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New tool helps clean up your Facebook reputation

Reppler

The Reppler dashboard shows you the results of a Facebook scan.

Keeping your nose clean may be hard, but maintaining a good Facebook reputation is harder. I consider myself a fairly decent person, but there have been occasions when my name has become associated with some of the not-exactly-PG-rated gadgets and dating sites that I've covered. Whoops. Thankfully there are apps and services which will help us appear squeaky clean by flagging any worrisome activity.

You're probably wondering why we're bothering to discuss this topic to begin with. After all, only your friends see the things on your Facebook page and it's not like anyone cares about silly stuff that you've posted online, right? Wrong.

As the folks behind reputation tracking site Reppler explain, a seemingly unimportant Facebook posting could have an effect on key aspects of your life:

Nowadays more and more employers use social networking tools to collect a snapshot from their potential hire’s personal life. Coming back from spring break, many college students upload new photos and update their status on Facebook showcasing how fun their break was. Some even do it in real-time while at a party, along with friends, games and alcohol. Little did they know that a recruiter from the job they applied for a couple of weeks before can read and see their updates on Facebook. The recruiter, who was initially impressed with the student’s academic achievement, experience and skills, decides to move on as he’s shocked by realizing the student’s rambunctious college life.

Your college admissions officer, the recruiter from the company you've applied to, your current boss, your co-workers, your family members, your friends, your significant other — there are plenty of people who might be put off by certain types of Facebook postings and odds are that they could react quite negatively in response to them.

So what can you do?

You could take great care to scarcely post anything even remotely questionable, obsessively monitor your page for any inappropriate posts or comments by friends, and wear a virtual tinfoil hat tightly.

Or you could use a reputation tracking site or service such as Reppler.

Reppler

Reppler breaks down inappropriate Facebook activity by category.

What Reppler does is track the activity on your Facebook page and alert you if something is inappropriate or questionable. It also makes note of the impression your activity might give other people.

Reppler

The "impression" tracking section of Reppler shows how your activity--as well as that of your friends--might appear to outsiders.

Reppler is currently free, and the truth is, it doesn't do much. (Though there are plans for a paid version with additional features.) Still, as it is, it does cover the basics. It will look for drug-related terms (such as shrooms, stoner, toke, meth or bong), alcohol-related terms (such as absinthe, budweiser, daiquiri, getting drunk, vodka or beer), vulgar language (do I really need to give examples of that?), and links to adult or pornographic content.

If it spots something that fits into those categories — whether in a posting by you or one of your friends — it will flag it and suggest that you "fix" the item. (The only way to "fix" any items appears to be by deletion.)

When I allowed the service to scan my Facebook profile, it only found two inappropriate items — one drug reference and one foul word, both in comments made by friends — and a "partly positive" impression. Considering some of the strange links and remarks that I'm prone to posting, I'm quite surprised by these results and am reasonably sure that the scan must've missed some items. (I suspect that it may limit its searches to only recent items, despite claiming otherwise.)

That's about all there is to Reppler. It won't exactly prevent inappropriate content from showing up in the first place, but it will provide you with warnings when you or your friends cross the lines of decency.

I know someone's screaming, "This isn't enough for me! I've got all sorts of pictures and blog posts and scary things floating around on the Internet! What do I do?!!?!" It's ok. After that individual calms down, he or she can begin to understand that all those things aren't the end of the world, and they can be managed thanks to other, more costly services.

While it would be nearly impossible to scrub every inappropriate photo or posting off the entire Internet, it is possible to bury things deep enough for those who might be researching you to not spot them easily. This can be done using reputation management or scrubbing services such as Reputation.com or Metal Rabbit Media. Services like those will monitor, protect, and clean up your online reputation — for a price. Prices for those services can range from a few hundred dollars a year to the thousands, depending on your needs and your specific situation.

So the take away? Try to keep your nose and online reputation as clean as you can in the first place. If you start letting things slip, sign up for a free monitoring service such as Reppler, to see how badly your reputation may be damaged. Stay away from those paid programs unless it's really really necessary.

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Rosa Golijan writes about tech here and there. She's a bit obsessed with Twitter and loves to be liked on Facebook.