If any company needed to worry about its online reputation, you would think it would be Intelius. The Bellevue-based Web services company has faced an onslaught of negative publicity in recent years, including from this paper, which exposed Intelius' deceptive marketing tactics and the legions of unhappy consumers who felt they were ripped off. So it's ironic that Intelius today is launching a product that it says will help people "control" their digital identity.
You get the privilege of seeing that data by signing up for Intelius' new TrueRep service, at a cost of $9.95 a month. "This information ... gives consumers full transparency of the public information--right or wrong--that is associated with them," says an Intelius press release.
In other words, you're paying the company, in part, to see if the information it sells about you is wrong. The money also allows TrueRep users to withhold two addresses and one phone number from the data about them that Intelius sells.
In an interview, Intelius spokesperson Jim Cullinan notes that the company trades in information that is available from public records. "We don't generally go and scrape data," he says. If the information is wrong, he says, it's because the public records are wrong, which might be valuable for you to know.
In addition, Intelius is promising that TrueRep will allow users to "promote" themselves online through "tools" that will allow them to improve Google results associated with their name. The service is only available to individuals right now, which is a shame because Intelius itself could probably use it.
Among the top 10 Google results associated with Intelius is Seattle Weekly's 2009 cover story, Intelius and the Dubious Art of Post-Transaction Marketing and a TechCrunch story, More Bad News for Intelius: Cofounder Charged with Lying About Sex with Stripper.
Intelius, run by self-declared Internet "wizard" Naveen Jain (pictured above), isn't the first to get into this line of business. As TechFlash reports, a California company called Reputation Defender claims it can also help you manage your online profile. But that seems to be all that Reputation Defender does, rather than, like Intelius, invading your privacy at the same time that it is promising to protect it.
[This post has been edited and corrected since it was first posted to clarify that TrueRep is a service for individuals, not corporations, and that Intelius generally sells information from public records, rather than data it generates on its own.]