How to Secure Your Child’s Digital Future

March 10, 2015 · Filed Under Branding, Domain Names, Online Reputation Management · Comments Off on How to Secure Your Child’s Digital Future 

A few days ago we had an interesting conversation on Facebook discussing what you should do (digitally-wise) once your baby is born. It started from this meme:

When your kids are born meme

 

… and developed into us sharing what we (might) do to make our kid’s future career easier. The Internet has changed our personal careers paths dramatically: Most employees look for prospective interviewees’ web records even before setting up the actual meeting.

So can we help our kids with their personal reputation management?

One of the most obvious things to do once your spouse and you agree on the baby’s name is to register the exact-match domain (if possible) for your kid not to have to worry about it when he/she grows up.

But really how crazy should you go about securing your kid’s digital future?

Well, personal reputation management is huge nowadays, and conversely so is identity hijacking. If we can in any way help our children to own their online identities, why not?

After all, you have two obvious choices:

  • Make sure your kid has a very wide-spread common first and last name (In this case, you don’t have to worry about your kid’s online reputation: There are hundreds of people sharing the same search results page) OR
  • Make sure your kid’s name is more or less unique and when he / she grows up, they will be easy to get found in whatever search engine we are going to use then.

In the latter case, securing important domains and usernames may be a good idea actually.

Helping your kids control their web identities may be crucial for their future. Dan Gillmor has put it very well:

[We] are partly who others say we are. That’s a key reason why each of us needs to be one of the voices (preferably the most prominent) defining us. To the extent that they live public lives in any way – and like it or not, it’s getting harder not to be public in some way – tomorrow’s adults will need an online home that they control. They need an online home, a place where they tell the world who they are and what they’ve done, where they post their own work, or at least some of it.

Dan Gillmore quote

What to Register

A domain is an investment and when you deal with kids, this investment is for at least 10-15 years to come.

Domains are not expensive nowadays but seriously, there’s no way you can register ALL of the variations. There are lots of them! And the list is going to be growing.

So which one to secure?

I suggest going with .com

I have no idea what the Internet is going to be in 15 years but I think .com domains will remain as common and popular as they are now or were 5 years ago.

If there is any other top level domains that fit particularly well, why not consider them as well. I’d register ann.smarty once .smarty becomes a top level domain, for example.

What to Do with That Domain

Keeping it registered is already very thoughtful of you but we know that sites are more valuable than domains.

There’s no reason to keep your kid’s domain stagnant. Installing WordPress and keeping it hosted is easy and cheap. Here’s one of the easiest guides on starting a simple blog: Your kid’s blog is just a couple of steps away.

Updating a blog is easy, you can even do it via email: So you can simply use it to collect photos and memories (Like that email address idea we started from. The difference is that hosting everything on your own sites means you actually own the collection).

What Else to Secure?

Owning your domain name is only one step. Today’s digital identity is spread across multiple social media platforms – owning all of those is also essential to better control your child’s identity.

Do we know which ones are there to stay in 10 or more years?

Will there be Twitter? – Hopefully yes!

Will there be Facebook? – It seems so…

Will there be Google Plus? – I wouldn’t count on that…

Will there be new ones? – Absolutely yes…

How to keep track of emerging social media platforms to register your kid’s name there?

Knowem has a cool service that lets you register your name on all imaginable social media platforms to secure them for your child.  They also offer a subscription service that will continue to secure your name on 20 new and emerging social networks every month, so you never miss out on any new ones:

KnowEm Social Branding Search Engine

Have you ever thought about securing your children’s digital future? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

KnowEm Social News Digest, Friday 2/13/15

February 13, 2015 · Filed Under Announcements, Social Media · Comments Off on KnowEm Social News Digest, Friday 2/13/15 

Welcome to the introductory KnowEm Social News Digest!  Every once a week or so we plan to send you the latest breaking news in Social Media.  There’s no shortage of changes happening in the social world, so it’s important you as a brand stay on top of it.  This week we have a bombshell from Pinterest, and some very interesting acquisitions by Google and Twitter.

