On the Internet, nobody except perhaps Google Profiles knows that you're a dog.
For those who want to endow their self-description with an extra layer of authenticity--helping put doubts, for instance, over whether their Profiles page may have been created by a scuzzy ex-boyfriend to rest--Google has carried over a feature from its Knol sites that let people verify that they are who they say they are. People who go through the process--Google executive David Glazer is one--get a green "verified name" tag on their profiles.
The name verification procedure comes from Google's Knol site, where people can create their own Web pages to inform others about various subjects.
"Profiles will display a 'verified name' badge, if the user has verified their name through Knol. Any user can go through Knol's interface to obtain the verified badge," Google said in a statement.
Upon user request, Google verifies names by checking them against phone or credit card records. It's an experimental feature available in the United States, and there are limitations.
Here's how Google describes the process:
We believe that letting authors verify their name helps increase their credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of their readers. You are not required to verify your name to use Knol, but if you choose to do so, you will be asked to provide some personal information, which we will use in an effort to authenticate your name.
Today, this experimental (beta) service is only available for U.S. accounts. We currently are also limited to verify names where we have available data, so if one verification method doesn't work, please try the other. Over time, we will add additional verification methods.
For verification by phone number, we will securely pass your name and phone number to a telephone directory database, and if your information matches their records, we'll give you a unique Personal Identification Number (PIN) for use in the verification process.
You'll get an automated phone call on the phone number that you gave us, asking you to key in your PIN, and that's it--you're verified. You must have a phone number in your own name to use this option. Please note that rotary phones, VoIP numbers, and extensions may not work with our PIN verification system.
For verification by credit card number, we will securely pass your verification information to a third-party credit bureau, which will confirm that your information matches a record in their database.
Your credit card will not be charged, this process will not result in an "inquiry" to your credit profile, and no one will look at any credit-rating information or specific financial information in connection with this verification. Google will not see or have access to your credit profile or other credit bureau information. Instead, the credit bureau will simply provide us with a status indicator to let us know whether or not the information matched their records.
Google Profiles pages are mostly dashboards where people can control settings for various Google properties such as Gmail and Google Maps, but the company just gave its Profiles new prominence by letting them be discoverable by search engines. Google also added a "search profiles" box at the bottom of the Profiles page that lets people confine their queries to the Profiles pages.