From the New York Times recent profile on Michael Fertik: Are you perusing LinkedIn at work more than usual? That small change in behavior could set off alerts in computer analytics programs used to surveil and rank employees. Read more →
In this interview with ReputationDefender CEO Michael Fertik, the Guardian's Tim Lewis talks about the changing privacy landscape and the risks we face as online personal data becomes more extensive and detailed. Continue reading on the Guardian >>
California has introduced a law that bans companies from punishing customers who post negative reviews online. The fact that such a law is needed is troubling in several ways (and yes, it is needed as one hotel threatened to fine brides for $500 for every negative review left by one of their wedding guests).
Businesses shouldn’t be trying to restrict free speech. Customers have the right to their opinions, and the right to share them online. Yes, negative reviews can be damaging for businesses, but only if they are handled badly.
Negative reviews are an opportunity. They offer businesses the chance to engage with customers over something that the customer is passionate about. Negative reviews offer businesses the chance to show that they aren’t faceless entities. They are a concept fuelled by a group of people who are every bit as susceptible to making mistakes as we are as customers. It gives businesses a chance to put the problem right.
By trying to shut down the critical reviews, all businesses do is send customers three messages: we’re not listening, we don’t care about your experience or opinions, and we value our needs above our customer’s.
How do you bring a vision to life? Michael Fertik talks innovation and entrepreneurship at the 2012 Blouin Leadership Summit.
How do you bring a vision to life? Michael Fertik talks innovation and entrepreneurship at the 2012 Blouin Leadership Summit.
How do you bring a vision to life? Michael Fertik talks innovation and entrepreneurship at the 2012 Blouin Leadership Summit.
Names are typed into Google over a billion times every day. Whether it’s a prospective employee, a new babysitter or a first date, that little search bar has become an automatic point of reference. But just as a bad customer review can harm businesses, search results can easily damage the standing of individuals – even when you simply share the same name as someone else.
It’s not just the results that matter. A first impression can form before the search button has even been clicked, as Google’s auto-complete feature makes additional suggestions while you type. If the words popping up after your name are in any way disparaging (Jane Smith scam artist, for example), you may have a problem.
It could be something you shared in the past and now wish to take back: a comment on an article, a debate on a message board, a post on social media that brought unwanted attention. Or it could be something beyond your control: an embarrassing video, an outdated news report, a defamatory blog post.
False information in particular can spread at an alarming speed and it may require a prolonged battle to undo the damage. In 2011, DCU student Eoin McKeogh was wrongly identified in a YouTube video of a man leaving a taxi without paying, sparking an online campaign of misdirected abuse.
Despite having incontrovertible proof that he was in Japan at the time, McKeogh struggled to get the associated content taken down. Fearing it could affect his career prospects, he took the matter to court and succeeded in having all defamatory material relating to the video permanently removed from the web. But media reports on the case only generated more publicity, indelibly linking him with the fight to clear his name.
The prospect of being permanently branded on the internet, even when you’ve done nothing wrong, is one reason why interest in online reputation management is booming. Web specialists offering to help clean up search results began appearing in 2006, initially serving corporate clients who were negatively affected by consumer review sites such as Tripadvisor and Yelp. But interest from everyday people soon followed. From university students desperate to expunge inappropriate photos to doctors blighted by anonymous comments, increasing numbers of people have been attempting to regain control over their name.
Michael Fertik founded reputation.com after realising that there was no recourse for people harmed unfairly by content about them online. The internet’s architecture, he believes, favours the attacker: preserving complaints and allegations that have long since been addressed or rendered obsolete.
“Much of the problem stems from people’s unchecked ability to publish whatever they like to the internet – no matter how untrue, malicious or damaging it might be,” says Fertik. “We see posts from disgruntled employees, people who create websites devoted to slagging their former spouse, review sites with comments clearly left by competitors purporting to be angry customers, etc.”
