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Posts tagged ‘internet privacy’

17
Feb

The Creep

I have a daughter who is in the throes of high school. Like all high school kids, she and her friends have developed their own language to describe people, life and events. Two years ago she integrated “ish” in to her vocabulary. You know, it’s “coldish” outside, I’m feeling “sleepyish,” “funnish” – you get the picture.

The word this year is “creeper.” This generally describes males that are older than she thinks they should be, hairy, odd, etc. and they usually are found to be staring at her. This occurs at the gas station, the mall, traffic lights; it can happen most anywhere. As a father who is somewhat protective of his daughter I might use a word other than “creeper.” I might also be compelled to speak or gesture at these creepers and even move toward subtle confrontation should their gaze last more than 3.7 seconds; I’m funny like that. Read more »

19
Nov

Sunshine Laws Expose the Guilty and the Innocent Forever

By definition, “sunshine” laws have been put into place to create transparency in both the state and federal governments. The unintended byproduct of this transparency, however, is creating long-term issues for millions of Americans. Freedom Of Information statutes are exposing people arrested for misdemeanors such as DUI even when the charges are dropped. At issue are the booking records and specifically the pictures or “mug shots” taken at the time of initial booking. While charges may be dropped, the images remain online in perpetuity.

For many people, these incidents are an isolated example of temporary poor judgment. While the incident may have been pushed to the back of a distant memory, the information remains available online. While the law clearly indicates that this information is to be published, for many moving forward is proving to be very challenging.

There are two issues that need to be addressed. The first is that this information is delivered through state and federal regulation; and there is really nothing that can be done about that. The second issue is that this type of information usually ranks very high within a person’s search results – often on page one. If such information requires an explanation, then it is an issue – always.

While all states have a certain element of transparency within public records, some states are more pro-active than others. Take Florida as an example. Florida.arrests.org offers booking records and pictures from a number of different searchable databases run by local police and sheriff databases. This information is all a matter of public record; however making it so readily available is very punitive. This unfortunately demonstrates the unintended consequence of state transparency laws.

Clearly this information can also be used to exploit people and shame them. More troubling is the possibility that it can be easily accessed as current and perspective employers, peers, competitors and social acquaintances are gathering background information. Serving as Managing Director for Reputation Advocate, an online reputation management firm, I can personally attest to the fact that people attempting to address this issue contact our firm every week. While there are several companies that represent the ability to remove the mug shot for a fee, few are providing answers to the underlying issue. From my perspective, people must take control of their identity online in order to protect themselves from future embarrassment.

At Reputation Advocate, we work through an affiliation with a local law firm, Waterford Law Group, to negotiate with the site and remove the mug shot if the situation complies with site terms and conditions. Every day, our company consults with businesses and individuals who have come to a point where online defense is a priority. Removing public records such as these is a first step, however it can provide a false sense of security. Our goal is to position professionals in such a way that they are viewed honestly and transparently while at the same time putting their best foot forward.

We will readily acknowledge that fees are paid in the removal process, but for most people contacting Reputation Advocate this is not an issue – they understand there is cost involved. The questions most people focus on when calling our offices relate to how they might prevent this type of embarrassment again. That is where I believe the true value of our company’s services is found.

25
Sep

ReputationAdvocate.com Discusses Online Sites that Offer Ability to Post Negative Content

In the past several years, online review sites have become increasingly widespread and easily available, allowing consumers to query information about individuals, services and products. Seldom is the origin of the content questioned. At ReputationAdvocate.com we see firsthand that the lack of transparency by a reviewer/commentator – coupled with no attempt to independently validate claims – has created challenges that few imagined could happen.  When reviews are offered anonymously and statements, claims and criticism fill a review, it should raise questions of credibility – however many times it does not.

The team at ReputationAdvocate.com spends a lot of time listening to potential clients as they vent their frustration. ReputationAdvocate.com observes daily the inability to confront an accuser, attempt to rectify a misunderstanding or discuss an online opinion posted. The nature of these online sites is to allow free speech with anonymity. ReputationAdvocate.com empathizes yet delivers a straightforward message; the Internet does not play fair.

The challenge with many online review sites is that generally the posted comments, ratings and reviews face no review or approval process. The team at ReputationAdvocate.com knows that all too often these reviews are posted maliciously, with no recourse available when false and misleading statements are posted. As those of us at ReputationAdvocate.com have frequently pointed out, individuals seeking information online may not stop to consider the truthfulness of content found or the identity of the one providing the content. When people take online information at face value they set aside a natural filter that is used when engaging other forms of media observes reputationadvocate.com.

When taking calls at ReputationAdvocate.com, we often hear prospective clients make the assumption that a negative review is coming from an unhappy customer. In fact, these reviews could be coming from a related third party seeking an advantage by damaging the online reputation of the person or business named. As another post from ReputationAdvocate.com pointed out, “Jason M.” from Wisconsin could actually be an employee at one of that company’s competitors. The team at ReputationAdvocate.com has often noted that reviews can and do come from disgruntled former employees and dissatisfied current employers. “Consider the source” is difficult to apply in a world where anyone can pretend to be someone else at any time. There’s no way to prove Jason M. is in fact Jason M. at all.

