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The Internet Privacy

Online Reputation Management To Keep Your Nose Clean? 125

Techdirt is reporting that as a response to all the hoopla about people being able to Google for information on potential employees (or lovers) a new market has opened up in "online reputation management". This seems to be the ultimate realization of those dubious firms who promised to scrub your records clean from a few years back. "From the description in the article, it sounds like this involves a combination of search engine optimization, plus legal bullying of anyone who says something you don't like. If anything, that sounds like a recipe for more trouble, but you can see how it would appeal to those who are unhappy with how they're perceived online. Obviously, it's no fun to have something bad about you exposed online, but efforts to suppress that information have a decent likelihood of backfiring and serving to highlight that information. I wonder if these online reputation managers have malpractice insurance for when that happens?"
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Online Reputation Management To Keep Your Nose Clean?

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  • by rueger (210566) on Friday February 01, 2008 @01:18PM (#22264222) Homepage
    Am I really unusual in understanding that there are some things that one does not broadcast to the World? Am I alone is understanding that you don't post pictures of yourself drunk with transvestites [] on Facebook? Am I alone in understanding that you don't film youself in illegal acts and then stick it on YouTube?

    Honestly, I don't care what someone does in their private life, but if they don't understand the line between private and public I probably don't want them working for me. Really people, is it that hard to use a pseudonym and a hotmail address?
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Friday February 01, 2008 @01:24PM (#22264308) Homepage Journal
    I was using the stalker site the other day and came to a realization: now with search engines being ubiqutous, people with really common names seem to enjoy a better shield against employers googling information than those who have uncommon names. For example, there are probably a lot more "Tim Smiths" out there than there are "Mustafa Wenzel"s. Tim Smith is probably harder to find online, and if he did anything stupid as a teen(got caught shoplifting or whatever), the employer would have a much harder time finding it.

    Then again, if you google my name, esp. my full name, without quotes, most of the results are porn..... I just happen to have the same last name as the stage name of a famous porn actress who frequently appears with a man whose stage first and last name is the same as my first and middle name respectively.
  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday February 01, 2008 @01:28PM (#22264388) Homepage Journal
    For most all of my 'internet life'...starting back about '93-'94 or so, I pretty much always used pseudonyms, and rarely if ever gave out personal information.

    I think most people back then did pretty much the same. It just seems common sense doesn't it? When did people start really acting stupid AND not only documenting it and publishing it for eternity? Do people not have the common sense to know that actions can follow you over time?

    I mean, sure, I know there are pictures and all back when I partied my ass off....and passed out here or there, etc. But, I doubt they're ever gonna surface unless I run for Senator or something. But, even so, I knew better than to broadcast that stuff back then. It all makes for great drinking stories, and all, but, c'mon, don't people have some idea that they will try to have a future out there?

    Hell, I've had to learn that I have to actually tone down my stories of old escapades depending on company. When at work at times in the past, when hanging with the guys, shooting the shit...each telling stories and trying to kinda of top the other....I noticed that my idea of normal partying was WAY more than most of them. I learned then not to really tell new people about the old least not at work.

    I basically have fun rehashing them with old friends I did them with....but, shy of that, in this world, well, it is more and more important to not be seen!! []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 01, 2008 @01:35PM (#22264502)
    You realize of course that it's not just individuals who post potentially embarrassing information about themseleves to the web, but other people like friends, relatives, or even complete strangers that do it without the individual's consent. How do you control that, other than taking up residence in your parents basement and never going out into the daylight? Not everyone wants to be a slashdot reader, you know.
  • by baboonlogic (989195) <anshul@baboonl[ ] ['ogi' in gap]> on Friday February 01, 2008 @01:44PM (#22264662) Homepage

    For most all of my 'internet life'...starting back about '93-'94 or so, I pretty much always used pseudonyms, and rarely if ever gave out personal information.

    Same here but since blogs became popular and I got mentioned once or twice here and there I decided that if it's gonna be the first result with my name on google it might as well be something better. So, now I do post a lot of stuff with my own name in it.

    Disclaimer: My company has asked me to research the ORM market. I might be biased.

    In fact, I am beginning to think that this stuff is a much better response than litigation a lot of time and given the nature of the web, litigation is a lot of times impossible. (Say someone halfway down the globe is running a smear campaign against you.) And the first page results for your name can affect your life in a very real way.

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday February 01, 2008 @01:45PM (#22264670) Homepage Journal
    Don't embarrass yourself in public.
    I was at a talk that a Pro Football player was giving to some kids about making good choices. BTW this guy wasn't doing court ordered community service and never has.
    He told the kids that the teams have a bunch of experts that try and help the player not do stupid things. This expert was a gun expert. He listed all the times where it would be a bad time to carry your gun. One of the players asked, "Whe is a good time to carry your gun?" The expert said, "If you are going into any situation where having a gun is a good idea not going into that situation to start with is a better idea."

    So if you don't want pictures of you at a party with drunk transvestites then don't go to a party with drunk transvestites.
    Even a "private" party is a public place.