PinterestPinterest bans all affiliate links, asks power users to monetize in other ways
from Venturebeat.com, February 12, 2015

As Pinterest’s monetization plans materialize, the social network is pulling the plug on affiliate networks. Pinterest warned select “power pinners” this evening that it will now “automatically remove all affiliate links, redirects and trackers on Pins.”

 

Twitter Acquires Niche, a Talent Agency for Social-Media Stars
from Wired, February 11, 2015

Twitter has agreed to acquire Niche, a startup that facilitates advertising deals for social media stars.

 

FacebookFacebook Adds Legacy Contact Option in the Event of Death
from Facebook, February 12, 2015

“Today we’re introducing a new feature that lets people choose a legacy contact—a family member or friend who can manage their account when they pass away. Once someone lets us know that a person has passed away, we will memorialize the account”

 

Google Acquires Photo Storage App Odysee, Is A Major Google+ Update On The Way?
from Search Engine Journal, February 9, 2015

Google announced Monday that it had acquired photo storage app Odysee. The app, which automatically backs up photos and videos taken on your smartphone, will shut down on February 23rd. As a result of the deal, Odysee’s development team will be joining the Google+ team, a move which has led to speculation that Odysee’s unique features will eventually be integrated into G+.

 

twitter-thumbWhy Twitter launched Curator, a Storify competitor
from Mashable, February 11, 2015

Curator makes it easier for media outlets to figure out which topics are popular. A search function sifts through tweets, vines and other data, with fine grained filters to narrow things down by location, word count, the feelings expressed in the tweet, and even by device.

 

Facebook Adds A New Way To Sell Items In Groups
from TechCrunch, February 10, 2015

“Facebook on Tuesday announced the addition of a new feature for Facebook Groups designed to make it easier for members of a “For Sale” group to list their items. The new “Sell” feature, which is now starting to roll out globally to more groups, will allow members to create a post where you can add a description of the item for sale, set a price and set a pick-up or delivery location.”

 

Valentine's DayKnowEm’s Valentine’s Day Sale is coming!

Stay tuned – tonight, tomorrow?  Who knows when it will start – check back and see when KnowEm starts offering 20% off some of our most popular packages this Valentine’s Day weekend!

Highschooler Opens Bogus Twitter Account In School Directors Name

We’ve seen this before and it never ends good. This time it’s resulting in an identity theft charge  for Ira Trey Quesenberry III, an 18-year-old student at Sullivan Central High School. A few years ago this would have been looked upon as a victimless prank. But times have changed and as social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and others have morphed into much more than just recreational websites, it’s not just unacceptable, it’s a crime.

The Twitter account was created with the name and photo of Dr. Jubal Yennie, director of the Sullivan County school district. The account has since been deleted but the tweets sent in Yennie’s name were reported to be of an embarrassing nature and not appropriate for a school administrator. Why would an 18 year old do something like that?

The Smoking Gun reports “Yennie contacted sheriff’s deputies last Friday to report the phony Twitter account. After investigators linked Quesenberry to the account, the teen reportedly confessed to opening it. Quesenberry was booked today by sheriff’s deputies, and is due to appear tomorrow in General Sessions court.”

Grab your/companies name/products/services people. Sites like Knowem.com will do this for free or for a small fee. The worst thing you can do is nothing. There are millions of stupid 18 year olds out there to make you look stupid-er.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert and Advisory Board member to Knowem. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.

Why Registering (CompanyName)Sucks.com Is a Thing of the Past

It used to be the biggest fear for a company.  Someone would come along and register a domain name with their trademarked term in it followed by a derogatory word. Since ICANN launched the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) however, that practice has basically become a futile waste of money and time.