So what can companies and individuals do when they find defamatory information on the Web? At ReputationAdvocate.com, the first question asked may be whether or not a customer or potential customers will see it. The prominence of negative reviews in basic web search determines how much it can impact a business’s bottom line. ReputationAdvocate.com regularly informs clients that many web searches rarely go past the first page or two of search results. If a rating site or opinion site has low authority with the search engines, such negative content may have little impact on the bottom line. Conversely, most rating sites that have high page rank can be very detrimental to a business. Many businesses are able to directly tie declining revenue to false online content. Thus, ReputationAdvocate.com discusses the economic evaluation process when a potential client is considering retaining the company to assist with derogatory content. ReputationAdvocate.com believes that any project considered to be tied to a return is clearly an investment.

2.3 billion searches are initiated on Google every single day. In many cases, the first source customers are using to find out information about your business is an online search. ReputationAdvocate.com will discuss this with you and is able to help evaluate whether or not such online queries are hurting your business.

If customers are presented with a hefty dose of criticism when they search for you or your business, ReputationAdvocate.com can help. With veteran specialists on hand to evaluate the specific origin, structure and authority of any given complaint, ReputationAdvocate.com recommends appropriate action to correct online presence and visibility and restore your ability to attract new business. The goal of our work at ReputationAdvocate.com is to deliver cost effective results that can be traced back to restored profitability.

ReputationAdvocate.com provides a free evaluation to all potential customers. During this evaluation, the experts at ReputationAdvocate.com will research your online presence and determine what ReputationAdvocate.com can do to help you re-establish your reputation online.  You are under no obligation by having this evaluation conducted. However, should you need the services of an online reputation company, ReputationAdvocate.com can customize an online clean-up plan to help you.

While it is said that people are innocent until proven guilty, Steven Wyer experienced first hand that the Internet has interrupted such long held notions of justice. As managing director of Reputation Advocate, an online reputation management company, Steven Wyer now helps others who have been slandered online as he was. Adding the title of published author to his string of professional accomplishments, Steven Wyer has written Violated Online. In the book he offers more than 50 specific tips on how the reader can better prepare for an unexpected online attack. For more information about how Reputation Advocate can help you repair your online reputation, call 888-229-0746 or go online to http://reputationadvocate.com 

24
Jul

“Hacktivists” | A New Term but the Same Old Game

Given the damage that anonymous hacktivists and minority shareholders have done to the values of small cap stocks while standing on the Constitution’s First Amendment, companies are becoming more proactive in their online reputation defense strategies. While many small public companies are unaware of what can happen in a twenty-four hour period on the Internet, Reputation Advocate hears new horror stories every week.

Take, for instance, the following scenario. An adverse decision upsets a shareholder. Historically, that shareholder (let’s call him Bob) would attend the annual shareholder meeting and voice concerns while evaluating management’s recommendations. No longer. Investor Relations professionals are only as successful as the shareholders are willing to communicate. A question arises – what happens when Bob grows impatient and is not satisfied with a company’s response? The answer for many is found on the Internet.

It is currently estimated that there are more than 300,000,000 blogs created and maintained on the Internet. Wikipedia says that, “Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material.” Further, Wikipedia offers that, “Most blogs are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other via widgets on the blogs and it is this interactivity that distinguishes them from other static websites.” Interactive messages, regular entries of commentary (remember the First Amendment?) and anonymity; it sounds like a potentially explosive combination!

In another scenario, Bob is holding a small number of Founder shares of a company. He purchased his shares initially through a PPM, the company went public and since then Bob looks at the stock value weekly. He is impatient, has talked to the IR firm and a couple of senior management people and he sees no decisive movement.

Several times, and without even thinking about it, Bob decides to let the world know about his discontent. In the good old days people would work to get a stockholder list and call or mail them a letter. Investor Relations could counteract and try and get in front of them, so to speak.  The First Amendment to the Constitution provides solid footing for all those desiring free speech. Governing laws, however, look much different for the Internet than for other forms of communication. Bob can broadcast any derogatory message Loud and Proud! Short of specific personal information such as a social security or tax ID, specific banking information, child pornography or a threat against the government, anonymous bloggers, forums, complaint sites and various customer-rating sites can be used against a company, its officers, directors and employees.

Bob suggests on a complaint site that the current CEO would serve the company better if he focused on the shareholders’ interests more, and golf a little less. Next, a blog is found bringing into question the compensation of management and the justification for such pay given the poor performance currently experienced by the shareholders. Finally, someone posts a picture from the annual company Christmas party; not naughty, but not nice. You can see where all of this leads. A relatively small shareholder base – fear and mild panic when Investor Relations doesn’t return a call quickly – possible shorting. And finally, as everyone knows, aggressive downward pressure on a small cap stock is always of interest to regulators.

