Internet Regret? How to Clean Up Your Digital Reputation

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.
The explosion of social networking sites has lead to a serious problem for people working in every profession.

Their internet reputation may be less than flattering and even damaging to their future.

“This is not anecdotal but proven. All major studies show people are looking for dates, employment or for schools and are being evaluated almost exclusively based on what people write about them on the Internet,” said Michael Fertik, CEO of Reputation.com.

Internet experts say there are 400 million searches each day on Google alone, and 10% of those are people searches.

“That means we are all being searched all the time,” said Fertik, who launched his company 5 years ago in California.

Some of those searches have lead to people being fired from their jobs.

Recently, Georgia High School teacher Ashley Payne was forced to resign after administrators saw photos of her holding an alcoholic drink in her hand during a European vacation posted on Facebook.

Payne has filed a lawsuit, but experts say it’s best to prevent a problem from escalating to that point.

Fertik said, “The internet is a place where people can press one button and destroy someone’s life and have no consequences for it.”

The majority of Fertik’s customers are victims.

Often they are people confused for someone with the same name or they are a casualty of a bad breakup.

“Somebody, an ex-girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse is attacking them on the Internet,” said Fertik. “And people look you up on the web and think you’re a horror story when you are a decent person.”

And Fertik said everybody has a reputation whether they use the Internet or not.

The Internet can pick up facts about a person from many sources.

He explained everything from web searches to past parking tickets can surface, and not only your behavior, but the behavior of your friends.

Marketing companies also track every click of the mouse to target users for advertisements.

All of that information creates a digital profile.

Reputation.com is one of many new companies that claim they can assist a person with that profile, for a price.

Their cheapest plan is about $4 per month and will protect a person’s private information from marketers or hackers.

The next plan runs from $129 to $699 and promises to create an online presence for you.

The most expensive plan can cost up to $15,000 per year, and promises to eliminate all unwanted links, fix negative posts and emphasize positive information about a person.

When asked if that is unfair or akin to lying, Fertik said no.

He said a bad person cannot hire his company to attempt to repair their character online.

“People who are dastardly should get the reputation they deserve,” said Fertik.

If you can’t afford to hire a service like Reputation.com, Fertik suggests actively cultivating an online presence.

He says privacy settings are unreliable, so regularly audit your accounts and name.

Delete, untag and try to control any negative feedback and pictures.

Post, highlight and emphasize any and all of your positive organizations, awards or actions.

“The way you do your wardrobe for a job interview,” said Fertik.

Finally, when in doubt, the best advice is also old advice, according to law student Sherrod Seward.

“Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in front of your mother.”