Experts: Your online trail could put reputation at risk

  • Kerry Rego is a social media consultant, technology trainer and professional speaker, who stresses that everyone should think about what turns up when someone searches their name on the internet. Rego has written a book, "Take Control of Your Online Reputation". (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

That guy whose college antics turned up on YouTube? The would-be nurse once arrested for child endangerment? The real estate agent whose disgruntled client slammed him on Yelp?

They're not the only ones who ought to fret about what comes up when someone plugs their name into an Internet search engine.

Experts say the average Joe and Jeanette need to devote time and attention to how they are portrayed online, given the growing role the Internet plays in recording and defining our lives.

Maybe they'll find out they share a name with a porn star. Santa Rosa technology consultant Kerry Rego knows three people with that very predicament.

Others face different problems.

A Santa Rosa woman is rebuilding her life after someone with a personal vendetta launched a vast and twisted campaign to malign her over and over on the web.

A Sonoma County man is plagued by an online version of a newspaper story about the arrest of his father, who has the same name and worked in the same field.

Still another Sonoma County man was mortified when his future mother-in-law Googled him and discovered an old newspaper story about his arrest on minor drug charges. Even though he completed a diversion program that erased the offense from his criminal record, the arrest is permanently engraved on computer servers across the Internet.

"There's really no way you can remove things from the web," Rego said. "But you can control the message that is out there about you."

Rego is part of a growing corps of consultants who help companies and individuals take control of their online reputations.

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