Did you know you had a Google Profile? Because you probably do, and as TIME’s Joel Stein discovered this week, it might be just another case of big business knowing more about you than you might think.
If you have a Google account – which you will have, if you’ve ever signed up for a Google online service like Gmail, Google Docs, or Calendar – then it is automatically linked to a profile page that pulls together everything Google knows about you in one place.
A week or so ago, Google updated profiles.google.com with a somewhat Facebook-y layout. But does that mean Google’s is trying to build a Facebook of its own?
Well, let’s not jump to conclusions. Google already has a Facebook-like product, Orkut, which is huge in Brazil and India, and has over 100 million users. That’s peanuts compared to Facebook’s estimated 600 million, but it’s still a huge number of people.
Then there’s Buzz, launched in February 2010 to a bemused internet. Buzz is very similar to Facebook, with a simple interface for posting text, photos and links. You can “Like” things there, and comment on them. But your Buzzings are kept inside Buzz – only other Buzzees can see them.
And that’s where Google Profiles comes in. Your Profile page can include everything from Buzz too. (This is optional, so if you look at your profile and don’t see it, it’s because you’ve not switched the feature on – or you just haven’t used Buzz.)
Your Profile can also be linked to all your other web stuff. Your Flickr photos, your Twitter account, and so on. All of the stuff you put there can be connected to your Buzz account and automagically aggregated in one place: your Google Profile. It’s like a wall. Or even a Wall.
Suddenly, your profile page isn’t just your name and Google ID, it’s everything Google knows about you. And as we’ve pointed out here before, Google likes data. That’s how it makes money.
Of course, this is all moot if you simply don’t connect everything to Buzz, or switch off Buzz completely (and in doing so, delete your profile). Using the internet these days is making a choice: it’s up to all of us to decide just how much we want to share with the rest of the world.
More on TIME.com: