Tuesday, April 6, 2010 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

GetUnvarnished.com: Should We Allow User Feedback about Personal Reputation?

I got a call today from CNBC asking me to appear on a program to discuss the rising controversy surrounding GetUnvarnished.com, which CNBC called "the scariest website ever" and an "online reputation killer." For those of you not familiar with the site, it bills itself as "an online resource for building, managing, and researching professional reputation, using community-contributed, professional reviews." More specifically, the site says:

Unvarnished reviews help you get the inside scoop on other business professionals, providing candid assessments of coworkers, potential hires, business partners, and more. By contributing Unvarnished reviews, you can share your knowledge of other professionals, giving credit where credit is due, and valuable feedback where needed. Lastly, your own Unvarnished profile, which you may create yourself or claim one that has been created for you, helps you take control of and build your own professional reputation. Get recognition for your accomplishments and actively manage your career growth.

In essence, the site is like other online product or service review sites except in this case the product or service being reviewed is you! By letting people comment on other people's reputation anonymously, the theory is that Unvarnished can become "a central hub for community-contributed reviews regarding an individual business professional," according to the site.

However, as you can well imagine, the site raises all sorts of thorny questions about anonymity, free speech, privacy, personal reputation, libel, child safety, cyberbullying, intermediary liability, and so on. If you read these two TechCrunch articles [1, 2], you'll get a good feel for the heated debate that will follow, which I'm sure we'll be talking about more here on this blog in the months to come. I can see this becoming the next AutoAdmit or JuicyCampus case, and raising some of the same questions that came to the fore during the "skank" blogger case last year. For now, here's the video from the CNBC show, and down below I have included some talking points I put together before I went on the air.

Talking Points I prepared for today's CNBC segment:


Related reading:

TechCrunch articles mentioned above:

posted by Adam Thierer @ 6:24 PM | Free Speech , Privacy