm not to worried about the google "permanent record", if a job turns you down becuase they found something on google and its not you, thats definet grounds for a lawsuit.

     

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  2.  
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    Supra, May 8th, 2007 @ 10:59pm

    There are some benefits to getting lost in the web crowd: no one can Google-stalk you, including potential employers. In that sense, it protects your privacy.

     

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  3.  
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    DMM, May 8th, 2007 @ 11:23pm

    Re:

    I wholeheartedly agree! I share the same first and last name with an actor who has had a long career. Even though the actor is not one of the more prominent ones in the business, unless you include with the name search my field of employment, you will never find me amongst all the references to the actor.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2007 @ 11:47pm

    well my last name is a navy rank, some famous racers have the same name, a pretty famous singer has the same last name, and it can mean small, insignificant

     

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  5.  
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    Ben, May 9th, 2007 @ 1:10am

    web-reputation

    Perhaps if people considered their 'permanent' record when posting stuff on the 'net, then they might behave a little less obnoxiously! ... result, no scars to defend.

    From someone with a name shared by only two people in the world, one of whom is probably still pre-school age! So if you Google me, it's all me.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2007 @ 1:34am

    Re:

    Oh, stop being so petty

     

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  7.  
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    Urza, May 9th, 2007 @ 3:44am

    I love it personally

    I intentionally pull as many things as I can off google. But it's quite nice, because unless you put in extra data, when you search my name all you get are flower shops :)

     

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  8.  
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    PopeRatzo, May 9th, 2007 @ 4:14am

    Good for me

    I changed my name to "O.J. Simpson".

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2007 @ 5:09am

    I'm sorry but I must be really dense today because I just don't understand this whole google = permanent record.

    Are you seriously telling me employers will look through my CV, references, and interview me face to face. Decide to give me a job, because they all check out.

    But just before they offer the job they google my name and find something belonging to god knows who with the same name as me. Assume it's me then not give me the job?

    Huh?

    What am I missing, because it seems only a serisouly retarded employer would do this. And then as someone pointed out I'm sure there would be lots of mistaken identities and subsequent lawsuits.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2007 @ 5:14am

    Re:

    Sir/Miss Petty.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2007 @ 5:16am

    Re:

    Haha, good point. If the employer assumed you were that specific "John Smith"... they'd be too retarded to have me want to work there anyways.

     

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  12.  
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    Wolfger, May 9th, 2007 @ 5:21am

    There's a reason (two reasons, actually) I never use my real name...

     

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  13.  
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    Sherman T. Potter, May 9th, 2007 @ 5:35am

    Go Way Back

    My record goes all the way back to WWI, enlisted in the Army at age 15, lied about my age so I could become a cavalry man, but you can google all about that to your hearts content, it's all water under the bridge now.

     

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  14.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, May 9th, 2007 @ 5:38am

    Googling names

    I just googled my real name and the alias I use here. I found more links with my fake name and they all point to Techdirt (Except one it points to a site called feedster that seems to have puled an article and all comments from this site.)

    My real last name is also a commonly used word that could mean small, so I get vary general search results.

    But this is why I use a fake name online, so I can't be tracked by an idiot that thinks "If I saw it on the Internet it must be true."

    When I'm asked "Have you been known by any other names?" douse Chronno count?

     

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  15.  
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    Celes, May 9th, 2007 @ 5:45am

    Re: Re:

    Same here. I'm apparently a master quilter and some doctor who's really famous among the geriatrics crowd. I was actually a little disappointed that I couldn't turn up anything on myself.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2007 @ 6:12am

    I'm the only person with my first and last name (using the same spelling) in the entire world, and I've researched this. Every single thing on Google that a name search for me brings up IS me. Fortunately I recognized this early on, and generally only "nice" things show up. When I feel like being an asshole, I use a pseudonym. Which brings us to the lesson: if you're going to be an asshole, be smart about it.

     

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  17.  
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    OKVol, May 9th, 2007 @ 6:41am

    In San Antonio

    I'm a lawyer. In Queensland, I'm a rugby player. In Ohio, I'm a doctor.

    My surname dates way back in American history, and is dated back to the 600's in Scotland.

    But, as someone else pointed out, some names are newer and very unique - but this is the exception, not the rule. As a rule, and name is not a unique identifier. But this would require intelligence.

    Remember the rule that a cobbler's children have no shoes? Apply that to HR and you get a typical mess.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2007 @ 6:52am

    I used to think my name was unique, I have since discovered a TV producer and an author with the same first and last name. I thought I was vindicated when I gave my child what I thought was a unique spelling on a VERY UNUSUAL name. Guess what? My spelling in more common than the actual name!

     

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  19.  
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    RandomThoughts, May 9th, 2007 @ 7:03am

    Hey, I am a two time medal of honor winner, too bad the war I fought in was the Civil war.

     

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  20.  
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    Bobby Kennedy, May 9th, 2007 @ 7:14am

    No Kidding

    You think it's easy to get lost when you have a common name? I will never show up in Google. My name will, but no one has the fortitude to keep clicking "next" till they actually find ME.

     

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  21.  
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    Bobby Kennedy, May 9th, 2007 @ 7:16am

    No Kidding

    You think it's easy to get lost when you have a common name? I will never show up in Google. My name will, but no one has the fortitude to keep clicking "next" till they actually find ME.

