Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Handmaiden of Tragic Rebounds offers her advice.

Miss Meghan Asha chirps up today, with a helpful post on how to protect your reputation online (you know, because she's "your source for tech"):


Do you have dirt on the web? The Internet has become a place where attackers have an advantage with the ability to taint your reputation. With recruiters, college admissions offices, acquaintances, and even potential dates searching for your name on the Internet, wouldn’t it be nice if you could erase some of your web persona mishaps?
Is this a dig at us, Meghan?

A little over a year ago, my Google search was completely clear without a blemish. You could barely find my name, except for being on the Dean’s list in college. Now, it seems you can find more posts, articles, and comments on everything from who I’ve dated to what words I’ve misspelled (gotta love a lifecast!). I’m not complaining, but I would be, if I was working in an environment where all theses little details could
deter me from getting a promotion.

Meghan, it's a good thing you're not complaining. The problem with complaining would be that a lot of what you and the rest of the Trio would object to is sort of a direct result of what you "put out there." But Meghan has a helpful suggestion--an endorsement, if you will, for those who might suffer from some of the problems she does:

I know that most people are not so hip to broadcast their life on the Internet, so for those of you looking to scrub the interwebs and clear your name, I suggest you visit Reputation Defender. I’m stunned that there’s actually an answer to clearing those smarmy search results, here a little description of what Reputation Defender offers:

* To SEARCH out all information about you and your family throughout the Internet and present it to you in a clear, easy-to-understand fashion
* To provide DESTROY assistance, helping to remove, at your request, inaccurate, inappropriate, hurtful, and slanderous information about you and your family using our proprietary in-house methodology. This same mission extends to your personally identifiable information, like name, address, and phone number.
* To deliver CONTROL over how others are able to perceive you on the Internet

They offer four different products to combat online slander for you and your loved ones: (Ed note: Much is lifted from from RD's web site, though Meghan adds her own special touches.)

  • MyReputation: Allows you to review everything about you online. Best part is that not only reviews the open Internet, but also the ‘Invisible Web’. Yes, there is an ‘Invisible Web’; I’ll post on this phenomenon later.
  • MyChild: Scours the Internet for all references to your child and teen.
  • MyEdge: Allows you to own your search engine results and control you’re [sic] online reputation.
  • My Privacy: Let’s you remove all your personal information from people search databases- from one dashboard.

See, now here's why we're disappointed, Megs. A true tech journalist, even "just" a tech blogger, would provide a little bit more service when writing about such companies. Maybe they'd answer these questions: Does it really work? What are the company's methods? What do outside experts think? They wouldn't just cut and paste from the company's web site and shill the product for them.

If you'd done any research or reporting, you might share some of what this WSJ article does. You know, information on the company's methods, fee structure and even pitfalls:

But, as Ms. Parascandola found out, the services can't wipe everything off the Internet, and their efforts can backfire. ReputationDefender sent a letter to political blog Positive Liberty asking it to remove Ms. Parascandola's name from a critical entry on the grounds the post was "outdated and invasive." Blogger Jason Kuznicki refused, and posted a new entry mocking the request. He says he "had a good laugh over it."

Michael Fertik, a 28-year-old Harvard Law graduate who founded ReputationDefender in October, said misfires represent a "tiny percentage" of the company's efforts to fight the "permanent and public" nature of negative online content. For fees starting at $10 a month, the 10-person Louisville, Ky.-based company scours blogs, photo-sharing sites and social networks for information about a client, then charges $30 for each item the user instructs it to try to correct or remove. The service won't say how many customers it has...He declined to say how many times ReputationDefender has succeeded in having content removed.

Well, that's good to know! The article also explains the company's methodology:

ReputationDefender begins by sending emails on behalf of its clients to Web-site owners. The letters typically introduce the company, identify the client and the offending content, and ask the recipient to remove it. The letters don't make threats -- Mr. Fertik, despite his training, and others at ReputationDefender aren't lawyers -- but instead try to appeal to recipients' sense of fairness: "Like our clients, and perhaps like you, we think the Internet is sometimes unnecessarily hurtful to the privacy and reputations of everyday people," one such letter reads.

And sometimes the company's methods can backfire!

