Today I have looked at pictures that were posted by friends on Facebook; I have viewed a few YouTube video of people at the beach; I saw that several friends had checked in at Starbucks on FourSquare. Some of you have probably posted “selfies” and I even had one friend post what he called a “couplie”, a picture of he and his wife. There was a news story yesterday of a couple filmed by a local grandmother as they engaged in lovemaking on a public beach. This is just a small example of how “public” many of us have become as a result of our use of social media. This massive exposure has resulted in two growing and competing business that will continue to get bigger. They are reputation management and cyber blackmailing.
There have been many a celebrity that wishes the picture of them at a club had not ever occurred. There is even a TV show, called TMZ, which daily showcases all the drunken, nude and bellicose celebrities they can find on a daily basis. As celebrities that seems to come with the territory. What about you? What have you revealed about yourself on social media?
As employers, consumers, and clients started using LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to check up on prospective employees, people have become much more aware of reputation management. As companies started developing their pages and customers and clients started commenting on them companies have also become much more aware of reputation management. Futurist Tom Frey reports that companies today are spending billions of dollars on reputation management. In 2014 so far $3.5 billion has been spent “scrubbing” to remove unflattering or damaging information. If it can’t be scrubbed it is getting buried by creating good content to dominate the first few pages on Google and other search engines.
Since all that information is out there to be had it did not take blackmailers long to also take advantage of that information. Unfortunately cyber criminals are pretty creative. In 2013 cyber-attacks on companies increased 55% over 2012 costing an average per company of over $1 million per event.
This blackmailing is not restricted to companies. Individuals are also the victims. Recently in the Philippines, reports Frey, a syndicate was broken up that was defrauding individuals by making them believe there bank accounts had been used by terrorists to launder money. It is not uncommon to hear stories of other individuals being blackmailed because of some picture sent from a smartphone. Or an ex-lover holding photos hostage because they don’t want to lose the relationship. Frey says there is a definite need for cyber-blackmail insurance.
The movement to “right to be forgotten”
One solution that is currently taking root is the “right to be forgotten” movement that is starting in Europe, particularly in France. According to Wikipedia this movement is “The concept stems from the desire of an individual to ‘determine the development of his life in an autonomous way, without being perpetually or periodically stigmatized as a consequence of a specific action performed in the past.” There is even discussion in France of elevating this to a basic human right.
Frey reports that tech companies are scrambling to comply with these new rules. Google alone has gotten over 70,000 such requests to have 250,000 pages removed from Google search results. Every tech company is dealing with similar challenges.
It remains to be seen how effective this will be. To me reputation management begins with the decisions made by the individual. On the company level it is important to have someone assigned to watching social media, but that also begins with the decisions of the company. It is easier to treat employees and customers well as opposed to try to manage the fallout from that behavior.
Image courtesy of chanpipat FreeDigitalPhotos.net