Violated Online is a interesting book for a number of reasons. But by far the most interesting thing is the quandary at it’s heart.
Wyer runs a company that specializes in Search Engine Reputation Management (SERM) and Violated Online is essentially a 200 page pitch for the SERM industry. In case there is any doubt, SERM is essentially the same as the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practiced by online marketers to ensure that search engine results reflect the results that they want.
The fundamental idea at the heart of Violated Online is that we live in a connected world and that information is easy to find or publish. That this world can be a scary place, and that things have changed, should really come as no surprise to anyone.
It is hard not to feel while reading this work that the author would rather go back to the “good-old-days.” By its own admission, Violated Online states that a lot of personal information was always available offline, but that now this information is a lot easier to access and somehow this makes the internet is a bad thing. It is interesting to reflect that only 10 years ago we gladly gave our social security numbers to department store clerks, or any other number of people, to bring up account information. Just like we have all learned to control our personal information, we also have to take responsibility for our online presence.
To be fair, Violated Online, makes this exact argument. However, most people reading it will only take away from the near hysterical tone is the idea that to protect themselves they need to stay off the internet or employ a SERM company. For example, some of the advise is practically useless for the average person – registering every single web address permutation of you and your families name. Great advise for a business, or someone in the public eye, but more than a little over the top for most people. It is easy to forget that in the days before the internet, if the major media misquoted or focused on an individual, there was very little recourse. The internet can magnify these problems but it also provides an avenue for correcting those mistakes. Violated Online makes no such comparisons or admissions.
However, the biggest issue with this book is that on the one hand it bemoans that individuals can be anonymous online, and then rails against social media’s use of proper names and identities. You can’t have it both ways! The online identity issue is significant, but it needs to be handled with education about when you can and can’t rely on online information and who posted it.
Violated Online is an important book and is well worth reading, despite its problems. Just don’t buy into the end of the world scenarios and take away its most important message – take control of your life online before someone else does.
(Clicking on the cover above will take you to the book’s Amazon page and contribute to my book buying habit / problem.)