Thanks to the UDRP, if I was to go out tomorrow and register (CompanyName)sucks.com, (CompanyName)blows.com or (CompanyName)complaints.com I am basically wasting money. If I put any content on that site which mentions the company holding the trademark it is a violation of the UDRP, and all the company has to do is fill out a form and send it to ICANN to have ownership of the domain transferred to the rightful owner of the trademark.

So when Bank of America halted all processing of payments (donations) to wikileaks.org citing that what the site was doing could be deemed illegal, they were attacked by various internet groups, shutting down the banks corporate website. So what did Bank of America do to defend itself?

BofAsucks.com is owned, @BofASucks on Twitter is not

They registered hundreds of domains with their name as well as the names of the CEO (brianmoynihansucks.com, for example) and other high level executives all with derogatory terms at the end.  Now granted in most cases peoples’ names can’t be trademarked so the UDRP wouldn’t work in personal cases, but the point that we are making is in regards to the trademarked brand term.  If an attack on a brand is going to happen, it is not going to be done via the registration of a dot com – Social Media is the new weapon of choice.  Notice the Twitter and Blogspot accounts pointed out above – why doesn’t Bank Of America own these?  There is no central authority or UDRP for Social Media.

During this defensive registration of Bank of America how many social media profiles were secured? None.

The owning of derogatory brand domains is worthless, it will do nothing more than cost you however much you pay for domain registration services and a renewal fee. Attacks that happen today happen on social media. Let’s look at BP for example — their spoofed twitter account has over 150k followers and has actually been able to turn a profit by printing up T-Shirts talking about the infamous oil spill.

In the “fad” that is social media (I say “fad” only because a lot of corporate America still erroneously considers social media just that) this is where we are going to see more and more attacks on companies or business. There is no UDRP for vanity URLs or vanity sub-domains so it is basically the wild west of infringement.  Unless a particular social media network has a policy in place for this, at times it can be nearly impossible to get a name removed.

Take Twitter’s policy for example (the following is an excerpt, you can read it in full here).

Guidelines for Parody, Commentary and Fan Accounts

As we have previously stated with other Twitter accounts which have used or are currently using a trademarked term, (Fanta for Example) if you state in your BIO that you’re not associated with the company as well as never tweet anything that represents the brand then you’re going to be OK. With no UDRP or other central authority to pull down either social media accounts, vanity sub-domains or URLs, there is really nothing you as a brand owner can do.

But this does bring up an interesting question which I personally cannot answer (and I’d love to hear your opionions).  Let’s say you do take a name of a trademarked term, and that name is on a social network as a vanity URL or sub-domain – is that enough to actually file a DMCA complaint? If anyone knows about this please let me know in the comments, if not I am going to research this a bit more and see if it could be a viable means to take down an offending profile.

With the latest update of our Enterprise Dashboard we are now including the contact information of the owners of all social media networks that are in our database (usually this includes the phone number, WHOIS information and the physical mailing address).  If you’re currently an enterprise customer of KnowEm all you need to do is export your “Profiles Not Under Your Control” to Excel and you will see this new feature. If you’re not an enterprise customer and would like a demo please let us know by filling out our demo request form.

So back to the Twitter….

What Happens When We Receive a Valid Report?

So unless the person that has registered your trademarked term on twitter is claiming to be your company and tweeting as if they were your company – you’re not getting the account back. Twitter (and most social networks) employ a “first come first serve” policy, making social media sites with vanity URLs or sub-domains truly the wild west of IP infringement.  We are still waiting to see what Google+ is going to do with their vanity URL land rush.  As I have previously posted it appears that they grandfathered in some of the “Google profiles” which have been phased out with the launch of Google+.

