Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Author and privacy attorney David Thompson featured on the CBS Early Show

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

David Thompson, co-author of the bestselling book Wild West 2.0, was featured on the CBS Early Show this morning to discuss the privacy implications of facial recognition scans.

Marketers are starting to use facial recognition technology to learn about the people who visit malls and stores.  For example, a drug store might set up an advertisement that shows information about makeup to women, and information about razors to men.

However, the danger is that the information collected might not be limited to just demographic information.  The technology exists to make it easy for marketers to identify individual people who are visiting stores.  Imagine walking through a mall and, the next day, getting an email from each of the stores you visited.  Or going to a bar and getting a call from your car insurance company the next day, asking if you were drinking and driving.  Or just having a list of all your most sensitive visits (visits to doctors offices, STD testing or treatment clinics, Planned Parenthood) made available for anyone to view.

View the short clip of the CBS Early Show here:   Face Scan Tech May Know What You Want to Buy

Google’s “Zero Moment of Truth” Campaign Recognizes the Importance of Online Reputation

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Google just launched a new campaign designed to sell more Adwords advertisements.  The campaign is called “Zero Moment of Truth” and can be found with all manner of fancy videos and soundbites at

The basic pitch is that customers for nearly anything—from $1.00 toothbrushes to $1 million homes—search for product information, customer reviews, and other discussions before buying.  Google says that you should buy Adwords to capture this “Zero Moment of Truth.”

Google misses the point.  Google wants people to buy more advertisements that target customers before they have decided to purchase a product.  Google thinks the way to “win” the “Zero Moment of Truth” is to bombard customers with advertisements as soon as they might be interested (no surprise here, given that Google’s revenue comes from advertising).  But Google’s focus is too narrow. 

It’s not about 150-character advertisements; it’s about the entire online image of your product, service, brand, or self.  Even Google’s own ad sales materials admit that customers are looking for information from reviews, discussions, and other sites.  Potential customers (or business partners or employers) will skim the entire first page of search results, trying to find context about the product or service they are considering buying.  Negative reviews will scare some consumers away from purchasing at all (or hiring you, or doing business with you, or whatever else).  A 150-character Adword advertisement will not overcome negative search results, no matter how clever that advertisement may be.

In short, Google’s focus on the “Zero Moment of Truth” is proof that Google understands the power of online reputation management. There is a crucial moment when consumers search the Internet to decide of they want to buy a product or service at all (or if they want to hire or do business with you).  If you want to succeed, you need to capture that moment by carefully shaping your search results to reflect the most positive image possible.  Maybe Adwords advertisements will help, but they are absolutely no substitute for good search results.

Want help capturing your customers’ “zero moment of truth?”  Check out the advice for small businesses in Wild West 2.0.  Want professional help and dedicated advice?  Call the experts at

The Internet is still a frontier: a continuing discussion

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

We’ve received an overwhelming response to the book, which is now an official bestseller and in its second printing.  Many people have brought us their own “Wild West” online stories, and helped to expand the metaphor of the Internet-as-frontier into their personal experiences.

But some people have questioned whether the Internet is really a lawless frontier.  For example, in her skillful review, Wendy Grossman of ZDNet UK suggested that the Internet is far more regulated than Wild West 2.0 suggests.  We thank Ms. Grossman for her review and her feedback, and would like to continue the discussion about some of her ideas.

Our point is not that the Internet is completely lawless; instead, our point is that frontiers (like the Internet and the Old West of American history) present great opportunities for social and personal change, but also require self-reliance, self-defense, and constant vigilance.  Our goal is to teach readers how to understand the Internet and why they need to stand up for themselves if they hope to be successful in online life.

As for the frontier metaphor, our key point is that frontiers eventually close.  Just like the Old West, the Internet frontier opened with a gold rush.  But the Old West frontier closed when hundreds of thousands of people moved west and brought their own ideas of “civilization” and “society” with them–at the expense of a culture clash with the original gold-rush occupants.  Today–at the close of the Internet frontier—we are seeing a similar culture clash between old and new users; part of that clash has played out in the variety of responses to the book.

We fully agree that the most lawless days of the Internet are over: Every U.S. citizen that can’t place an online wager is well aware that governments can and do regulate conduct online; as are the virus-writers and hackers who are periodically arrested by Interpol and other international efforts.

But some people argue that the frontier days of the Internet are long gone.  For example, Ms. Grossman, in her recent ZDNet review, suggests that the idea of a “Wild West” for reputation is “quaintly old-fashioned.”  We politely disagree.

In the U.S., the legal system makes clear that victims of online attacks have little or no recourse against their attackers: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act makes it difficult to cooperate with web hosts, and online attackers often disappear into the night without leaving any virtual fingerprints.  Outside the U.S., the legal regime is different, but the technical regime is just the same: it is easy to track users for the wrong reasons (privacy invasions, stalking, spyware, and more) but hard to track users for the right reasons (redress for legal wrongs).

