Managing Your Image Online

Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, is known for being a loose cannon when he talks. One of his more noted statements was:

“In America, there’s a sense of fairness that’s culturally true for all of us,” Schmidt said. “The lack of a delete button on the Internet is a significant issue. There is a time when erasure is a right thing.” (as reported here)

Of course he later said he was kidding. Kind of. Others have raised a “right to be forgotten,” and attempt to apply pressure on the web giants, such as Google, to enforce it. Of course such a right is practically impossible. The Internet is too big, too sprawling, and too independent. But there are a lot of people who are trying to control their online reputations.

There has been an outbreak of reputation defending companies of late. and provide personal and business reputation management services, as do a host of other places. What these services do is an open question. Ideally, they work to provide good information, enough to counter any negative stuff that might be out there. Less ideally, some of these places have been caught planting fake reviews and spamming auto-complete to influence what shows up.

The least controversial advice is that the more you engage, the more you will control your own image. Content abhors a vacuum. If you don’t produced content about yourself, anything that is vaguely identified with your name or business will appear, no matter how weak or obscure. But every web page, post, and social media update you create crowds out less relevant content.

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