Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
Repcheck - Have You Been Good Today?

By Seumas in MLP
Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 08:16:21 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)
Internet

Repcheck is a site that acts on a very interesting idea, yet at the same time raises some concerns with regard to privacy and accountability. What will you do when your entire reputation is not only online, but on the line?


The idea behind Repcheck (a free service) is clever and simple. Provide a resource you can refer to when you want to verify the reputation of the person you are dealing with, be it online or in meat-space.

The site suggests that you may want to investigate someone through their site for some of the following reasons:

  • Employment
  • Building Contractors
  • Legal and Financial
  • Services
  • Business Partners
  • Teachers
  • Realtors
  • Child-care and Elder-care
  • Home Service Providers
  • Medical and Counseling
  • Services
  • Travel Agents
  • Auto Mechanics
  • Dating and Marriage
Or, better yet, do you want to generate some dirt? Want to put doubts into the head of the hiring manager (the FAQ specifically acknowledges that information may be used by future employers to the full extend of the employer's governing law), girlfriend or customer that may use the resource? Go for it. There is little to no verification required to create your own account and the person you are posting information about does not have to grant permission. It could be a haven of revenge for anyone who has ever lost a flame-war or a bored weblog spammer.

The idea behind Repcheck is simple. Comment on and rate people. Add to the database. The person doesn't have to have an account -- only the person adding the comments. Without your permission, your life's story -- through the opinions of people who have come across in life -- can be available to anyone who registers with a fake account and does a search on your name. To generate new users, a registered user is encouraged to provide the email addresses of about a dozen friends and ask them to open an account and rate you.

The potential for trouble is substantial. Even if it were 'policed' tightly, the idea of the following information about being available is enough to steer some away from the service. It would be very easy for someone to create multiple accounts in addition to requesting the assistance of their friends, to boost their own reputation, which makes the scoring system relatively questionable.

The information you provide about yourself is as follows:

  • first name
  • last name
  • state/province
  • hair color
  • eye color
  • height
  • email address
  • a personal description
  • a short comment about yourself
  • a photograph of yourself.
The information others provide about you is as follows, and allows the specification of whether it is personal or business. Some of the information is only required when you create a record for someone that you want to rate who is not already in their database.:

  • trustworthiness
  • respect
  • honesty
  • responsibility
  • compassion
  • creditworthiness
  • first name
  • last name
  • address
  • city
  • state
  • zipcode
  • email address
  • description
  • comments (aka: graffiti)
Contributions by other members are tallied to provide a general reputation and trustworthiness score for both business and personal regards.

With all of this information -- including a personal photograph, this seems a prime resource for identity theft. And, if anyone ever gains access to their database, they would probably find a treasure chest of credit card numbers as it is suggested that you register with your credit card number as part of your account to indicate that you are more trustworthy (but a credit card is not necessarily required).

Am I being to apprehensive? Am I judging this unfairly? Do you agree that it is a very clever idea and does this present issues that concern you?

For more information, view the Repcheck FAQ

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Related Links
o Repcheck
o Also by Seumas


Display: Sort:
Repcheck - Have You Been Good Today? | 29 comments (24 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Interesting (3.25 / 4) (#3)
by Anonymous 7324 on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 06:18:25 PM EST

Is this totally legal? It seems like this company opens up the possibility of anonymous slander. Is there some kind of regulation against facilitating such an activity?

They Claim... (none / 0) (#8)
by Seumas on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 06:30:32 PM EST

According to their FAQ, they are merely a 'distributor' of the information and not a 'publisher'.

While they assert that they will remove only medical and financial information posted about you, when it is brought to their attention, they claim no liability for slander or damage to business based on information contained in their database.
--
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]

Then can I Claim... (3.00 / 1) (#16)
by blp on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 07:58:44 PM EST

That I am not responsible for the speed my car goes when I drive it? I guess only if I get a bumpers sticker proclaiming that the driver is not responsible for the velocity of the vehicle.

