|Industry||Online reputation management|
|Headquarters||Redwood City, California, U.S.|
Reputation.com (formerly ReputationDefender) is a private online reputation management (ORM) company based in Redwood City, California. It provides software and services intended to push down or remove negative information and create higher-ranking content from a company or individual. It was founded in 2006 by Michael Fertik and obtained $67 million in funding.
Reputation.com was founded as ReputationDefender by a lawyer, Michael Fertik, in 2006. According to Fertik, it was intended to help parents after their children reveal too much online, but most of his clients were young job-seekers. By 2007 it had grown to 55 employees and $2 million in revenue. In January 2010, the company changed its name from ReputationDefender to Reputation.com. In 2011 it was named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum for its effect on society. The company has raised $67 million in venture capital. As of 2012 it was not making a profit.
Reputation.com is the most well-known online reputation management company. Its tactics and services vary from one client to another and there are separate sets of products for consumers and businesses respectively. It may generate monthly reports noting changes in search results or ask websites to remove private information. In other cases it will generate websites and social media profiles that are intended to rank higher in searches than negative results. It may also refer some clients to lawyers. The company often begins by writing to the operators of websites hosting negative content about the client, asking them to remove the information. According to the Wall Street Journal, the letters "don't make threats... but instead try to appeal to recipients' sense of fairness." It generally cannot remove newspapers or court records.
Reputation.com holds a number of patents. "Detailed sentiment analysis" describes the automated interpretation of a statement such as "Highly acclaimed surgeon John Smith was arrested last night in a prostitution sting." Such a sentence may be interpreted by software as positive using a business profile, negative using a legal or vice profile, and neutral using a malfunction profile. Applications described include reputation monitoring for individuals, review of job candidates, or detection of unprofessional speech. "Follow-up determination" describes the identification of potential reviewers who have not reviewed a product, and facilitating the transmission of a review request to them. "Targeting review placement" describes analysis of reviews on several sites, yielding "An indication of at least one review site on which the placement of at least one additional review should be targeted". A patent application for "identifying and changing personal information" that describes the determination of undesirable search results using a ranking system generated by a Bayesian network, and evaluation of whether an undesirable search result can be changed or removed.
Some of the company’s patented software includes scoring systems used to identify consumer information and generate reputation scores for individuals. It has software that locates websites where an individual’s personal data is unknowingly listed and attempt to get it de-listed. It can also track online reviews and contact customers to solicit for positive reviews.
According to The New York Times, Reputation.com is popular, but controversial, due to its efforts to remove negative information that may be of public interest. According to Susan Crawford, a cyberlaw specialist from Cardozo Law School, most websites will remove negative content when contacted to avoid litigation. The Wall Street Journal noted that in some cases writing a letter to a detractor can have un-intended consequences, though the company makes an effort to avoid writing to certain website operators that are likely to respond negatively. The company's CEO says it respects the First Amendment and does not try to remove "genuinely newsworthy speech." It generally cannot remove major news stories from established publications or court records.
In 2008, a lawsuit was brought against Reputation Defender, among other defendants, by former AutoAdmit administrator Anthony Ciolli. The suit was in response to a lawsuit brought against Ciolli by two Yale Law School students for being defamed on the Internet message board, which is a forum for current and prospective law school students. Ciolli claims to have lost a job offer as a result of negative publicity from the original suit.
BusinessWeek noted that "Reputation.com scam" was an autocompleted phrase when typing the company's name into the Google search engine and that many unfavorable search results were on 2nd page of the results. Fertik responded that sometimes pushing negative results to page 2 is all that can be done; pushing the results further back has a prohibitively high cost.
Two months after the company was founded, ReputationDefender was hired to remove online images of 18-year old Nikki Catsouras's lethal car accident, which police said was leaked by an officer. The company was able to get the images taken down on about 300 out of 400 websites. The New York Post said their effort was "surprisingly effective" but raised concerns that its polite letters were resulting in censorship of material offensive to their clients. Newsweek said it was ineffective. ReputationDefender said removing the images was an "unwinnable battle".
- Lavallee, Andrew (June 13, 2007). "Firms Tidy up Clients’ Bad Online Reputations". The Wall Street Journal.
- Gilbertson, Scott (7 November 2006). "Delete Your Bad Web Rep". Wired. Wired. Retrieved 2011-01-20.
- Sowa, Tom (February 26, 2007). "Find, destroy; Services clean up online problems". Spokesman Review. pp. A8.
- Greenburg, Andy (May 15, 2008). "Covering the worlds of data security, privacy and hacker culture". Forbes.
- "ReputationDefender Changes Name To Reputation.com". Dow Jones & Company, Inc. January 14, 2011. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- Lori Andrews (10 January 2012). I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy. Simon and Schuster. p. 42. ISBN 978-1-4516-5051-8.
- Tom McNichol (2012-02-02). "Fixing the Reputations of Reputation Managers". Businessweek.
- Singer, Natasha (December 8, 2012). "A Vault for taking charge of your online life". The New York Times. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- Schiller, Kurt. "Getting a Grip on Reputation". Information Today. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- "Internet Sheriff". Harvard magazine. Retrieved April 2011.
- Hindman, Nate (February 2, 2012). "Google Problems? BrandYourself Helps You Control Search Results of Your Name". Huffington Post. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- "Web Attack". Bloomberg Businessweek. April 6, 2007. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- see Google Patent search for "Reputation.com"
- "Detailed sentiment analysis US 8463595 B1". USPTO. 2013-06-11.
- "Follow-up determination US 8595022 B1". USPTO. 2013-11-26.
- "Targeting review placement US 8494973 B1". USPTO. 2013-07-23.
- Raefer GABRIEL, Brian Kelley, James Aubry, David Thompson, Michael Fertik (2013-01-17). "Identifying and changing personal information US 20130018877 A1". US Patent and Trademark Office.
- "Reputation.com spots, cleans up online blemishes". Biz Journals. July 13, 2012. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- Jones, Leigh (10 April 2009). "Former AutoAdmit Exec's False-Suit Claim Lives On". The National Law Journal. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
- Nolan, Christan (26 March 2008). "Yale Law School Defamation Case Explores Anonymous Web Site Users' Free Speech Rights". The Connecticut Law Tribune. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
- Bartow, Ann. "Internet Defamation as Profit Center". Harvard Journal of Law & Gender. pp. 383–430.
- Callahan, Maureen (February 16, 2007). "Untangling a Web of Lies". New York Post. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- "One Family's Fight Against Grisly Web Photos". Newsweek. p. 3. Retrieved 2009-04-28.