In New York Magazine, Graeme Wood tells a fascinating tale of digital dishwashing. A nugget:
But sometime in the last decade, the practice of furiously Googling people stopped being creepy and became standard operating procedure. Today, the market in online-reputation management is estimated to be nearly $5 billion, with hundreds of companies devoted to monitoring, improving, and even policing your online profile. The most famous of them, Reputation.com, advertises on NPR and charges in the low thousands of dollars for a basic scrubbing, which involves creating factual but flattering social-media accounts and websites, and more for bespoke guidance about how to protect your reputation online.
That work is not really any slimier than the work of PR firms offline—relentlessly accentuating the positive and hoping no one asks about the negative. But in the digital world, with anonymously registered websites, it’s easier to create natural-seeming whisper campaigns, positive or negative, and disavow any role in them. Michael Zammuto, president of Reputation Changer, founded in 2010, says he has seen numerous clients try to beat Google by flooding the web with junky self-glorifying sites. “These strategies never work over the long term,” he says. “There are no shortcuts.”