The result has been a continued explosion of online attacks, powered by anonymity and boosted by the power of Google to find and distribute tabloid material.

There are many well-known stories of online abuse, bust just as common are the everyday incidents that don’t get the same media attention as the woman in China falsely accused of affecting a class-ist attitude and forced to resign from her job; or the grandmother in Florida who received death threats because of an allegation made on YouTube; or the woman in Korea whose breach of subway ettiquite became a national discussion and led to a nervous breakdown; or the family in California taunted by images of their deceased daughter through email and Google searches… the list goes on.

Some people, including Ms. Grossman, have pointed to laws the fact that countries other than the U.S. have different laws that have regulated the Internet.  Ms. Grossman and the others are exactly right: the U.S. is the outlier and to our (largely U.S.-based) audience, the failures of U.S. law are very meaningful.  Some countries, like the U.K., have legal regimes that are closer to a notice-and-takedown system. To a large extent, that’s part of our point.

We have blogged elsewhere how Section 230 has shaped the online experience of U.S. users.  Many U.S. scholars claim that CDA 230 is necessary for a successful Internet.  But we noted that other countries like Brazil have very successful commercial and non-commercial Internet services without needing CDA 230.

The U.S. should learn from the examples of other nations that have tried different Internet regulatory regimes and discovered that it is possible to at least somewhat blunt the risk of online attack without compromising other key Internet values.

We want cyber-abuse to stop.  We actively support reforms for U.S. law, improved cyber culture worldwide, and training for students and others as to how to actively protect their own reputation and privacy.

Keep up the great feedback, and thank you to everyone who has contributed to the discussion about online reputation and privacy.

ForeWord Reviews says Wild West 2.0 “timely”, “informed”, “wise”

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

ForeWord Reviews (a leading independent book reviewer) has given a glowing review to Wild West 2.0.  We couldn’t be more proud to get a positive review from a source like ForeWord.

Please support ForeWord by subscribing to their excellent review service.

Here’s what they had to say:

“One of the intriguing and, in some cases, disturbing aspects of “Web 2.0” is the ability for anyone anywhere to damage the reputation of a person or company, simply by posting disparaging information on the Internet. The rise in popularity of social networks has led to the widespread availability of personal information, making matters even worse.

WILD WEST 2.0, whose title re-interprets World Wide Web 2.0, is a timely book that both explains how online reputation-bashing occurs and offers strategies to defend against it. Authors Fertik and Thompson, experts in the field of online privacy, spend a good deal of time discussing the “new digital frontier,” demonstrating its many similarities to the “Wild West” of a bygone era. They discuss the vulnerability associated with an “online reputation” and detail the impact of “anonymous cowards” as well as “the damage done by search engines” such as Google.

The authors make the important point that anyone can create and post content on the Internet, creating an environment in which “everyone is equal.” In addition, once information is posted, it is virtually impossible to retract it, so it could very well remain on the Internet indefinitely. The implications of this are chilling, especially if that information is designed to damage the reputation of a person or a business.

One of the more interesting chapters, “Types of Internet Attacks,” outlines what to guard against, such as “the half-truth,” “the breach of privacy,” “Googlestuffing,” and “E-Mobbing.” Simply being able to recognize and have a broad understanding of these attacks makes the book valuable to any business reader.

Fertik and Thompson also provide sensible advice about assessing any damage to one’s reputation online. They offer two highly useful tools: a “reputation road map” and an “online reputation audit.” Examples and detailed instructions are included for each.

The final few chapters in the book cover proactive strategies for “recovering from online smears” and tactics for protecting an individual or business from harm in the future.

The advice provided by the authors is both informed and wise, and it is supported by compelling facts and specific examples. The book is easy to read and written in everyday language, so it will be useful to even a non-technical reader. WILD WEST 2.0 is essential reading for professionals, business owners, and other individuals who need to understand how the Internet can be used to tarnish a reputation—and how to effectively protect against it. (June)”

Thanks! We sold out Amazon!

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Thanks for the incredible outpouring of support. This afternoon, Amazon’s “copies left in stock” calculation counted down from 3, to 2, to 1, to 0! The book has been so popular before its official launch that Amazon’s distribution center couldn’t keep up.

It looks like Amazon has switched to another distribution center for the book and has a fresh supply of copies. But get yours now; Amazon could sell out again at any moment.

Thanks again to all our readers for their support and excitement. We never thought it would be possible to sell out Amazon of copies of the book, but somehow it happened today! Amazing!

First Online Bookseller Review of Wild West 2.0: 5 stars, “solid, useful”

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Our first e-tailer review is in!  Five stars and called a “solid, useful manual for protecting your good name online.”

Other highlights include that “Reputation management consultants Michael Fertik and David Thompson examine these fraudulent activities and more in this disturbing but timely book, and they outline steps you can take to protect your online reputation or the good name of your business.”

Our first customer review

Visit to read more or to pre-order your copy today!