I can no longer sit back and allow: Communist Infiltration, Communist Indoctrination, Communist Subversion and the International Communist Conspiracy to sap and inpurify all of our precious bodily fluids.
[ Parent ]

Things like this have been done before... (4.57 / 7) (#7)
by trhurler on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 06:26:19 PM EST

The problem, and the reason they won't matter to any of us, is that the information is untrustworthy. Why would an employer care, for instance, what random people said about you? Sure, a few stupid employers might not understand what is going on in the short term, but to most people, the concept of rumors and gossip is one that is easily comprehensible. The first time someone sues an employer over this, which will be the second or third time someone is denied a job over it, every HR department in the country will get memos telling them to ignore it.

In short, this doesn't matter. At all.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Good point. (3.00 / 1) (#9)
by Seumas on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 06:37:37 PM EST

The point you make is a good one, and I wouldn't bet against it going down as you describe.

On the other hand, while the execution may be poor, the goal and general idea is still there. A previous employer (not just a co-worker, but your boss) could post a simple statement such as "would not hire again if" and tick-off a negative score. They can verify they are who they claim by their credit card if they register it (or, if they create a better method in the future on this or other similar sites).

A future employer could read your Monster.com resume, consider you a potential interest, spend five seconds on a site like the one I presented in this article and see that an employer, two ex-girlfriends and your newspaper-boy rate you as compassionate, but completely unreliable and trustworthy.

Not to think what those troublesome creditors would do. They like harassing you on the phone, leaving dirty phone messages... They might just wet themselves over the potential of this tool.

And the last thing any of us ever want to see is a poor rating on Repcheck, by your very own mother! ; )
--
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]

One small thing... (3.33 / 3) (#13)
by trhurler on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 06:48:53 PM EST

You won't find many negative comments from past employers in the US, because lawsuits over them are fairly common. Granted, the employers usually win, but even winning can be expensive and time consuming, and one employee just isn't worth that.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
hillarious (3.25 / 4) (#10)
by cbatt on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 06:44:26 PM EST

This has to be the funniest thing I've read about in a long time. The copy from their "take tour" section is laughable. Example: <blockqoute> What if you could learn everything about someone's character... with a mouseclick?

What if your business partner's hidden past, suddenly came back to haunt him?

How would you like your good deeds to be known... to the entire world?

Would you like to learn everything about the person ou're about to go on a date with... before the date even begins?

Want to learn everything about your potential new employee... without so much as making a phone call? </bloclquote> Some people never do get out of high school, or is this real life mimicking the media? I mean sheesh, this read like a tool designed for use by the characters of Beverly Hills 90210.

However, yes this does raise some very important privacy concerns. Do we want the world to know who we really are, and all that. But then again, how much they can know is based upon how visibly you live your life.

Funny as all hell though.

-----------
Before you can understand recursion
you must understand recursion.

damn, (none / 0) (#11)
by cbatt on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 06:45:25 PM EST

I wish they had edit mode (... I really wish that I had perfect typing ability)

-----------
Before you can understand recursion
you must understand recursion.

[ Parent ]
Repcheck -- The Dating Service (none / 0) (#12)
by Seumas on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 06:48:47 PM EST

With a little modification, they could have one hell of a neat dating service.

Throw in measurements of important bodily features. Throw in comments by ex-lovers and people that they refused to date. Add some rating sections so that, in addition to compassion and honesty, you could have promiscuity, stamina, prudeness....


--
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]

How much they look like Natalie Portman (3.50 / 2) (#14)
by cbatt on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 07:31:37 PM EST

according to their mothers, co-workers, current husband...


I'm sorry, this was the useless post from all hell, but just thinking of these sorts of "Spy" services makes me want to bust a gut.

Do people really want to know that much information about poeple they hardly know?

I can't imagine having such a self important outlook that I'd ever want to know what others outside of my closest circle of friends might think.

I can't imagine being so paranoid as to worry about the "hidden" character of my children's nanny. If I couldn't deduce it for myself, then I'd think something was seriously wrong with my abilities at judging character.

Are people that fucking shallow that there is a market for stuff like this?

-----------
Before you can understand recursion
you must understand recursion.

[ Parent ]

What I wonder is what it does to the value of reps (none / 0) (#17)
by Seumas on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 08:03:26 PM EST

I consider one of the most important aspects of a reputation to be the quality of the persons asserting the reputation on behalf of the person. When every person under the sun has the ability to contribute to the averaged reputation (assuming a reputation could ever be boiled down to points, like some K5 story submission) of a person, does that in and of itself deter from the value of a reputation?