Though the issues vary, an online makeover is no longer something that’s sought out reactively. ReputationDefender now has one million users across 100 countries including, Fertik says, a growing volume of customers in Ireland.
“In earlier years, there was typically a [specific] problem that people wanted to solve – for example, a nasty blog written by someone’s ex that was dominating page one of their search results. That’s still true, but now the internet’s power and reach into our personal and professional lives is much, much clearer to us all – so people want to ensure that the most accurate and current information about themselves appears first. They now view their search results as a digital portfolio.”
Ideally, when someone enters your name into Google they will see a relevant set of results that relate specifically to you. The top result draws about a third of all web traffic and the number of clicks only decreases from there. Roughly 91 per cent follow a link from the first page whereas only about five per cent continue to page two. Therefore “owning page one”, as it’s referred to, becomes the primary goal.
Reputation managers employ various strategies to push negative items further and further down the list of search results until they’re out of sight. The most straightforward technique is to fill out the first page with an official website or blog as well as profiles on high-ranking platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Depending on the extent of the problem, progress can vary between weeks and years. Particularly high-profile cases tend to require continuous monitoring, costing as much as €10,000 per year.
There is, however, a question of ethics. Some people attempt to have their search results “scrubbed” even when the negative content is accurate and a matter of public interest.
“You can imagine the kind of people who call us,” says Simon Wadsworth of Igniyte, a UK-based reputation management agency. About half the company’s clients are individuals, he says, and a significant percentage are based in Ireland.
“I’ve had a couple of high-profile people who’ve been in the press call me this week and in both cases I said, ‘There’s nothing I can do. I can’t get it pulled, moved or shifted. It’s just too powerful’.”
The internet does not forget, but search engines recall some things better than others, so the type of content you’ve been affected by may determine how long it takes to move on. Google’s algorithm favours authoritative sites such as media outlets, meaning press reports are likely to feature prominently on an ongoing basis.
“It takes a long, long time for anything like that to drift away,” says Wadsworth. A personal attack on sector-specific sites like Solicitors from Hell can also rank highly, particularly when the person being criticised has little or no online presence. The impact of an individual blog post may diminish somewhat quicker, though Wadsworth explains that some blogs are frequently created for the sole purpose of slating one specific person. Typically the blogger responsible tends to be an ex-partner, ex-employee or former client.
Challenging such websites can be difficult. Getting content pulled is relatively straightforward when the material is deemed racist, defamatory or in violation of the host site’s terms and conditions. But in cases where a parent is concerned that something may be harmful to their child’s reputation, having it removed may come down to a matter of good practice on a website’s part. Some reputation fixers may attempt to contact the person responsible in a bid to reason with them, though this has been known to make the situation worse.
In theory, the recent “right to be forgotten” ruling by the European Court of Justice provides what Wadsworth describes as “another piece of armoury in the toolkit”. It stemmed from a legal case brought by Mario Costeja González, a Spanish man who found that a Google search of his name led to a 1998 newspaper notice concerning the auction of his house to pay off debts.
After a five-year legal battle, this led to a landmark decision that now enables people to ask websites to omit content containing their name from search results if the information is irrelevant, out of date, inaccurate or an invasion of privacy. Within 24 hours of launching its online request form, Google reportedly received more than 12,000 take-down applications from across Europe.
Online reputation management companies such as Igniyte have experienced a surge of interest since the ruling, but Wadsworth says that many people have misunderstood its parameters. “It’s been pretty chaotic,” he says. “A lot of people mistakenly assume it applies to them and just latch on to this idea of, ‘I want to be deleted from Google. Can you do it for me?’ I’d say we’re only helping one out of every 10 or 15 people who contact us and we’re having to tell the rest, ‘Look, don’t waste your time and money because it’s just not going to happen’.”
The first misconception is that the content itself is deleted. In reality, the original source material is untouched. It’s simply omitted from search results for the complainant’s name.
If someone wished to prevent an Irish Times article from appearing in their Google results, for example, it would still be found by searching the Irish Times website. It may also be found by Googling other relevant terms that do not include the person’s name.
