URL4UIs this a dig at us, Meghan?
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?
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:
And that's the kind of service you get from NonSociety.
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