While Mr. Fertik said such problems are rare, takedown attempts that go awry can generate considerable unwanted attention. Stuart Neilson, a statistics instructor at a university in Cork, Ireland, claimed on his personal Web site that he was the victim of "academic bullying" by a colleague. After the other professor hired ReputationDefender to try to have the accusations removed, Dr. Neilson rebuffed the firm and posted his exchanges with the company on his site. Those posts received wider attention when they were republished on a blog devoted to faculty discord in academia. "It has merely generated additional publicity," he said.

ReputationDefender also sent a takedown request to Consumerist, a Gawker Media blog that had written about a man who was briefly jailed for harassment after repeatedly calling online travel agent Priceline.com Inc. for a refund. The letter asked the blog to remove or alter the archived post, saying it was "outdated and disturbing" to its client. Consumerist editor Ben Popken blasted the request with a profanely titled entry, calling it an attempt at censorship. "It's not like we're spreading libel," he said. "They were trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube."

ReputationDefender's Mr. Fertik said the company is no longer sending letters to irreverent blogs like Consumerist, which may be more likely to mock the company's efforts. "We are no longer taking those kinds of risks with those kinds of outlets," he said.

Uh, then what is the point? Oh, but there's another way to bury negative information--just bombard the web with positive stuff!

DefendMyName, a two-year-old unit of Portland, Maine-based marketing firm QED Media Group LLC, markets itself as a way to remove negative mentions from search-engine results. What it actually does, said founder Rob Russo, is attempt to bury them below promotional sites, blogs and forum postings it creates for clients. The company's rates start at $1,000 a month, he said, though he declined to say how many clients it has.

We've read that ReputationDefender employs similar methodology, as this Forbes article reports:

But Reputation Defender recently began offering users a subtler approach: hiding unwanted Web comments with a barrage of positive, Google-friendly content, either created by the company or dredged up from elsewhere on the Web and optimized to appear at the top of search-engine results.

"Say you have 20,000 delighted clients and five clients that hate you," says Fertik. "We'll tell your story on the Internet and find press about you and start promoting that to the top of the Google chain. It's very Internet-specific PR, a very different game." For that labor-intensive service, officially called MyEdge, the company charges a hefty price: Fees start at around $10,000. Fertik says he has more than 25 clients for the service.

MyEdge's success is based not only in creating reputation-boosting pages but also in convincing Google to float those sites to the first few pages of results, the only results that most Web users ever see. But gaming Google can be tricky. The search giant, which declined to comment on Reputation Defender's service, spends significant resources trying to prevent Web site owners from pushing up their ranking artificially. And it will punish sites it thinks are cheating by pushing them into the back pages of search results. (see "Condemned To Google Hell").

When it's all said and done, ReputationDefender's services seem like a lot of money for stuff you could do yourself. But Meghan, the renowned "expert" tech blogger seems to disagree:

What do you think? Is privacy and protecting your Internet persona worth $15 a month?

My answer is YES! What’s yours?

Email Meghan@NonSociety.com
And that's the kind of service you get from NonSociety.


  1. Brava, RBNS. Actual journalism! And all it took was a few minutes -- your post was informative, critical and was more than just cut-and-paste.
    Seriously, Meghan might be the worst. A tech blogger because she's got an in with a Mac Genius at one of their stores? An economic expert because she worked for a solid year? The one TMI where she actually had more expertise than the other women -- appropriate office wear and Meghan having been the only one to actually work in an office -- her one contribution? She got in trouble for wearing skirts that were too short. Great! Thanks for the APPROPRIATE office wear tip!
    Bless you RBNS. You provide a service, a venting place.

  2. As someone posted here recently--paying money to Reputation Defender is like paying money to try to get pee out of a swimming pool. Meghan Asha, you should know better. And you should certainly appreciate the possibilities for RD's efforts to backfire badly. Think much?

  3. These are the type of posts that absolutely infuriate me about "Hello Kitty" Asha-Parikh.

    No legwork.
    No real analysis.
    No real opinion.
    No information.

    What it contains is laziness, a self knowing attitude, and the perpetuation of this false pretense that she actually KNOWS technology.

    In short, a typical moronic post by I believe the stupidest of the three. Yes, even stupider than Mary Rambin.

  4. Privacy and protecting your internet persona? This is so mental. What you girls are really desperate to find is protection from yourselves, right? Because I've only ever seen recirculated stuff you brainiacs have posted yourselves in the first place and then apparently had second thoughts about when those nasty anonymous internet haters called you out for being so idiotic. I know this happens quite regularly. Poor things. Your own website is your biggest enemy dumbo.