     

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  22.  
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    TheDock22, May 9th, 2007 @ 7:23am

    Re:

    Actually, no. An employer does not legally have to give you a reason why they chose not to hire you. If you did find out, so what? Employers may not be able to discriminate on age, gender, race, or religion, but they can sure discriminate on everything else including addictions (like smoking), drugs, political views, and even your looks if they wanted to.

    I think most employers are not that dumb to think everything on google under "John Smith" is you.

     

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  23.  
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    Matt Bennett, May 9th, 2007 @ 7:41am

    No, Joe, it doesn't work the way you say. I have one of those very common names (Matthew Michael Bennett) No, I don't get blamed for other peoples histories. You'll simply never find me. --I-- haven't found me. It's quite apparent when you search my name there's 10,000 different people there. It does NOT look there's some guy who'd me, but isn't.

     

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  24.  
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    The End ain't as far as you think......., May 9th, 2007 @ 8:37am

    It could be worse

    I just Google'd my name which I do bout every 3 months or so, and the first 4 results are me, but It didn't bring up my Myspace then I Google'd my aliases, yeah nothing, my best friend however is responsible for the creation of an early 1900 gas engine, too bad he's 19, what's worse is that another of my good friends has the same name as an adult movie star....here I thought it was actually bad when they find you,

     

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  25.  
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    Brian, May 9th, 2007 @ 9:04am

    What is in a name?

    Afraid of getting lost in the crowd or mistaken for someone else? Then tell the world what's yours with something like claimID.

    btw, my Google search usually turns up a certain no-talent actor from a particular Aaron Spelling series.

     

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  26.  
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    |333173|3|_||3, May 9th, 2007 @ 9:11am

    Googling myself

    I have not managed to find myself, unless I search using very specific terms, like using the site: option. Even my screen name cannot be searched by when using google, although that was not why I started spelling it this way. (THat was simply becuase other people at school were suing Beelzebub, so I 1333+3|) it up. In fact, using real name, as opposed to screen names, I have only found one person whom I know comes up on the first page of results for her name (in fact she is in the first five results at least). OTOH, many of my friends ahve distinctive screen names, espceially those further identified by their clan, since a gameing screen name with thier caln name is intended to be a unique identifier.

     

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  27.  
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    Guy Incognito, May 9th, 2007 @ 9:25am

    You Didn't See Me Here...

    To be perfectly honest, many people still go by callsigns/ handles and have their web identity through that. I can't actually find anything associated to my name online. However, I can find plenty associated to my various net names...

    So unless you're handing out your handle to people, and aren't using your real name, things shouldn't pop up on google :)

     

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  28.  
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    Bryan Price, May 9th, 2007 @ 9:27am

    Googling till you drop.

    I'm still the #1 Google hit for my name. Most of it isn't about me, but the Mariner's pitching coach.

    Does that make me more famous than him? I don't think so. At least I haven't found anything derogatory about any Bryan Prices so far. 8-)

    Ask has my Blogger profile as the first hit. Hmmm.

    MSN finally lists my blog as the fifth Bryan Price.

    And the guy who owns bryanprice.com (which has gone in my experience from his home PC (no website, just using it for dynamic DNS it appeared), forwarding to his Myspace profile, and now currently points to an actual web site that may eventually have real content on it.

     

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  29.  
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    Pat Smith O'Bama, May 9th, 2007 @ 12:55pm

    Correction: Google A Curse To Those With UNCOMMON

    In the age of Google it is far better to have a common name then an uncommon one if you want to stay anonymous (i.e. make sure no one finds out about any "embarrassing incidents").

    If your name is John Smith your identity is lost in the masses. But if your name is Barack Obama, Dweezil Zappa, or Joe Weisenthal you can be pretty sure a Google for your name will bring up only things about you and by you.

    Maybe I'm misinterpreting the post. Because it starts out worrying about hiding things you've done in the past and ends about making sure your name is unique so nothing is hidden and misidentified. Two different problems with two different solutions.

     

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  30.  
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    Dave, May 9th, 2007 @ 1:55pm

    Don't be naive Nick

    if a job turns you down becuase they found something on google and its not you, thats definet grounds for a lawsuit.

    And they are going to tell you why they don't hire you? Yeah right!

     

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  31.  
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    GW Bush, May 9th, 2007 @ 1:58pm

    Re: web-reputation

    Perhaps if people considered their 'permanent' record when posting stuff on the 'net, then they might behave a little less obnoxiously! ... result, no scars to defend.

    That's why you never post with your real name.

     

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  32.  
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    carey, May 21st, 2007 @ 9:57am

    people look up by only first name and school

    I need help I'm looking for a young lady who is attending bristol Central High School in Bristol,Ct can you help me ? She is 18 years old and I met her at Iop in Waterbury. Her first name is Dena but thats all the information I have . I know she is a senior and she is on The varsity soccer team.

     

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  33.  
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    lana, Sep 30th, 2007 @ 5:30pm

    Goolgles name

    I'm sorry that people took the name of your website ,but I think they have a right to name their children that because that is their chidren.So I think that you should leave them alone and don't worry about them naming their chidren.'Cause I don't think that is your children,is it?All I think is that you should leave them alone.I was just on the website searching and I saw this title and started to read it.And I saw that you didn't like the way they took your name.

     

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