Profile: ReputationDefender

Startup cleans the Internet


Konstandinos Goumenidis / Daily News
ReputationDefender founder and CEO Michael Fertik stands on the upper level of Redwood City office on Friday.

 


Company edits Web reputations

When the search agents at the startup ReputationDefender sit down at
their desks, they’re combing far and wide for information on the
Internet. A picture with an ex-boyfriend, insulting comments in a chat
room, or a blog dedicated to criticizing a product are a few examples.

What
they find won’t be for sale, for use by another party or posted
anywhere else in cyberspace. In fact, the company might relocate some
of that data, or even make it disappear, which is why people come to
ReputationDefender.
CEO Michael Fertik said he launched the
company almost two years ago because of how easy it is to tarnish
people’s reputation on the Internet.

"The web is like a
tattoo parlor," he said Friday at the company’s headquarters in Redwood
City. "What was once on paper is now on the wall of a web page."

John
Cross, director of the MyReputation/MyChild department, said customers
come from across the spectrum, ranging from curious soccer moms and
college students, to high profile CEOs and even politicians. Requests
can be something as simple as moving an old news article down the
Google page ranking or, like the parents of late Nikki Catsouras
wanted, purging the Web of gruesome car accident pictures.

The
Catsouras family contacted Fertik just weeks after he launched the
company in October 2006 with a major dilemma. Their daughter Nikki died
in a car crash in which she was almost decapitated. Police took several
pictures of the scene, and the images were somehow leaked on the Web.
When Fertik took on the case, there were about 100 Web sites displaying
the pictures. Soon after that, Fertik said the number grew to around
1,000.

"It spread like a virus," he said.

Today,
through technical tricks and some negotiation, he said the number is
down to about eight. Although he’s charged the family close to $3,000,
the company has probably spent closer to $45,000 in manpower on the
case. The story has been featured in Forbes magazine and on ABC’s
20/20.

Fertik’s company has grown since its launch, from just
a couple of employees, to about 45 full-time and 20 part-time staff.
ReputationDefender is divided in three departments: MyReputation,
MyEdge and MyPrivacy.

The reputation department searches the
Web, using a person’s name, past e-mail address, user names and logins,
and whatever other tidbits a customer provides, to build a monthly list
of what’s out there. The customer can then decide what items they might
want removed or destroyed.

The edge department is more
complicated – and more expensive. For example, a Google search pegs a
negative article about a person or company at number one. The edge
team, using a complicated math equation, can force that article lower,
possibly onto page two or three of a search. Depending on several
factors, such as how old the article is, a customer might see the
result in a few weeks or several months.

The privacy section
of the company deals with purging databases of personal information
that companies sell. It could range from shopping habits to insurance
history to credit reports. Normally, a customer would have to go
through the company selling their information, which can take several
weeks, Fertik said. ReputationDefender has found a way to automate the
purge process and does it monthly.

For more information on ReputationDefender, visit www.reputationdefender.com.

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