An enterprising fellow in India once floated an insurance scheme, I believe, for bailing out ticketless travelers in suburban trains. It worked like this. You pay a monthly premium, a fraction of the cost of your ticket, to this fellow. If caught traveling without a ticket by the ticket checker, you call this fellow, and he will arrange to pay the fine. Now, we have something akin to this, to bail out the blogger who, after hitting the Enter key, may belatedly regret the bytes that s/he just transmitted.
Wired News reports that Michael Fertik and his partners have launched a new business, ReputationDefender, to help webizens, who might have wittingly or unwittingly damaged their reputation through digital transgressions. For a fee, of course. Initially conceived to protect children from potentially damaging entries in blogs and other social networking sites, that may persist to haunt them well into their future, they have now expanded their services to the broader market:
ReputationDefender breaks its services into three categories: "My Reputation," which is aimed at adults hoping to track down and eliminate those momentary lapses of reason; "My Child," for parents who want to protect their children from errors of youth that may come back to haunt them later in life; and "My Privacy," which helps to remove a client's data from the web's various data-brokering websites that store private information such as Social Security and driver's license numbers, home addresses and phone numbers. The first two services are offered on the company's site now, but My Privacy is not yet publicly available.
ReputationDefender assures that the means used to clean up your mess, "site-scraping robots and good old-fashioned human detective skills", will be legal.
I don't think the situation is quite analogous to consumer credit reports, though, as the ReputationDefender wants us to believe. If I were to rue the name of this blog, and want to change it to something less self-defeating the Irrational Jedi, say ReputationDefender offers, at the very least, help to efface all references to the offending name in the wah-wah-wah. Does it, however, help restore my sullied reputation? In the eyes of all those who have visited my site, and read my posts there and elsewhere as the rational fool, I remain the rational fool. My reputation, once lost, can only be restored by painstakingly building it afresh, by new synapses in the neuronal pathways of those about whom I care. Not by removing the vestiges of the "momentary lapses of reason" in the form of 0's and 1's, in some magnetic media, I don't think so.