Secondly, matters of public interest are an exception to the ruling – something Google must determine on a case-by-case basis. Whenever a request is approved, Google notifies the website in question that one of its pages may no longer appear in certain search results. And therein lies the potential for this ruling to backfire. Media outlets have been responding to these notifications by highlighting articles no longer being linked to by Google, bringing greater scrutiny to stories that applicants hoped to have permanently suppressed.
“It’s important that the ‘right to be forgotten’ is only the right to be de-linked [where appropriate] and no more than that,” says Billy Hawkes, the Data Protection Commissioner. “The Google ruling is extremely clear in that distinction: you don’t have a right to demand erasure. And that’s been misunderstood by many people.”
Anyone in Ireland seeking to appeal applications rejected by Google under the “right to be forgotten” ruling will turn to Hawkes’s office, an open-plan space above a convenience store in Portarlington, Co Laois. This is where the data and privacy of nearly a billion internet users around the world are safeguarded.
Since being appointed as Data Protection Commissioner in 2005, Hawkes believes that general awareness levels about online privacy have improved significantly in Ireland, though he feels that some people can still act imprudently when it comes to seeing the bigger picture of sharing data.
“Obviously the internet is a wonderful resource in terms of accessing information and interacting with people, but you have to understand that it is a very public service which was designed to be a somewhat loose network with limited oversight,” he says. “It’s quite different from writing a letter or talking to your friend in the pub. In terms of education, that’s the key point: once you put something on the internet, it is extremely difficult to undo.”
Original article: http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/netfix-cleaning-up-your-reputation-online-1.1875637
Image credit: Irish Times
1. You’ll need a Ph.D. to tell us apart.
Active-adult communities, assisted-living facilities, continuing-care retirement communities — that’s just the tip of the jargon iceberg for places people 55 and over might spend their golden years. And since each facility uses different terms and has different pricing structures, comparison-shopping becomes very difficult. “You can go crazy learning the terminology,” says Karyl Cafiero, 61, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who has researched communities for her mother-in-law.
The senior housing industry has largely recovered from its slump during the Great Recession, when many prospective residents couldn’t relocate because they couldn’t sell their homes. Assisted living facilities and continuing-care retirement communities aim for occupancy rates between 90% and 95% and are currently at the lower end of this range, says Andrew Carle, executive-in-residence at the program in senior housing administration at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
The differences among communities, of course, are very important to residents. Active-adult communities are a “want-driven product,” says Gregg Logan, an Orlando, Fl.-based managing director of RCLCO, a real estate consultancy. In other words, they’re a place where people choose to live and play among like-minded adults (in most cases, children are only allowed to visit, not live).
Assisted-living facilities and continuing-care retirement communities, by contrast, are “need-based communities” that folks move to when they can no longer live on their own or, for those who move into the independent-living section of a continuing-care retirement community, when they anticipate a future need for assistance. There are between 30,000 and 40,000 assisted-living facilities in the U.S. and about 2,500 CCRCs, according to industry estimates. (Active-adult communities aren’t counted by the U.S. Census Bureau and are thus harder to track, analysts say.)
While assisted living is often a way station between home and the more intensive care of a nursing facility, continuing-care retirement communities accommodate three levels — independent living, assisted living and nursing care — on one campus. Regulations vary on whether assisted-living facilities can accommodate people with serious dementia, and to what extent.
Nursing homes aren’t really considered retirement communities — they focus on round-the-clock medical care, whereas assisted-living facilities and continuing-care retirement communities emphasize amenities such as Olympic-size pools and structured social activities. What’s more, nursing homes fall under federal regulation, while assisted-living facilities are overseen at the state level (continuing-care retirement communities are a bit of a hybrid whose oversight depends on the level of care provided).
2. There’s no doctor in the house.
Assisted-living facilities house frail, vulnerable residents, so it’d be natural to assume that they have a doctor on the premises. Turns out, many don’t even have a registered nurse. “There’s not much health care there,” says Eric Carlson, directing attorney with the National Senior Citizens Law Center, an advocacy group.
