It looks like the end is here for jerk.com, a site that held itself out as a social network and reputation management site, but was allegedly a low-level scam from start to finish. It’s another reminder of why people need to give more than a little thought to their privacy settings on social networks, and understand how those networks are actually using your personal information.
According to a complaint filed yesterday by the Federal Trade Commission, the company harvested personal information from public Facebook profiles, and created jerk.com profiles for more than 73 million people, including children, and labeled them as “jerk” or “not a jerk”. People finding their profile and wishing to amend it were encouraged to join the site for $30 and make changes, but even paid users were not able to make any changes whatsoever.
According to the FTC:
“In today’s interconnected world, people are especially concerned about their reputation online, and this deceptive scheme was a brazen attempt to exploit those concerns,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The website is still up, but does not appear to be functioning as of today. The FTC will next proceed with a hearing before an administrative law judge, but there is no indication of whether criminal charges will be filed.
The FTC brief indicates that some of the victims believed that photos posted at jerk.com were marked as private on Facebook. If that was the case, Facebook may have some explaining to do, but it is equally likely in our opinion that many people just don’t understand their Facebook privacy settings. It’s a great idea to double-check your and your family’s settings from time to time.
Jerk.com was not a very sophisticated scam, but as first impressions can be lasting, people were understandably flustered. If you suspect that a social network or other website is misusing your personal information, you can file a complaint with the FTC here.
As long as Facebook is the go-to repository for personal information on the web, there will be people looking to exploit that data. You need to take steps that ensure that your family’s identities are safe online.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.