NPR Reports of Internet Privacy Protectors

The blissful days of unsoiled public records are long gone. Unless one never attended a fraternity party during college or shared inside jokes via email, his or her most embarrassing moments could become public knowledge within seconds. Thanks to internet search engines, we have less of a control over our public legacies than ever before. An honor student’s plans of a bright future may take a hit if a potential employer comes across an internet diary or an album of spring break photos on Google.

All hope is not lost, however, for those of us who want to fence away our digitized private lives. According to NPR’s Morning Edition today, we can now hire a professional to neatly customize our Google legacies—and for a reasonable rate.

NPR reports:

“Michael Fertik recently launched a company called For a small fee, he digs through clients' Internet profiles and then shows them how they appear online. If clients see something they don't like, ReputationDefender will contact whoever controls the Web page and urge them to delete the material.

If they resist, Fertik -- a Harvard law grad -- says his company is ready to use attorneys.

"This is sort of a PR service for the everyday person. Celebrities have been using PR services at the cost of thousands of dollars a month for decades. Now we can do that for every person for less than $10 a month."”

In a world where privacy is a relative term, Fertik represents the future of public relations. Personalized PR could soon be considered as mundane a luxury as dry cleaning or car wash services.

In a recent survey of 1000 hiring managers, one in four claimed to check search engines when scanning a potential candidate, reported NPR.

Fertik, a true businessman, understands the demand for privacy protection:

“College students were getting denied jobs after college because of content about them on the Internet. You know, frat pictures someone took of them years ago doing a keg stand when they were 19. This stuff can haunt you for many years,” he told NPR.

NPR also mentions Namyz, founded by Tom Drugan.

“One of company's early clients was Mark Zeiba, a Chicago dentist. Zeiba, 28, is sensitive about appearing too young to patients.

But if patients Googled him, the first thing they found was a page with a link to college drinking pictures.

"Couple of buddies and I sitting at a bar with a table full of empty beers in front of us. And I just realized at that time when people would come in and say, 'Oh, I saw a picture of you.' It just wasn't the idea I wanted out there and the image I wanted out there."

Naymz created an official Web page for Zeiba. It also bought ad space to make sure his profile appeared on the first page of popular search engines. For that, Zeiba pays $4.95 a month.”

For those of us who aren’t yet ready to hire a PR representative, simply taking a more proactive role in one’s Google legacy may go a long way.

“Drugan tells clients that if they can't get rid of negative material, they can obscure it by creating "a lot of positive, accurate info, about yourself." He recommends creating a blog or a MySpace page.

"The more positive content you have about yourself, the more likely that's going to be pushed to the top of Google and the other search engines and push that other information down to the second or third page where very few search-engine users actually get to," Drugan says.”

As our efficiency as a society increases, so does the competition. Pressure to perform well is no longer confined in the classroom or the workplace, but to every email message and potential click of our digital camera. We may still possess the power to control our destinies, but our vision of the future is, undeniably, exhausting.

NPR piece

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