With assisted-living facilities, regulations vary at the state level on what type of personnel must be present, and during what hours. A lack of medically trained staff can mean an overuse of emergency services and hospitalizations, a stressful and costly proposition for residents, experts say.
The population of assisted-living facilities has grown older and sicker in the roughly two decades since this housing concept first appeared, says David Kyllo, executive director of the National Center for Assisted Living. What’s more, hospitals are discharging patients much sooner than they did back then. Assisted-living facilities are responding to these trends by adding more on-site nursing services, Kyllo says, noting that families should always ask what the medical staffing levels are at the facilities they’re considering.
Nursing homes generally have a doctor as medical director who supervises the nurses on staff. There may not be a doctor on site all the time, but there will be one on call, says Shirley B. Whitenack, a partner with Schenck, Price, Smith & King in Florham Park, N.J., and president-elect of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.
Active-adult communities tend not to advertise their long-term care services, to the extent they have any at all, Logan says. Yet still-active boomers who are shopping for a community should at least think about what happens if they have a health emergency, experts advise. “If I have a heart attack, I don’t want to be waiting for a medevac helicopter,” Logan says. Prospective residents should check on the proximity of — and available services at — the nearest hospital.
3. Look beyond the brass chandelier.
First impressions count, and many facilities invest in attractive touches such as fancy furniture and flower displays for their lobbies. While these are nice, they don’t necessarily speak to the quality of care offered at facilities, experts say.
Prospective residents and their families should look beyond the décor and the glossy brochures. Activities and staffing levels can vary according to the time of day, so visit more than once at different times and make sure one visit includes a meal in the dining hall. That meal can tell families about more than just the quality of the food, itself not a small consideration — dining there will also show how staff interacts with residents. Families should also ask what procedures the facility has for monitoring who shows up for meals and for following up with those who don’t.
One of the most important criteria when picking a facility? Staff stability.Turnover is high among health aides at retirement communities, as the work is hard and low-paying. But continuity of care is important for older people, especially those with dementia who can become disoriented adjusting to too many new faces. One conversational way for prospective families to get a sense of turnover is to ask every staff member they meet how long they’ve been there.
Ask to talk to the facility’s top executive, and take it as a bad sign if a brief meeting is declined, advises Andrew Carle. “The community is only as good as the administration,” Carle says. “I don’t care if it has a brass chandelier in the lobby.”
4. Prepare for price increases and airline-style fees.
Price structures and fees are typically outlined in the contract residents sign when they join. Still, price changes often take residents by surprise. All too often, the move to a care facility happens under duress: the family is dealing with the logistical hassles of packing up a loved one’s long-time home, and the emotional stress and worry of the big move can overshadow important details. And salespeople tend to focus on what the prospective resident needs at that moment, not mentioning how prices will rise if those needs change, Carle says.
Among the problem areas: The base rent for assisted-living and continuing-care retirement facilities rises about 4% per year to cover inflationary increases in utility costs and other expenses. But a typical contract will note the possibility for base rent increases without stating the exact dollar amount or percentage, industry insiders say.
Many facilities charge additional fees for services such as meal delivery for those not feeling well enough to go to the dining hall, transportation to the local mall, and, as one New Jersey continuing-care retirement community puts it, “valet snow removal” from cars parked in the outside lot. The fee structures vary from place to place and can get confusing — some places include medication management for up to five different prescriptions at no extra charge, for example, while others might charge per drug.
In recent years, consumer demand has driven a trend toward a la carte pricing, says David Schless, president of the American Seniors Housing Association, a membership group for executives involved in retirement housing. Just as some people don’t want to pay for a checked bag if they never check one on a plane ride, Schless says, some residents of care facilities don’t want to pay for a service they won’t use.
Many family members moving their relatives into a retirement home don’t take time to read the contract carefully. Whitenack advises families to do just that and then ask, “Are there any other fees you haven’t told me about?”