I rarely care to know what people I deal with and know well think of me, let alone what every person I become involved with on a business or personal level thinks. But when I do care to know, I would want to know from people who have a good judge of character to their attributes and are fully capable of sound reasoning -- not what some pissed off guy from eBay thinks or some kid from highschool that felt I had picked on him that one time in lunch.

I could see a service like this being a little more applicable if it were geared more toward a business-like system (ala Better Business Beaurau), but the personal aspect, unique as it might be, is not really needed.
--
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]

Invented many years ago! (3.66 / 3) (#15)
by SIGFPE on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 07:54:31 PM EST

Many years ago I found myself in an Italian village miles from anywhere. Nothing of interest there apart from fantasic ricotta cheese and a wall covered in graffiti. I had a closer look at the graffiti. There were things like 'so and so is having an affair with so and so' and 'so and so pays his debts late'. It was their very own repcheck making use of shame to coerce the locals into adopting locally accepted standards of behaviour!
SIGFPE
Prior art? (4.00 / 2) (#26)
by KnightStalker on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 01:02:23 PM EST

I wish I had a link to it, but that sort of thing goes back much further. A wall exactly like the one you describe was discovered in Pompeii, I believe :-)

[ Parent ]
you can't run away from the law (4.16 / 6) (#18)
by xah on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 08:28:21 PM EST

And the law might act against Repcheck. Apparently, many Repcheck users will have the mindset of giving some positive feedback, but some will think: "Or, better yet, do you want to generate some dirt?". The generation of dirt will naturally occur with great frequency. Eventually, however, somebody with many dollars will be targeted for numerous negative appraisals. That person will contact a lawyer and sue Repcheck for hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. They can sue Repcheck because the web site is making money from the defamatory publications.

The Communications Decency Act, passed by the Congress in 1996, states that "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." This generally means that an Internet service provider, such as a Usenet relay site, can't be held liable for defamatory statements made by people on their system. Users themselves can still be held liable for statements they make. This law appears to be the crown jewel of Repcheck's legal strategy. Nevertheless, there are some chinks in the armor.

Is Repcheck really protected by the CDA? It's not clear that they are a "provider" of "an interactive computer service," in the legal sense. Eventually we will know, but if I had to make by best bet, my answer would be "no." Repcheck seems bent on encouraging users to post negative information about people. They could aggregate data taken from many different individuals. An example would be "59% of our users who know JQ Bobson say he is a liar." They may publish this aggregated data. If they are sued, a court could find that this data originated from Repcheck, and so Repcheck could be held liable for it.

Even if Repcheck is able to fend off defamation suits, they may be sued for invasion of privacy. This type of lawsuit is still relatively new, but I feel that courts would be willing to expand their toolchests to deal with the Repcheck problem.

Repcheck can settle a few suits, but eventually their business model will have to be significantly altered if they are to survive all the lawsuits that will probably come their way. Lawsuits will stalk Repcheck because it is perfectly designed to destroy the personal reputations of private, ordinary citizens who have done nothing wrong save irk an angry person with a modem. While the public may find this entertaining, it won't be fun if you are on the business end of Repcheck's barrel.

The negative opinions on the website will probably have a disclaimer--something on the order of "These opinions aren't Repcheck's." Right below the disclaimer will be the scathing paragraphs that everybody is expecting when they go to Repcheck. While Repcheck may disclaim vigorously, and hold its fingers in the air to assure onlookers of the non-existence of finger crossing, it will avail them not, for everyone knows Repcheck's game. In short, any disclaimer will fall short from insulating Repcheck from legal liability.

Of course, if a statement is true, Repcheck can publish it without legal penalty. But many statements will end up being both hurtful and false, and thus potentially opening the door to lawsuits.

For it's use of the Internet to ruin private personal reputations, Repcheck should die. Because although JQ Bobson (who by the way is a hypothetical creation), and many others like him may really be hateful, horrible, vile-smelling people, he has lived his life outside the public eye. He has committed no crime. He was just mean, low, and petty, and those only arguably. Give him some privacy.

BTW, if you want legal advice, see a lawyer.

Legal reality check (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by trhurler on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:35:31 PM EST

Disclaimer: I'm speaking on the basis of what the courts have done which I have seen. I am not a lawyer, but I have noticed that if courts rule one way one time, they tend to rule similarly the next time, and that is the basis of the following comments.