It appears that Google is on top of any and all trademark violations, which is why myself and the team noticed that a lot of Google profiles that had vanity URLs that contained trademarked terms did not receive a Google+ vanity URL even with being grandfathered in. <Shameless Promotion> – Follow Myself on Google+ here: http://google.com/profiles/streko –  & my partner in crime (Mr. Barry Wise) here – http://google.com/profiles/itcnbwise </Shameless Promotion>

So to sum everything up, back in 1998 – 2004, yes, registering companynamesucks.com would have worked.  You probably would have been able to get it to rank in the search engines when keywords in domain names weighed a bit more, but today its just like taking money and burning it.  Social media is the new battlefield for slander and misrepresentation … how well are you protected?

Do I Really Need To Reserve My Name On Hundreds Of Social Media Sites?

One of the more common questions we get asked at KnowEm from customers and prospective clients is  “Why do we need to worry about all these social networks? I haven’t even heard of half of them; why do they even matter and how do they help my brand?”

Our response is simple.  No one knows when the next twitter, facebook, or foursquare is going to burst onto the Social Media scene and capture massive traffic growth.  I will never forget a phone call I had with one of our clients where I was going over all the new social media networks where we had reserved his brand name.  He specifically asked a question about a small little site called “Pinterest” — his exact words to me were “Why should we care about this site, it seems pointless! I doubt it will take off  and it feels like a waste of a signup.”

This phone conversation happened around the middle of June back in 2011. That was a little before the massive traffic explosion Pinterest experienced on its meteoric rise to become the major new contender in social media business marketing that it is today.  You can see the timeline of its growth on the compete graph below:

 

Pinterest is a perfect example of a social media site whose traffic blew up after we were already able to make sure our current clients’ trademarks were reserved on the site. Here’s one explanation I always like to give to clients when they inquire about these brand new social startups where their brand or username has been reserved. “If I told you 6 years ago that a site consisting of 140 characters of text would be in the top 10 most visited sites internationally, used by the fortune 100 (and just about everyone else) for customer support and major marketing campaigns, would you believe me?”  The answer is most commonly “No,” of course, because who could have predicted the Twitter revolution?  Well, except for the occasional know-it-all social media expert guru ninja master that is on the call and knows everything about social media and has 30k followers on twitter – but follows double that.

At KnowEm we realize not every player in the social media race is going to take off like the lucky ones, but that’s why we track so many (just about 600 right now).  There is a good chance you might never use some of the accounts that you’re signed up on. But are you ready to take the risk of not reserving your trademarked brand, product or username on the next Twitter?

Here’s another not uncommon example of a similar case study:  An unscrupulous competitor decided to target a well-known brand name on a new Latin social media network which was young enough to be under the radar for most people.   Using black hat SEO techniques they were able to get this site ranking for a variety of competitive terms that probably made them a lot of money selling counterfeit medication:

percocet ranking

If you notice the third result down, Lacoctelera.net  (translated, “The Shaker”) is a simple community / blogging related site where someone was able to reserve and claim the name “Percocet®” before the brand holder was aware the network even existed.  Doing some simple link building, the black hat was able to get it to rank for 7 or 8 different terms that we found, all of which were ranking in the top 5. (Hey Endo Pharmaceuticals, talk to us, we can help!).

The moral of the story, and the value in a service like KnowEm, is that no one can predict when the next big twitter, facebook or pinterest is going to hit.  So why not be safe than sorry?  It is much easier, cheaper and faster to preemptively claim a name than to bring in the legal team and try to reclaim it.

Sometimes it’s simply too late. We have new customer inquires every day from those that didn’t jump on the twitter bandwagon in time and now can’t reclaim their brand names on twitter even with legal help.  If the person who owns the twitter handle of a known brand or trademark clearly states that they are not related to the company and doesn’t tweet as the company – there is nothing the trademark holder can do (short of bribing the squatter or paying them off).  One of my favorite sodas, “Fanta®,” is a perfect example of this.  A person claimed the registered trademark on twitter before the actual company did (Coca-Cola®) and has followed the twitter guidelines to the letter.  As a result, Coca-Cola is unable to retrieve the name as long as the twitter member doesn’t attempt to represent Coca-Cola® or Fanta® in any way shape or form:

Fanta Twitter Account

Is your brand secure?  Does your brand run the risk of having someone take your name or intellectual property on a social media site? These are some serious questions you need to ask  before you decide the best plan of action for you to take to insure the safety of your brand. If you have a product that runs a high risk of counterfeit, registering your brand using one of our brand protection packages might just not be enough, and that’s why we strongly suggest also using our monthly brand protection service, where our team will continue to register your name on all new and emerging social media sites that we find.