While consumer bargaining power might not be as strong as it was during the recession, prospective residents should speak up if they don’t like something in the contract. “People lean too far to the passive,” Carlson says. Folks could also try negotiating some sort of break in the rent. Whitenack says that in 2012, her mother successfully negotiated two free weeks of a trial stay at her independent-living facility (notably, she accomplished this without her daughter’s professional assistance).
5. We’ll tell you when it’s time to move on.
Just as each state has differing laws about which types of residents an assisted-living facility can safely accommodate, each facility retains broad discretion over who is allowed to stay there, elder law attorneys say.
This includes asking residents to leave if their behavior is deemed a problem, experts say. Of course, the facility will rarely frame it in those terms. “’We can’t meet your needs’ is a common justification facilities rely on to kick folks out,” Carlson says. Families should read the contracts carefully and understand the conditions under which their loved one might be asked to leave, including behavioral issues and deteriorating health.
Facilities are licensed by the state to provide a certain level of care. If the resident’s needs exceed the facility’s capabilities, then the resident may have to move on, often to a nursing home, Schless says. Not every facility can safely accommodate an Alzheimer’s patient who has become combative, for example. Under some circumstances, a resident with increased needs may be allowed to stay in assisted living if the family can afford to hire a round-the-clock health aide to stay on site at additional cost, Schless notes.
Continuing-care communities are different in that they’re designed to accommodate frailer residents who need nursing care. However, it’s often management — and not the family — that decides when it’s time for a resident to move on to the next level of care, experts say. And relocating to a nursing home can be a traumatic move, even if it’s right across the campus green. “That’s an extremely difficult recognition that you’re giving up your independence,” Whitenack says. Prospective residents should understand in advance what might trigger that decision, experts advise.
6. You could wind up paying Mom’s bills.
Often, the person signing the contract for a nursing home, assisted-living facility or a continuing-care community is the new resident’s adult child, experts say. That’s because, by the time many older people enter these facilities, they are experiencing cognitive decline. Legally speaking, they no longer have the capacity to make financial or medical decisions for themselves.
In these cases, a trusted person will act as power of attorney and sign the contract on the resident’s behalf. That means this person will access the older adult’s funds to make payments on her behalf. But if they’re not careful, they could inadvertently sign on as a guarantor who is personally responsible for making payments if the resident runs out of money. Failure to pay could result in the facility calling a collections agency on the guarantor, which could damage the guarantor’s credit. Even worse, the facility could take steps to evict the resident if payments stop.
The best way to ensure this won’t happen is to sign the parent’s name as the responsible party on the contract, and after that write “by [name of agent] acting as power of attorney, followed by the date, says Bradley J. Frigon, an elder law attorney in Denver and president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.
7. We may take Medicaid, but we’d prefer not to.
Medicaid pays certain long-term care costs for people who have exhausted their assets and meet strict income criteria. About 70% of nursing home residents and 19% of assisted living residents are on Medicaid, while the percentage is lower at continuing-care retirement communities.
Facilities receive less compensation from Medicaid than they do from residents who pay out of pocket, which makes Medicaid-eligible residents less desirable from a financial standpoint, Carlson says. Facilities of all kinds will typically screen prospective residents, requesting documentation to show they have enough money to pay their own way for at least several months.
Facilities that take Medicaid — not all do — cannot refuse someone just because they are on Medicaid. But many states have only a fixed number of what are known as Medicaid-waiver slots allotted for assisted-living residents in a specific geographic area, Kyllo says. The problem with this structure, Carlson says, is that self-paying residents are sometimes told when their funds run out that there’s no Medicaid slot available for them.
One way to help ward off this response is for residents or their families to give facilities advance notice that they’re applying for Medicaid. Carlson suggests saying something to the effect that, “I expect to be Medicaid eligible in three months, and when that happens I would like to be transferred to a Medicaid-certified bed.” That warning will make it harder for the facility to say they don’t have a Medicaid slot available. And before a resident even enters the facility, she should ask, “What happens if I spend down?” Kyllo suggests, using a term that refers to depleting one’s assets before going on Medicaid.