This scenario is a competitor’s dream. Interest from a regulator, doubt about the viability of the company on a blog or two and a company that is not prepared for any of this, for after all they are busy running the company! If you are an officer or director of a public company what you are reading may sound like a doomsday scenario that could never happen. Really? Let’s add the dynamic of time; say three days.

In dealing with private and public companies, Reputation Advocate has seen many things happen that the proud and the powerful didn’t see coming and that hit with such force that the viability of the business faltered. These are often attacks that can actually be tracked back to ROI. Real cash flow constriction, real share value, real debt to income ratios impacted and real legal action. This is not a fantasy marketing pitch; it is real business in today’s climate of change.

An old saying asserts that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and so it is. All companies must keep a keen eye on digital threats. Proactive action and planning can provide a baseline of online reputation management that enables companies to defend themselves. I had a client recently refer to online reputation management services as the equivalent of digital liability insurance. There is a critical difference in this perspective, however. When damages are demonstrated, insurance provides payments that address the damage. Absent a company accepting the need and costs of online reputation defense, when damage occurs there is no compensation to offset damages. Only the damages remain.

While it is said that people are innocent until proven guilty, Steven Wyer experienced first hand that the Internet has interrupted such long held notions of justice. As managing director of Reputation Advocate, an online reputation management company, Steven Wyer now helps others who have been slandered online as he was. Adding the title of published author to his string of professional accomplishments, Steven Wyer has written Violated Online. In the book he offers more than 50 specific tips on how the reader can better prepare for an unexpected online attack. For more information about how Reputation Advocate can help you repair your online reputation, call 888-229-0746 or go online to http://reputationadvocate.com 

27
Nov

The Alphabet Soup of Your Online Reputation, Part 3: Choosing the Right Online Reputation Management Company

What if the checklist for your day looked like this?

1.  Develop 15 websites

2.  100 unique articles need writing

3.  Place content on 250 social and profile sites

4.  5 press releases to be widely syndicated

5.  25 blogs developed

6.  2500 backlinks – minimum

7.  Eat lunch

That would be a busy day, would it not?  Well that is a typical Reputation Advocate checklist as we work to improve the Internet reputation for just one client.  Now clearly this is not just for one day – all before lunch.  Yet this would be a minimal “to-do” list for restoring or building Internet reputation using five keywords for one client. That alone separates Reputation Advocate from other organizations that promise lower cost, cookie-cutter approaches to restoring a client’s name, repairing Internet reputation and providing online reputation management services.

Yes, there would probably be some trickle down from items 1 through 5 on our checklist.  Nonetheless, Reputation Advocate typically flips into “overdrive mode” with every client when it comes to restoring Internet reputation.  (This is going to sound like an unabashed plug for Reputation Advocate.  However, I can only write of that which I know!)

Can online reputation management or repair be done with a quicker, shorter process?  Maybe.  Can Internet reputation management be done cheaper?  Definitely. Yet these answers beg something more. Reputation Advocate has seen the unfortunate results of “quicker, cheaper” methods.  Yet why would any company or small business go the less expensive, quicker route, when it comes to something as critical as their Internet reputation?  Have we not all heard the phrase, You get what you pay for?

Does that seem cynical?  Perhaps.  However, the truth of the matter is that many of our clients have come to us after paying for a generic, cookie cutter process that cost little – and delivered even less.  When it comes to online reputation management there is no cookie-cutter “one size fits all” solution.  Since the inception of Reputation Advocate, our online reputation management business model has been simple but labor intensive.  While acknowledging that the costs are not insignificant our clients see results through disciplined, measured and practical methods.  Is it more difficult and more work for Reputation Advocate?  Yes.  Do we impact lives by salvaging, restoring, and/or building Internet reputations for our clients?  Absolutely!

Take backlinks for an example.  Our clients have heard me say more than once: A backlink is not a backlink is not a backlink. They most emphatically do not want backlinks from adult entertainment, religious, political, or foreign sites.  Content that appears to be spam is of little help and it is of no interest to our client list.  In addition, when it comes to their Internet reputations, our clients are extremely concerned about the content of the websites that are found to rank high for them at the conclusion of a project.

I have spent three blog entries laying out the process of rebuilding an Internet reputation.  Do I want companies or businesses to call on Reputation Advocate for their online reputation management needs?  Of course!  Yet I write this final entry in our three-part series as a caution – a warning to choose very, very carefully the company with whom you will partner to manage your online reputation.

While it is said that people are innocent until proven guilty, Steven Wyer experienced first hand that the Internet has interrupted such long held notions of justice. As managing director of Reputation Advocate, an online reputation management company, Steven Wyer now helps others who have been slandered online as he was. Adding the title of published author to his string of professional accomplishments, Steven Wyer has written Violated Online. In the book he offers more than 50 specific tips on how the reader can better prepare for an unexpected online attack. For more information about how Reputation Advocate can help you repair your online reputation, call 888-229-0746 or go online to http://reputationadvocate.com