You're right about what repcheck IS, but you are probably wrong about the results. The courts have been inclined to grant common carrier style immunity to almost anything on the net that makes a reasonable show of being impartial and not responsible for what uses people find for its services. This is a good thing, because since most judges don't know much about net stuff, the alternative is to screw over companies that genuinely deserve to be protected from the acts of their users.

What's liable to happen is, lawsuits are going to force repcheck to institute a system by which users can be identified with court orders, and then anyone posting anything false and harmful to someone else might find himself hearing from lawyers. Of course, winning libel suits in the US isn't exactly trivial, but even the threat will prevent reputable sources of information like previous employers from opening their yaps, and nobody really cares what your whiny ex girlfriend has to say anyway, except possibly your new girlfriend, and hey, if she's stupid enough to trust your ex's opinion of you, then your ex is doing you a favor:)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
What the hell (3.00 / 1) (#22)
by Qtmstr on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 12:56:01 AM EST

What color crack are you on? The CDA was struck down by the courts.


Kuro5hin delenda est!
[ Parent ]
Still... (none / 0) (#23)
by Seumas on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 01:12:30 AM EST

If you read their FAQ, they state that they fully comply with the Communications Decency Act. So perhaps it is news to them.
--
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]
the CDA lives on (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by xah on Sat Jan 20, 2001 at 01:26:12 PM EST

The courts did strike down part of the CDA (Communications Decency Act) a few years ago for being inconsistent with the First Amendment, but they did not strike down all of the CDA. Those parts of the CDA that regulated speech--for example, by prohibiting obscenity--was struck down as unconstitutional. Other parts of the CDA still survive today, including that part which insulates internet service providers from legal liability for providing defamatory statements posted by Internet users. This surviving part of the CDA is crucial to freedom of expression on the net. And it may indeed block defamation lawsuits against an internet service provider, like Repcheck, that abuses their legally protected status. Even if it does, however, Repcheck could be sued in other ways. I mentioend the invasion of privacy lawsuit, for example.

[ Parent ]
Creditworthiness? (3.50 / 2) (#19)
by slakhead on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:17:00 PM EST

It is probably just a covert Jerry Springer operation in an attempt to get to the whitest trash the fastest.

> SELECT * FROM suckers ORDER BY sexualpartners DESC;

Also, I was not aware creditworthiness was a word... :)

Wow... This is scary (4.66 / 3) (#20)
by dgwatson on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:34:00 PM EST

I can see the following happening very easily:

Someone creates a whole network of fake users in order to build credibility for some certain subset of them. They'd certainly have to do this in a very subtle manner, but once it was done:

They could post with one of these accounts that has a very good rep, and use this for revenge, personal gain, or just plain malice.

Let's see - how could we use this for blackmail:

If you don't give me [some thing I want], you will have your reputation destroyed (do this anonymously, of course - have them send money to a P.O. box or something). No one who looks at RepCheck will trust you ever again, once they find out that you have a tendency to cheat on your business partners' wives, embezzle money, how you do are a drug abuser, etc.

Without having to have some sort of proof of who you are, this thing will NEVER EVER WORK. When registering, you should have to have some sort of proof that you are who you claim to be - I don't have any idea how you would do this, but it is absolutely vital for this to work.

People should be able to post things anonymously somehow (or else the recipient of negative comments could do very bad things to you), but these should be marked as such with BIG FAT WARNINGS to readers that the person who said this could not be identified. Maybe a bit like ACs on /., only done right. :P

Comments should be clearly marked by the reputation of the poster, something like on EBay (whose ratings, amazingly enough, seem to work!). Even just a little icon showing whether a person has mainly negative or positive comments about them would be fine.

But most importantly, you need a LOT of people to use such a service, and report honestly about everyone they know, or else it will never work. The reason? If you only have a few people with no established rep, then the whole thing is suspect. But, IMHO, once you get to a certain critical mass, this thing will really work.

But I think that's a looong way off - we need to get probably 10% of people (at the very least) to use such a system, which at this point is just crazy. In my mind, it's mainly a curiosity at this time - but who knows, it might just work, IF they do it right.

robust trust metrics (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by danny on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 07:56:03 PM EST

They need to implement something like Advogato's trust metric, which can't be spoofed by creation of new accounts.

