An experiment with Online Reputation Trackers

You may know that in my regular life, when I’m not Bug G. Membracid, I have a job advising students, among other things.  In the spirit of “do as I say, not as I do” in terms of career advice, when someone recommended some online reputation tools to students, I wanted to try them out.

The first tool I looked at was Reppler.  It sells itself as a way to find potentially damaging content that might spook potential employers.You have to connect it to your Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook accounts for it to work, which is the first hurdle. Essentially, you give them access to troll through your entire posting history.

I have the perfect paired test–My Bug Girl online identity, and my IRL identity.  How did they compare? Well, looks like it’s a good thing that I kept those separate!  Here is the rating for my Real Self: 88 out of 100. (The score was a 90 until I hooked up my Linked In account, which was “neutral”–that was enough to lower my score.)

When you look at my Bug G. Membracid score, well. Oh dear. Clearly there are some issues.

But what counts as “inappropriate content?”

Apparently, Arse is a dirty word. But fanny is not.  You can see the categories that they search in this screenshot.  Mentioning Alcohol is bad. In fact, on the post flagged here, I was explaining that I couldn’t drink beer, because I was allergic. It still showed up as negative content.

Reppler flagged the word “vagina” as adult content, even though it was a reference to the recent news story in Michigan.  It also seems to know that “F**K” is a euphemism, and flagged it as “strong language.”

Sounds terrible–but what was my score, with all this negative content? 80. Only a few points lower than my IRL score!  This makes no sense–why is my squeaky clean real identity score downgraded for being neutral, and my Bug Girl Profile rated so highly, despite vaginas and alcohol?

Well, you gotta have a gimmick, and online reputation monitors are useful for people that create online profiles and walk away, I suppose. For me personally, I laugh everytime I get the report (“You have 23 new Inappropriate Content Alerts!!”), so there is a high entertainment factor.

And this is all very interesting, but what do employers see? If you have everything marked private, they can’t find you, right? Not so fast. Take a look at the reports from Social Intelligence, a background checking tool marketed to employers. They managed to find a fair amount of embarrassing material on this writer.  The good news is that most of the deep search tools are not free–but a major employer will almost certainly have a subscription to a service like SI and check you out.

Another tool commonly used is PIPL.  With just my real name and state, I was able to find a list of everywhere I had lived for the last 10 years, plus my age and phone number. Yikes!  Had I been willing to give up some cash, I could have gotten an extremely detailed report about myself that probably would have creeped me out for days.  PIPL doesn’t tell you anything about your online reputation, but it will produce a detailed history of your movements and employment–which would be useful to an employer verifying your resume.

I was happy to see that PIPL picked up a lot of Bug Girls online that weren’t me, and that I still had my plausible identity intact.

In summary, the best way to keep your online reputation is to not do anything really stupid.  If you are having a bad day, or are angry, walk away from the computer.  And that advice is free, and requires no subscription.

3 thoughts on “An experiment with Online Reputation Trackers

  1. Well, Reppler flagged me for a tweet about tits (the birds) but not for anything else; total score of 85. Which is good?

  2. I always wonder what Australians think when they hear that some yank ‘fell on [pronoun] fanny’ – probably assume it is either onanistic or improbable, depending on gender. If Australians have similar reputation trackers, then I can think of a few words that might lead to some rather inaccurate assessments of Americans, and much of Australian slang must be unintelligible to the US versions.

    I hope these monitors don’t include comments in their assessments of the site owner.

  3. I tried it, but mainly it just looks at my social network posts. The only one I use is Google+ (even though I have an FB account), and it doesn’t scan those. Seems pretty worthless.

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