This is the reason why we built out our enterprise dashboard — A centralized location where you can view, monitor and  manage all of your trademarks, brands, products and usernames on various social media networks.  If you would like a webex demonstration of the product and other services that KnowEm offers feel free to contact us.

 

Teachers Social Media Identity Stolen on Twitter

May 20, 2011 · Filed Under Brand and Trademark Protection, Identity Theft, Online Reputation Management, Social Media · Comments Off on Teachers Social Media Identity Stolen on Twitter 

In Panama City Florida a local and respected teachers’ identity was used to create a fake Twitter profile which spouted off derogatory comments about autistic students. The teacher works with special needs students and had no idea this was going on until she was informed by officials questioning her and the profile.

The Twitter profile included the teachers name, photo, and town along with the derogatory comments. People all over the world started contacting local officials demanding her be ousted after they saw what “she” was writing.

When this came to the attention of the school they immediately brought her in for questioning to determine if she was the author. Their initial questioning led them to believe she was not the author; however they made her bring in her laptop and examined her hard drive for further investigation.

As I’ve said before, identity theft is the only crime I can think of where you are guilty until proven innocent.  Once something like this happens it can quickly and easily damage your reputation.

Online Security Tips:

Right now grab your name on all the popular social media sites. Sign up for every one of them even if you don’t intend on using them. If your name is gone use a hyphen or a dash. For free search over 500 popular social networks and over 200 domain names to instantly secure your brand across the social web at Knowem.com.

Set up Google Alerts or ask about KnowEm Enterprise Alerts to determine if your name is being used online. You want to instantly know if someone is using your name for any reason.

The worst thing you can do is nothing. Sitting back and just letting someone use your name can damage your brand, YOU.

 

Google Announces Social Media to Influence Search Rankings

December 21, 2010 · Filed Under Search Engine Optimization, Social Media · Comments Off on Google Announces Social Media to Influence Search Rankings 

A few days ago Matt Cutts of the Google Web Search Quality Team announced that Google is going to start factoring signals from social networks such as Twitter and Facebook in their search engine rankings and results. This marks a shift from a video Cutts made in May 2010 in which he reported Google was not looking at social results.  Used heavily in real time search results in the past (such as in streaming tweets which have appeared above the regular results in the past), Cutts now reports that “[Google is] studying how much sense it makes to use it a little more widely within our web search rankings.”  He of course reminds us that pages which can’t be crawled, such as Twitter users which have protected their tweets or Facebook users with strict privacy settings, cannot be indexed by Google’s crawlers and of course will have no effect on rankings.

He reports that these social signals are used relatively lightly for now, but may begin to influence more heavily in the future as they gauge their effectiveness over time.  Something Google also wants to look at in terms of ranking influence is not just the number of social followers or friends a user may have, but the quality of those friends.  Obviously, just like they want to weed out spam and automated links to pages, Google also wants to weed out social accounts which are little more than bots or have artificially inflated their follower count.

So what does this mean to business and brand owners interested in leveraging social media for search engine rankings?  Really nothing, if you’ve already developed a smart and effective social media strategy. It just means Google is finally catching up to you.  If you haven’t begun to develop a social media strategy, then this should just be one more very strong reason to begin getting involved.

If a Country Can’t Reclaim a Username, What Chance Do You Have?

