***** Wild West 2.0: How to Protect and Restore Your Online Reputation on the Untamed Social Frontier. By Michael Fertik and David Thompson; published by AMACOM, www.amacombooks.com; 288 pages; $24.95.
Reading the early chapters of Wild West 2.0, it’s hard not to become paranoid about how easy it is for any malcontent with Internet access to ruin your reputation. Examples of how innocent lives could be shattered and honest businesses ruined by Internet falsehoods and innuendoes are abundant, as are the number of methods which could be employed to accomplish these ends.
Coauthors Michael Fertik and David Thompson compare the unfettered ease with which anyone can place any type of information, factual or fanciful, on the Internet to the American frontier. They cite a need for a modern day Wyatt Earp to protect those vulnerable to Internet abuse.
Fertik and Thompson, it happens, are the founder/CEO and former general counsel, respectively, of Reputation.com, Inc., a major Silicon Valley firm that helps clients monitor and influence their personal and organizational reputations online.
The authors explain how search engines, Google in particular, operate. Employing an automated ranking system, Google records the number of searches made on a subject, and uses them to rank search results. “Popularity,” however, does not equal legitimacy or quality, and the authors demonstrate various methods of manipulating information or inserting “user created information,” to boost listings on search engines.
The value of a company’s good name and the good will associated with it could be rendered null by a successful Internet-based campaign of falsehoods. What’s more, unlike a structure destroyed by fire, there is no insurance policy to ensure quick rebuilding of a severely damaged reputation. Security professionals have a duty to provide protection to a client’s reputation as well as to physical assets. Information, and the proper use and distribution of that information, can be used to preserve a good reputation.
The authors provide a blueprint of proactive initiatives designed to offset the damages of any future attacks on the reputation of an individual, business, or product. The average person may not face a severe risk from damaging false information posted on Internet sites, but this is a real concern for businesses and other institutions. While sometimes self-promoting, the authors’ enthusiasm for remedying the harm done to reputations by malicious, intentional lies comes through on every page.
Reviewer: Paul M. Montminy, CPP, is director of campus safety and security at Miss Hall’s School in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He has been a member of ASIS International for more than 20 years.