Heck, Kuro5hin could really do with something like that too.

Danny.
[900 book reviews and other stuff]
[ Parent ]

A different point of view (4.80 / 5) (#24)
by RepCheck on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 03:42:34 AM EST

First, I must say I appreciate your comments regarding RepCheck and would like to offer you a somewhat different view of our online tool and the uses I envisioned in establishing RepCheck.

RepCheck is designed to provide information about the risks and benefits of interacting with another individual, as evidenced by their previous behavior. Everyone over the age of 18 who can establish their identity via the use of a credit card can post information about those of whom they have first-hand knowledge. Posters must comply with the "Terms of Service," which prohibits the posting of medical information, financial information, home addresses, phone numbers, postings about minors, etc. (see our Terms of Service on the site). While it is possible to post anonymously, all posters must make themselves known to RepCheck, and may be held responsible for the accuracy of their postings.

It is our intention, and deeply-held hope, that RepCheck will be used in a constructive and positive way by people who desire a degree of assurance about the trustworthiness of childcare and eldercare workers, home service providers, travel agents, insurance agents, realtors, financial planners, business partners, vendors, employees, employers and personal acquaintances. The intention of the site has NEVER been to become a "slander board.

We believe the site will be very useful in providing people with the information they need in order to make the right decisions for their personal security and their financial security. We also believe the site provides a useful tool for all those who must establish trust and credibility in order to do business, by creating an independent forum where potential customers can easily obtain feedback on them and/or their services.

In order to legally provide this kind of information, however, it is necessary we not interfere with the posting of content other than to remove those postings that violate the terms of service. To exercise editorial control would compromise the site's position as a distributor of information, and thus prevent us from making this valuable information available to you.

Some of the posts here that refer to people -loading- up the site with positive and/or negative posts either to build or destroy a reputation has certainly been taken into account. Believe it or not, the technology behind RepCheck is very complex (patent pending). Our scoring system takes into account a number of variables, including the "rater" and their score. If someone just makes one post (assuming a fake account) and no none posts about that person, then they will have no "weight" in their scoring, therefore it is basically dismissed. The system is self equalizing this way. The more posts and the higher the correlation to the public consensus the higher the weight.

Remember, if this site helps in some small way to enhance the safety and well-being of a child, to warn someone of a potential stalker, to prevent a senior citizen from being ripped-off, prevent an investor from making a bad decision, etc. then we will have realized our goal for RepCheck. We hope you'll reconsider your view of RepCheck in light of all of this information. Please feel free to contact me with any additional questions and/or comments.

Andrew - Founder
Andrew@repcheck.com

P.S. With regard to the post with respect to the credit card database. If you read on the site, we DO NOT store any credit card information. The credit card is only used one time to verify someone identity and that is it.

Point of view (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by Tatarigami on Sat Jan 20, 2001 at 04:41:58 PM EST

I hope you won't take offense at this, but your post doesn't reassure me much.

Weighting by frequency of post might filter out the jokers with short attention span who make random postings and then forget about it, but what about a deliberate attempt to destroy someone's reputation, by someone who's willing to take the time to establish some credibility for themselves first?

The only way I can see a reputation-ranking system being worthwhile is if you require some kind of accountability on the part of posters, and ask them to back up any grievances you've given them the opportunity to air in public. Of course, I can see your problem here -- no-one's going to go out of their way to invite a lawsuit.

One last comment, and this is about your post itself: that talk about protecting children and making sure the elderly don't get ripped off comes across as a shameless attempt to push our buttons and get us on side without examining the issue too closely. They're valid arguments, but over the last couple of years the authorities have trotted them out every time they need to justify another unpopular and draconian new regulation for the internet. Maybe you should save it for your press release.

[ Parent ]
Okay, let say I... (4.00 / 2) (#25)
by codemonkey_uk on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 09:41:59 AM EST

...log on and post that their CEO still owes me for the bag of crack he got on tick?

Eh?

That would show 'em. Wouldn't it.

Wouldn't it?
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell

Repcheck - Have You Been Good Today? | 29 comments (24 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:

kuro5hin.org

[XML]
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!