Reppler: Watching your Facebook reputation (so you don't have to)

A new service called Reppler aims to protect your Facebook rep from, well, your own stupidity. I give it an A for effort and a B- for execution.

Got a bad rep on Facebook? Remember, you brought this upon yourself. Luckily for you, services like Reppler can help identify the truly embarrassing stuff and hide it away from college recruiters, future or current employers, legal authorities, and potential mates.

Install the Reppler Facebook app, and it can scan your wall and/or your news feed, identify how you sound to the world at large, and flag posts that might later come back to bite you. It will highlight any potentially dangerous links to malware or spammy sites that appear in your News Feed.

It also displays neat stats about which words show up most frequently on your wall, where most of your Facebook content comes from, and which kinds of things you tend to “Like” most. 

Think of Reppler as a tech-savvy mom, wagging her finger at the things you do and say on Facebook you know you probably shouldn’t.

[img_assist|nid=153339|title=Reppler.com Facebook evaluation screen|desc=|link=none|align=center|width=598|height=422]

That’s the idea anyway, as CEO Vlad Gorenick explained to me over the phone. Though the free service is launching for Facebook, his goal is to cover other popular social networks as well – where people often unwittingly do themselves and their reputations harm.

“It doesn’t matter these days whether you’re working behind a keyboard or a cash register,” he says. “Your online reputation matters -- anybody can look it up. Our goal is to give you feedback so you can make the decision whether that content is appropriate.”

In practice, however, Reppler still has issues, as my spouse likes to say to me.

For example: Reppler told me the overall tone of my Facebook posts is “neutral” (though “smartass” is closer to the mark). Reppler analyzed my last 100 posts and found only six examples of Inappropriate Content (though I’ve been inappropriate on Facebook since at least 2007). It flagged status updates mentioning beer (duh), meth (a mini-review of Winters Bone), getting stoned (a post about James Franco), and “Texas tea,” which it somehow mistook for a drug reference though in fact it was a nod to the Beverly Hillbillies. (“Oil that is. Black gold. Texas tea.”)

It entirely missed everything I’ve ever posted from eSarcasm.com, which is about as inappropriate as you can generally be in public without getting arrested.

Reppler also gagged on a story from The Onion that mentioned marijuana, and a link to a ForeignAffairs.com article (from some guy I do not remember ever friending) about risks to “US basing agreements” overseas. One can only assume that Foreign Affairs was not referring to freebasing, but these days you never know.

What’s odd about the last two items is that I had nothing to do with them, save for the fact that the guy and The Onion are on my friends list. I didn’t like, share, or comment on these posts; they didn’t display on my News Feed, and I didn’t even know they existed until Reppler pointed them out. (I guess it’s true when they say people judge you by your friends.)

Once Reppler finds a problem you can click Fix This or Ignore This. Unfortunately, clicking Fix This doesn’t actually fix this – it merely brings you to the place where the questionable content appeared, leaving it up to you to figure out what to do about it.

“Facebook doesn't allow applications to remove content,” explains Gorelick. “We take them back to the post to help orient them to what it looks like in Facebook.”

From there, you’ll have to navigate to your Wall (or your friends’ walls) and choose to hide or delete the post.

Is this a solution to all your Facebook reputation problems? No. But it’s a nice start, despite the glitches. Gorelick says this part of Reppler will always remain free, though he plans to offer fee-based privacy services down the road.

Of course, for the app to work, Reppler has to access everything you put on Facebook – even stuff you wouldn’t let your mother see. That means users will need to place a fair amount in trust in Reppler to do the right things with their information. Gorelick says they needn’t worry.

“We won’t share your data, sell it, or use it for advertising,” he says. “Our reputation is as important as yours.”

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