03 Oct 2016

There was a 40% decrease in defamation cases from 2014-2015, while privacy claims have doubled in five years. This article explores the influences on that change and the implications of a spotlight on privacy for reputation management. With a special focus on digital and social media by Social360’s guest blogger Alex Coley.

Digital Reputation - A proactive approach to privacy

Who brings a privacy claim and why?

In an increasingly fast-paced world Ultra High Net Worth individuals and people with a valuable personal brand want a more proactive approach to protecting their character and standing. Reputation management has entered the digital age, leaving the measured pace of the printing press and the genteel seven day cycle of Sunday newspapers behind. The greatest risk to privacy in the future will be a culture where people regard the internet as a law-free zone and law enforcement is not resourced to cope. Damage is done quickly and without forethought. The genie can’t be put back in the bottle. Business deals may fall through, relationships might break down and personal safety could even be put at risk.

There are two issues affecting the decrease in defamation claims and the increase in privacy claims.

  1. The Defamation Act 2013, which reformed English defamation law. The impacts to bringing a defamation case are in changes to the criteria for a claim and in case management. Claimants must prove serious harm and spurious claims can be thrown out early on.

  2. Moseley vs News Group Newspapers [2008] where a privacy claim based upon Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights was successfully used. The News of the World published an article about Moseley’s sex life. Rather than a claim of defamation Mosely relied upon an action based upon the unauthorised disclosure of personal information. In effect, a breach of confidence.

It is the truth of a statement which determines the claimant’s approach. If an allegation is untrue, it is likely that the cause of action will be in defamation. If an allegation is true there may be a course of action in misuse of private information.

Reputation management requires some prior knowledge and preparation

  1. Forewarning of a risk of breaching privacy online

Once the issue is established and defined internet monitoring can be set up to check for public mentions. This is important because unless the provider of digital reputation services becomes party to the private issue they can only offer a partial coverage of the risk. They would not know exactly what to look out for. It is still possible to provide some warning and protection but full disclosure enables a far more complete and responsive approach to prevention. Get as clear a picture and as much detail of issues as possible. This directly improves the quality of the service.

  1. Further notice about the public status of an issue

In a short amount of time the nature of an issue may change or develop. It’s important that any updates to the situation are reflected in how the issue is defined and monitored and a method for identifying an emerging threat is established. Consider a threshold signal based on volume of keywords or a combination of certain terms in concert, or certain influencers mentioning the topic in question. Where a privacy injunction is in place, knowing about the potential for a change in search patterns is vital.

  1. A strategy for mitigation to support an existing injunction and in the event that an injunction ceases to be completely effective

Even after an injunction is obtained there is no guarantee that search results will be effective immediately. A useful interim measure is targeting content to score in the first page of search results providing a robust defence against threats to digital reputation. Securing a reputation before an issue presents itself is more effective. After the fact this approach can provide a much needed mitigation strategy.

Solutions and methodology for digital reputation management

  1. A proactive listening tool constantly searching the open web for pre-defined mentions of key words, scenarios and prevailing search terms.

Repurposing an off the shelf tool will still yield some useful results. The problem is that searches are generally restricted to just the platforms the vendor deems important. Typically the most popular sites like Facebook and Twitter and a few others. Forums, sites with a paywall, mainstream media or hard to find discussion boards are rarely included. Given the risks, individuals and regulated industries are best served by a proprietary technology that uses multi-language search, delivered in English and a deep search capability working 24/7.

  1. A customised alert system once an issue arises to instantly flag risks.

A sample of the results will help determine the frequency of alerts while current and expected levels of exposure will shape the urgency of the situation. This is where a managed service with human expertise is worth it’s weight in gold. Depending on automation alone can leave you missing critical developments in a sphere of influence that is as unpredictable as it is fast paced. The best interface for notifications is familiar, device friendly and able to keep you updated by the second. The best alert system is email. Do not fall into dashboard-itis.

  1. The promotion and optimisation of official and authoritative content to displace negative material in search engines.

Use asset optimisation to maximise the SEO power of your owned, earned and paid digital media. Enhance the barrier provided by your digital assets and make sure your assets rank highly.

  • Create keyword optimised shareable content
  • Use PR outreach to generate inbound links

Secure key digital properties to avoid them being registered by potential detractors, cyber squatters or activists.

  • Register associated domain names
  • Set up relevant social media handles and profiles

If in doubt send in the marines

There are other means to, quite literally, secure a reputation. You can hire cyber security experts or digital forensics professionals to boost your defences and pursue countermeasures. Be proactive with your privacy and protect your digital reputation.

You can read the complete white paper here: http://alexcoleydigital.com/go/digitalreputation/

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