Last week, Google+ finally got around to rolling out its long-awaited business pages. One of the first high-profile businesses to sign up was Bank of America.
Or was it?
As Carl Franzen at TalkingPointsMemo.com reported tonight, that page, complete with the Bank of America logo and pictures of corporate officers, appears to be a viciously satirical prank.
The company's Google+ tagline? "We took your bailout money and your mortgage rates are going up."
On the About page, the satire cuts even deeper:
We are committed to making as much money as possible from usury, coercion, bribery, insider trading, extortion, and debit card fees as possible.
The page, which has been up for nearly a week, has already attracted more than 600 followers and 389 +1s. Update: Overnight, the popularity of the page has skyrocketed. It now has well over 1,000 followers, and the number of +1s has nearly doubled.
It hasn't, however, drawn the attention of Google+ management, which didn't mention the possibility of "brand-jacking" in its announcement.
The phony page shows up first if you type Bank of America in the Google+ search box, ahead of what might or might not be the authentic business page for the banking giant:
Here's a screen shot of the satirical page.
How much longer will that page remain up?
This is only the latest in a series of miscues by Google, which seems to have underestimated the interest in its new service from legitimate fans and from pranksters.
As I wrote last month:
Clearly, Google+ didn’t start out with a vision. If it had, then Google would not have been blindsided by the controversy over its insistence on people using their real names. That little detail should have been part of the very first discussion, before a single mockup was sketched and before a single line of code was written.
An even bigger design blunder was the idea that sorting your contacts into Circles would allow users to control the privacy of everything they post. Again, it’s a reaction to Facebook and its privacy headaches. But somebody really, really didn’t think that one through.
What's especially striking about this mistake is that Google has had months to prepare for the launch of business pages. Anyone who has spent more than a microsecond in social media knows that brand-jacking is inevitable, whether it's done as a prank or for more malicious purposes. This example is clearly a form of political protest, but a more subtle corporate identity thief could easily help himself to a well-known brand name and use it for criminal purposes: to redirect Google+ visitors to phony support pages for harvesting user names and passwords, for example.
One would expect that Google would have processes in place to help legitimate businesses secure their names. But that hasn't happened.