  • by orclevegam (940336) on Friday February 01, 2008 @01:54PM (#22264792) Journal
    That's kind of the problem. Because the internet has evolved into not only a personal but also commercial tool there's more pressure to at the very least pick reasonable pseudonyms. Like it or not, if your resume lists your e-mail as it's going to color the reviewers interpretation of your resume as well as lead them to make assumptions about you. At the company I work for all our e-mail addresses are of the form which can also make it easier to track postings.

    Of course I think this article is talking more about the sorts of things you see on things like Wikipedia involving celebrities, or sites like MySpace who's primary function is to eliminate your privacy (that whole social thing in social networking). In the first case, you're probably protected in part by Wikipedias standards concerning sources, but also in part by laws against libel. In the second case you don't really have much recourse, as by joining sites like that and providing information about yourself you're explicitly waiving your rights to privacy.

    Really I think this whole thing is stupid and about on par with a company that would offer to "protect" the "reputation" of high school students (the most likely to be doing things they'll regret documenting on MySpace anyway). It's ultimately a futile exercise, and you'd be much better off not publishing the information in the first place and/or going after people for committing libel (assuming it's a lie, if you really did it, well, you're screwed).
  • by Dada Vinci (1222822) on Friday February 01, 2008 @02:02PM (#22264938)
    But what about people who get dragged into the spotlight through no fault of their own? The Washington Post article [] about some of the same events describes some pretty bad stuff:

    The chats sometimes include photos taken from women's Facebook pages, and in the Yale student's case, one person threatened to sexually violate her. Another participant claimed to be the student, making it appear that she was taking part in the discussion.
    What's important is that the victims were not participating in the forum before they had their names, photos, and alleged sexual preferences splashed all over the web. Somebody thought it'd be a good idea to have a "beauty contest" with unwilling contestants, and some of the organizers of the "contest" went over the top. Right now the law doesn't really provide a remedy for that sort of thing. It's gross that a student had her private photos splayed all over the public Internet, and that somebody else impersonated her to make her look like a bi***, but there's no way to solve the problem right now. Telling people to grow thicker skin doesn't help when people are threatening to stalk and rape out of the blue.
  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday February 01, 2008 @02:22PM (#22265236) Homepage Journal
    "That's kind of the problem. Because the internet has evolved into not only a personal but also commercial tool there's more pressure to at the very least pick reasonable pseudonyms. Like it or not, if your resume lists your e-mail as it's going to color the reviewers interpretation of your resume as well as lead them to make assumptions about you. At the company I work for all our e-mail addresses are of the form which can also make it easier to track postings."

    Well, there are times and places for each, right?

    If you're posting something with a political slant, surely you wouldn't want to use your company email address would you? Just use common sense.

    There are ways to post anonymously too...set up a nym account to post through remailers to USENET if you want to really remain anon....

    And lastly, I'd recommend NOT being an exhibitionist with a Facebook or Myspace page, unless you want all those party pics of you hogging the skull bong while you have toe sex with a couple of people to come back and haunt you later in life.

  • by digitig (1056110) on Friday February 01, 2008 @03:00PM (#22265724)

    Sounds like it's an issue with a loophole in CDA 230. After reading it over I notice CDA 230 has exemptions for federal crimes, and copyright infringement. Sounds like the problem could be solved by adding another exemption for Libel such that the ISP must take down libelous statements when ordered to do so by the court otherwise their held responsible for them, much the same as the other exceptions.
    The trouble with that is that at the moment genuine whistleblowers have some potential protection from identification. Take it away and bullies will find it all the easier to silence criticism -- all they have to do is call the accusations libel then they can go after the whistleblower with their own threats of violence. I've been in that position -- my wife was blowing the whistle on malpractice in a geriatric care home, and we got threats of violence against our (then) infant children (on police advice she shut up and left the job). You might say that to get the court to order the release of the information the complainant would have to demonstrate a strong case for libel, but without the whistleblower there to put their side of the case and to actually show evidence that could be all too easy. Anonymity is important, and it's when libel accusations start flying around that the interests of both sides need to be very carefully weighed.
  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday February 01, 2008 @03:00PM (#22265738) Homepage Journal
    "The problem isn't your myspace account -- you are smart enough to keep it clean. It's if your FRIENDS have a myspace account and post a picture of you, then tag it with your name. Or even if just your acquaintences."

    I guess sadly, these days, more than in mine, it is best to try to choose your "friends" more wisely, and also, you have to be more careful who you're around when you cut loose and get a little wild. No, in my day, you didn't have to worry about cameras everywhere...the cellphone type makes it dangerous to do anything these days....but, people still brought film cameras to parties. I still have tons of those pics in albums. But, in light of todays easy click-shoot-publish, I guess you have to be more careful about when and where you let your hair down so to speak.

    It is sad in that respect, and I know from being a kid, things like that aren't the primary thing you keep in mind most of the time (if at all).

    I guess these days, it is best if you learn a lesson that we used to get later in have to be suspicious and wary of most least till you get to know them for awhile. Be careful who you do things around.

"One lawyer can steal more than a hundred men with guns." -- The Godfather