Privacy and digital reputation: Five predictions for 2011

- Michael Fertik is the CEO and Founder of ReputationDefender, the online privacy and reputation company. The views expressed are his own. -

Digital reputation and privacy literally became the stuff of legend and movies this year (WikiLeaks, The Social Network). But stay tuned for 2011: we are going to see more dramatic shakeouts in the commercial, personal, and governmental spheres. The central question is whether the public, business community, and policymakers will come to grips with the many fault lines of digital control of information or if they will either pretend that it’s not a problem or that tiny, incremental steps are real solutions.

Here are some concrete predictions for the year:

1. “Reputation Manager” appears as a title at 25 Fortune 500 companies.

Reputation and privacy are positioned to overtake malware and virus as the biggest threats to corporate digital security. WikiLeaks is said to have 2,000 mirror sites operating.  Leakers are on the march. Not only are the reputations of companies vulnerable to all the would-be Assanges of the world, any employee or customer with a mobile phone can do equal damage (evidence: Domino’s employee nose pick). In today’s news-driven environment, where anyone can be a broadcaster, companies must understand the strategic advantage of proactively building and maintaining a bulletproof corporate reputation, which will include the reputation and privacy of its employee and commercial secrets.

2. You get a dollar value assigned to your online reputation and to your personal information online.

Mobile sales are helping eBay, but is it enough?

EBAY/eBay said Wednesday that the value of goods sold in the U.S. through its mobile applications surged 133% to $100 million during the month before Christmas. Globally, the growth was even stronger: Up 166% to $230 million worth of goods.

That is good news from one angle. eBay is having success using mobile devices to sell goods during the busiest retailing period of the year. But it obscures another fact: Mobile sales may be a growing market, but it’s a tiny portion of eBay’s overall sales. And overall sales don’t appear to be growing nearly as fast.

eBay’s Gross Merchandise Volume (the total value of all goods sold through eBay) was $48.3 billion in 2009, excluding car sales, and that figure is likely to top $50 billion in 2010. The $230 million GMV of mobile sales is equal to only 0.5% of eBay’s total GMV last year.

Privacy matters more when you’re mobile

A woman walks past icons for Apple applications at the company's retail store in San Francisco, California, April 22, 2009. REUTERS/Robert GalbraithPrivacy concerns are nothing new if you use the Web to tweet or facebook. But with Apple’s mobile platform joining the fray and speculation that Google’s might be next, should you be worried about how your personal information is being used on that 3G-enabled iPad or Android-powered smartphone you picked up over the holiday season?

Apple shareholders don’t seem to think so. Shares in the iPhone maker closed up on Tuesday and were unchanged in midday trading on Wednesday.

And with revenue from mobile apps sales forecasted to see 60 percent compound growth to 2014 and an expected increase in the number of apps downloaded worldwide to reach 76.9 billion in 2014 from 10.9 billion in 2010, there’s good reason for wider investor optimism.

Aretha Franklin is alive, and Twitter is growing up.

USA/First Charlie Sheen died a tragic if imaginary death in a snowboarding accident. Now poor Aretha Franklin is being mourned on Twitter for a demise that has yet to happen.

It’s all such sad news – not so much for the celebrities in question (after all, no publicity is bad publicity, even if it’s a press release announcing you are alive). But for Twitter and its credibility as a 21st Century news platform.

Twitter, like any web technology, is a double-edged blade. Early on, it drew praise by allowing people to jointly cover breaking news such as the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 and violent protests in Iran in the summer of 2009.

Foursquare still struggling to become more than a niche app

USA/When was the last time you played Foursquare? Not the mobile app that lets you check in at a coffeeshop or store in hopes of becoming its “mayor”. But the original game involving a red rubber ball and a grid chalked onto asphalt.

For me, it’s been years since I played Foursquare, and I’m tempted to get a game going with some of my friends who live nearby. That is more than I can say for the mobile app Foursquare. It’s been months since I’ve check in anywhere – in fact, I’d forgotten entirely that I deleted it from my iPhone – and after reinstalling it and trying out its new features, I’m still not crazy about it. It still feels more like a chore than a game, an act of discovery or a way to connect with friends.