The good news, elder law attorneys report, is that Medicaid status isn’t a source of discrimination at the level of day-to-day care. Staff members who directly care for residents don’t know who is on Medicaid and who pays privately.
8. Good luck finding quality ratings for us.
It’s not always easy assessing whether assisted-living facilities and continuing-care communities provide quality care. Many states don’t post inspection records online, and people are less likely to post a review of a care facility on Yelp than, say, a restaurant. “The biggest problem is the absence of complete information,” says Michael Fertik, founder and CEO of ReputationDefender, a company that is helping retirement communities collect and analyze consumer feedback.
During a visit, prospective residents can ask to see a facility’s licensing survey, Carle says. This is the document that’s made when state regulators assess compliance with licensing requirements. Just make sure to keep any listed violations in perspective, he cautions: Not conducting fire drills is a much more serious infraction than failing to complete a resident’s chart or failing to have a thermometer in the refrigerator, for example.
Nursing home ratings are transparent by comparison (this includes the nursing home portion of continuing-care retirement communities). Nursing homes are regulated at the federal level, unlike assisted-living facilities, which remain under state oversight. The website Medicare.gov has a “Nursing Home Compare” function where consumers can search inspection reports for nursing homes throughout the country.
Again, some perspective is in order, Carle says. A high number of incident reports at a nursing home isn’t necessarily a sign of subpar care — it might instead show a facility that’s committed to taking care of the most difficult patients.
9. Your retirement suite may have side-by-side bathtubs, if you know what I mean.
Andrew D. Blechman’s on-site research at the Villages, a large active-adult community in central Florida, found that golf wasn’t the only popular activity on the sprawling campus. Blechman, author of “Leisureville: Adventures in a World without Children,” found residents ages 55-plus enjoying plenty of sex. “Every night is Saturday night, and who’s going to get pregnant?” Blechman says.
Pregnancy might not be an issue for the post-menopausal crowd, but sexually transmitted diseases are. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a rise from 2007 to 2011 in chlamydia rates among those ages 55 and over. Dating coaches report high levels of genital herpes among older clients.
While the rates of sexually transmitted disease among older adults remain much lower than those among young adults, people re-entering the dating scene after a long hiatus may not appreciate the importance of disease prevention, experts say. That said, some 2.2 million Medicare beneficiaries took advantage of free sexually transmitted disease screening and counselling in 2011 and 2012.
10. Some of our fees may be tax deductible.
Taxpayers 65 and over who itemize their deductions can deduct medical and dental expenses exceeding 7.5% of their adjusted gross income. The definition of medical expenses includes certain nursing services, such as bathing and changing dressings, whether those services are provided in the home or in a care facility. It also includes part of the “life-care fee” paid to certain continuing-care retirement communities, which is essentially a pre-payment for future medical care.
The part of the payment a resident can claim is the amount properly allocated to medical care. That can vary from facility to facility and, sometimes, from person to person. At ACTS Retirement-Life Communities, a nonprofit organization based outside Philadelphia, about 39% of the entrance fee and the monthly fee is tax deductible.
While a spokesman says ACTS tells prospective residents about this benefit, most retirement communities remain mum on it; like anything tax-related, it’s complicated, and facilities understandably don’t want to be in a position of giving out tax advice, Whitenack says.
Residents, or family members acting as their power of attorney, should ask for an itemized bill and bring it to their accountant to determine how much they can deduct.
This is one of many aspects of elder care that must become better understood as boomers inexorably grow old. “People keep aging,” Carle says. “We haven’t found a cure for it.”
Original article: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-things-retirement-communities-wont-tell-you-2014-07-18/print?guid=A345EF8C-0E88-11E4-ADF3-00212803FAD6
Image credit: Allison Seffer