  5. Web20Morons: But remember, as Mary instructed us, assume they pay for nothing, right? So, in order to put this supposed scrubbing company in their service, MissTech had to produce a little puff piece with some links. It's only a matter of hours before "ReputationDefender" gets back to them and cites the most offending website as their own! : )

  6. Beautiful. The contrast between an intelligent researched post on the topic and the cut and paste job that is the MO of Miss Asha is striking.

    Totally agree with Web20Morons, the girl does little other than regurgitate a company's or service's description of itself. How long could such posts possibly take to put together? And more important, what good are they to anyone?

    She'd do just as well to write the name of the product, a couple words on the type of service it is and provide a link. Same end result.

  7. We'll know for sure if Meghan Asha Parikh is in some sort of "exchange" with this company - they provide free or deeply discounted service and she mindlessly copies and pastes their PR material - if NSRB receives any communication from this company.

    I am seriously hoping they try to "reason" with Gawker. But based on some of the research that NSRB did, it appears that they don't like to deal with "irreverent" sites.

  8. Hey Meghan Asha Parikh: I own a consulting company. Here is my advice to you. It only costs $1,000 a month, payable in cash, check or money order:

    I know you don't like to do more than five minutes of research on a given topic, but if you were worried about your "online reputation" perhaps you should have given a second thought to broadcasting your life on the internet before this whole shitstorm called Nonsociety launched. The next time some company tries to take your money by telling you they can control the Internet, take that money and burn it instead. It's just as worthwhile

    Now give me one meeeeellion dollars.

  9. This is a demonstration of one of three things:
    1) One or all of these sites is a sponsor and is not being disclosed.
    2) The trio is fishing for a sponsor or free services -- something that is completely unethical.
    3) Meagan Asha, the "tech blogger" doesn't know how to properly research and review technology and is soliciting someone to tell her what to think.

    Now imagine you were an investor in NonSociety (a terrifying thought, I know). Which one of these theories would be most acceptable to you?

    That, along with the added irony of "lifecasters" not wanting information on the internet is one of the most hilarious things I've seen all week. Ladies, you can't have it both way. You are either in or out. Either be a lifecasting company or an advice blog, because you obviously don't have the ability to do both at the same time.

  10. I love the part about the "phenomenon" of invisible web. The invisible web wasn't a phenomenon when I was getting my MLIS 5 years ago, and it isn't a phenomenom now. It's just sites that don't show up when your research is confined to Google or Yahoo or any other major search portal. Most of the good information is in the invisible web, anyway. But keep "siting" Wikpedia and any other page that pops up first in Google. Lazy research annoys me to no end. Ugh.

  11. Does anyone know where Meghan went to school? I always assumed (either due to her wealth, or her tech-poseur status) that she went to Stanford or thereabouts, but I haven't seen that confirmed anywhere. Google doesn't help. Anyone know?

  12. Ah, sorry. Forgot its Parikh, not Asha. Another USC grad? How disappointing, and yet revealing. Spoiled children, indeed.

  13. True story:

    I googled my own name prior to a job search, and found a couple of scary-negative comments on two different video gaming forums. They were about someone else who happened to have the SAME NAME as me (I swear, I'm not a video game enthusiast!)

    I wrote a polite email to each of the webmasters, explaining the situation, and asking them to either delete the last name or remove the offensive comments (which were on threads that had not been active for several years and were made by users who were no longer registered). Both of them hemmed and hawed and said they'd think about it and get back to me. Well, that really ticked me off. They were willing to let me stew and possibly lose my chance at a decent job, just because they could?!

    I wrote back telling them I was under a doctor's care for depression and that I was obsessed with getting those comments removed and I was going to kill myself if they didn't remove them immediately. Poof! The comments were gone within hours of my "crazy" email.

    They were still in the Google cache, however, but Google will delete their cache sooner than the standard turnaround time if you write and ask them to. My reputation (and that of my guilty doppelganger) was scrubbed clean within 24 hours.

  14. Two dimwits came from that university and found each other. Says something for the school overall.

  15. ReputationDefender only does what you could do yourself to clean up your online reputation: it politely asks the host site to modify or delete the comments. Obviously they have a big contact list to help out, where we would get nowhere trying to ask the likes of Google to clear a cache.

    Of course the only reputation you can polish is clean to start with, and ReputationDefender's efforts are mostly ineffective because most adverse comment is fair or truthful.

  16. meghan-you're pretty and i want to like you, but you're SO DAMN BORING!!!!!!!!!!!