Do you feel the need to trust a professional service to monitor your online reputation protect your privacy, and maybe even use for civil and criminal lawsuits? ReelSEO’s Grant Crowell interviews Michael Fertik, CEO of ReputationDefender, about where automated tools are today with monitoring video online, what’s expected to improve with advances in technology, and what are some of the best ways people can go about monitoring and managing their ‘video reputation’ today.
For some background, Michael Fertik’s company profile reads: “a repeat Internet entrepreneur and CEO with experience in technology and law. After law school, he clerked for Chief Judge Danny J. Boggs of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals of the United States. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. In his capacity as CEO of ReputationDefender, Michael serves on the advisory board of The Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe), a non-profit that works for the health and safety of youth online.”
ReptuationDefender’s MyReputation program, starting at $10 – $15 per month, monitors content for problems or other items of interest for customers with respect to their privacy and reputation. According to the website copy, customers in the program receive the following:
- An interactive monthly report powered by technology and human intelligence, “that fully defines your up-to-date online reputation.”
- A personal Search Agent who reviews your report and advises you on your online reputation
Should a customer find a piece of information that they want to either correct, remove, or marginalize on the Internet, ReputationDefender provides what it calls ‘Destroy’ assistance, at a one-time fee of $29.95 per incident, to attempt at having the questionable content fixed.
Grant: Can ReputationDefender monitor video content?
Fertik: We use some conventional and some specialized search technologies. We do not monitor video or audio content. The technologies needed to do monitoring for audio/visual (A/V) are not yet commercially available at price points that are customers can afford. I think they are coming online, but they’re not there yet.
But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be worried about multimedia – videos, photos, audio, etc. – and what kinds of impact they might have to your business. The technologies for searching A/V are getting better, and I predict they’re going to be commercially available – maybe even free – in the next few years.
Would you know any specific criminal cases involving posting video online?
There’s one well-known case of an assault that took place that the assailants’ video recorded, and then posted the video up on YouTube to further terrorize the victim of their attack. This was uncovered and they were punished for the attack, and also for the posting of the video. Law enforcement is going after online video postings of fights and other criminal hi-jinks that are making their way to the web. This is being used and gathered as evidence in both civil and criminal trials.
Also, even content that is not connected to the crime itself is being used when it shows up as video or audio content on the web. For example, in the case of a Rhode Island incident: A young fellow was driving drunk and hit a girl in another car, and she sustained some serious injuries. Then either he or someone posted a photo to a Facebook page in a jailbird suit, enjoying a beer at a party, just a couple of days after the car accident. This photo was used as evidence as the fact that he was not remorseful at his trial at the sentencing phase. So, he was given a much lengthier sentence.
It seems like a lot of people who post video online can become pretty careless when it comes to managing their own reputation online as well, or respecting the reputation of others.
Warren Buffet once said that it takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to destroy it. Today in the Internet world, it takes just 5 minutes for you, in a mistake of your own doing, or someone else, who has attacked you on the web, to destroy your reputation. Whether its something that you or someone else does quite innocently or maliciously to begin with, can be taken out of content, and repositioned, recalibrated, recontextualized, and used to do damage to you.
How ReputationDefender help someone out with gathering evidence if someone needs to protect themselves from defamation, harassment, or other criminal activities?
We’ve helped some people gather evidence where people have already hired attorneys. In some cases the work that we do uncovers information that ends up with someone saying that they need to hire an attorney for what we found for them. We are able to turn over the information to attorneys, although we are not attorneys ourselves. On the criminal side, we have had occasion to be in contact with law enforcement authorities in a few jurisdictions. But chiefly, what we are focused on doing is helping people solve problems without having to resort to the law. A lot of times, a lawyer can be helpful. But also many times, if you contact a lawyer in an online dispute, you can actually exacerbate the problem, and inspire someone to attack you further on the Web. Sometimes that’s unavoidable, but the cost of litigation can be quite high, and often through technical means, you’re able to solve the problem without needing to hire a lawyer. But we do work with attorneys on occasion, and we able to turn over data – sometimes whole reams of data – over to our clients for their attorneys use.
What would you say is the best way right now for people to go about monitoring and managing their reputation online, especially with the video content that’s out there?
One thing that our technology does do is we do find video about our clients that is tagged or otherwise having to do with text signals… Video does have to be tagged in a way that is text-searchable. I don’t really know yet of any excellent video search tool that’s just searching video for content that isn’t also signaled, or tagged with text. I’ve seen some leads on some new technologies that are emerging that are commercially possible. But it’s so data-intensive and so new that I have not been persuaded of any video technology that is really out there. I can’t wait to find one, and there could be one out there that I’m not aware of, but we do spending a lot of time looking for new technology.
If you’re really trying to do it yourself instead of hiring a company like ours to do the research for you, I suggest going to different parts of the web where you think someone you know might be hurting you. For example, monitoring a particular YouTube channel, or a particular MySpace video section – some place where your perceived enemies are working. The search technology for video – and by that I mean the search technology to recognize images and audio in a video – which is not tagged with text about you but is still about you, isn’t quite there yet.
When that time does come, maybe there will be a company called “‘Video’ ReputationDefender” – I believe that domain is still open. (Laughs)
Oh, good – not for long! (Laughs)