Israel on TwitterIt was recently reported that the state of Israel purchased the Twitter username @Israel from a private individual named Israel Meléndez for an undisclosed sum, which by some reports may be as much as six figures.  You read that right – the Nation of Israel paid for a Twitter username from some guy that runs a porn site in Miami.  He gave the prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu his password, and then they handed him a check.

Since Twitter has a policy against name squatting and selling usernames, you have to wonder what Twitter thinks of this deal.  Their policy states “attempts to sell, buy, or solicit other forms of payment in exchange for usernames are also violations and may result in permanent account suspension.”  Israel Meléndez says they didn’t violate this clause because he was just relinquishing his own personal account, he didn’t create the account for the purposes of making a profit.  Other reports state Twitter actually helped facilitate the sale, but Twitter hasn’t confirmed that.

At KnowEm we have clients inquiring every day about what they can do to get their company’s brand, trademark or username back if it has already been taken on a social network.  We always advise them to use the proper channels and contact the website owner to ask about their policy in reclaiming names, which usually requires some lawyers to get involved.  The truth is, however, that it can be a very difficult and time-consuming process.  And as this story shows us, you might not get the outcome you want.

If the nation of Israel had to pay a six figure sum to reclaim their name on Twitter, what chance do you have of getting your branded username back if it’s already been taken?  This is the primary reason a professional service like KnowEm is so valuable for brand and trademark owners who want to be proactive in Social Media.  Think of it as brand insurance – no one can steal or squat on your name on the next big social network if you have already registered it.

Fake BP Twitter Account In Response to Spill

What BP has done isn’t funny. The Wall Street Journal reports a Twitter user with an account dubbed BPGlobalPR is posting satirical entries about the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — and already has more than twice as many followers as BP America’s actual account. I’m sure BP doesn’t think its “satirical” or funny. BP’s actions or lack thereof certainly deserve a lashing, and the public is responding in a number of ways. Social media identity theft appears to be one of them.

The tongue and cheek microblog authors are posting tweets such as “If we had a dollar for every complaint about this oil spill, it wouldn’t compare to our current fortune. Oil is a lucrative industry!” Which of course alarms any followers who don’t realize this is a spoofed account.

The fact that some people think its real speaks volumes about how vulnerable any company is from this type of impostor fraud. The fraudulent account demonstrates how difficult it is for companies to maintain a controlled online presence with the proliferation of social media. It’s the wild wild web out there and any company that sits idly waiting for someone to snap up their intellectual property or variations of their brand will face an oil spill of a time slopping up their damaged reputation.

Robert Siciliano, Identity Theft Expert and CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, discusses social media scams on Fox Boston.

Be an Intellectual Property Hero; Don’t Ignore Social Media

April 22, 2010 · Filed Under Intellectual Property, Social Media · 6 Comments 

In the Intellectual Property world, few things matter as much as a name.  Since the advent of the business name and the trademarked word, nothing has been used to identify quality and individuality more than a unique name.  A unique name, as obvious as it sounds, is how people know to buy your product instead of something else.  This was common sense back when there were only billboards, magazines, radio and television.  It was also manageable.

Whether you use Facebook, Twitter or FourSquare (or none of the above), you need to protect your name on all social media websites.  Our America Online screen names were all that we cared about ten years ago.  Five years ago, all we cared about was our Myspace profile name.  Then Facebook.  Then Twitter.  Now FourSquare.  Which will be the next big site tomorrow?  Today there are thousands of startups vying to be the next big social website.  Currently there are hundreds of sites gaining traction.  Will one of these be the next big thing?  Of course.  And there is no way to tell right now which one it will be.

I advise IP attorneys for a living and stress more than anything else that securing your client’s name on every possible site is the best thing you can do for them.  Some make money pursuing cybersquatters and negotiating purchases of user names.  But seriously, what could take a few minutes now can leave you to much more important tasks. And who doesn’t want to be the hero?

Rob Holmes is the CEO of IPCybercrime.com LLC, a full service trademark investigative agency.

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