According to, I’m not alone. In a blog post entitled “I’m the mayor! So what?”, Karen Costa showed some figures suggesting that the number of unique visitors at Foursquare has dwindled from a peak of 1.8 million this summer to less than 1 million last month. Its rival Gowalla has seen its unique visitor count tread water at around 200,000 for several months.

Apple, Wikileaks and the new debate on civil disobedience

Apple has removed from its iTunes store an app that let people read WikiLeaks’s site and follow its Twitter feed on their iPhones and iPads. The app had been approved only three days earlier, and the move is largely symbolic because anyone with an iPhone or iPad can still access the same content through a Safari or Opera browser.

In doing so, Apple is in some pretty good company in the tech industry. PayPal blocked donations to WikiLeaks and Amazon kicked Wikileaks off of its cloud. And all made their moves for similar reasons: Wikileaks broke the law, and these companies don’t support those who break the law.

There is little question that the release of government documents by Wikileaks was unlawful. The real debate is elsewhere: whether the benefits of leaking the recent State Department documents are larger than the costs; and, more broadly, whether the ideal of free speech is worth breaking laws to uphold. In other words, this is a debate over civil disobedience.

from Reuters Money:

Cybercrime: 3 threats to watch for this holiday season

A generic picture of a woman working in an office sitting at her desk typing on a computer. REUTERS/Catherine BensonHoliday shopping: It's down to the 11th hour and rather than jostling for a parking spot or fighting for a fitting room, more consumers are choosing to shop online or on their mobile devices.

Sure, shopping online can save you some coin on shipping costs, and using a smartphone certainly makes price comparisons infinitely easier. But consumers are trading convenience for safety, according to a new study sponsored by Norton and conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research.

“It’s the amount of activity that makes people more vulnerable," says personal finance expert Jean Chatzky. "People just aren’t being as careful as they should be in a number of different ways."Jean Chatzky is pictured in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Handout

Online advertising catches up to newspapers in 2010

newspapersThe newspaper industry had a lot of bad knocks this year. Advertising revenue continued to decline, when just about every other media sector — like local broadcast TV, for example – rebounded beautifully. For newspaper companies  the term “moderating ad revenue declines” has become the new flat.

Now comes word from the research firm eMarketer that online advertising in the U.S. is expected to outgun newspaper advertising in 2010. For the year, online ad spending is expected to rise about 14 percent to $25.8 billion, while print advertising spending in newspapers is expected to decline about 8 percent to $22.8 billion. The research firm includes everything from Google and eBay to the New York Times in its online advertising category.

eMarketer also points out that total ad spending for newspapers including print and online will reach $25.7 billion in 2010, which it says is ”shy of the $25.8 billion advertisers will spend on Internet ads.”

An open letter to CEOs: Why so Twitter averse?

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Dear CEO of [Your Name Here]: Why aren’t you on Twitter?

In retrospect, I have come to understand your relative lack of interest in blogging, when blogging was the thing to do. It’s time consuming. It’s easy to overthink (and underthink). A blog requires readers to find you, and return — embarrassing if they don’t. You always have to feed the beast (darn you, pesky time stamps).

All this changed with the advent of Twitter, a haiku melting pot where you don’t have to be more pithy or verbose than you might be when making polite conversation at a cocktail party that nobody minds you crashed, and the right name or title or station virtually guarantees a large following (even if nobody is actually paying attention to anything you say).

But you don’t seem to be participating in micro-blogging any more than you participated in blogging. Oh sure, lots of companies hire social media marketing experts — you probably signed off on that without even realizing it.

Language has a genome, and Google is mapping it.

ISRAEL/So many books, so little time. Nobody will ever be able to read them all, to distill their wisdom into an aggregate pool of knowledge that can be accessed at a moment’s notice.

But that’s not stopping Google from trying. The company is making available a new feature in Google Labs called Books Ngram Viewer that scans millions of books from 1600 to the present in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian and – perhaps most ambitiously – Chinese.

A word of warning: If you are at all a word geek, Ngram can be a bit of a time vortex. I was quickly lost in the task of investigating the decline of outmoded terms (“oriental”) and the rise of new ones (“hipster”), the disappearance and re-emergence of others (“geek”), the comparison of common words (“he” vs. “she” and “I” vs. “you”). For much deeper analysis of what can be mined from Ngram, the Guardian has a good overview.