Apr 042010
 April 4, 2010  Posted by  Business, Online

Ryan Calo has been blogging about a personal reputation website, Unvarnished.   In his first post, Ryan began:

Like many of you, I’m trying to figure out what the personal reputation website Unvarnished (now in beta) is all about. I notice that I need to sign in through Facebook Connect before I can kick the proverbial tires. So, before turning over my entire Facebook profile to a unknown entity, I decide to check out Unvarnished’s privacy policy. I find I don’t understand it.

The fact that I had never heard of Unvarnished elevated one eyebrow. The fact that a privacy lawyer like Ryan couldn’t understand the site’s privacy policy elevated the other eyebrow.

The following day, Ryan wrote that he had been contacted by Unvarnished’s founder to discuss some of the concerns Ryan had raised in his first blog entry:

I recently wrote about my disappointment in Unvarnished’s privacy policy. To his credit, founder Pete Kazanjy immediately invited me to coffee. Turns out they’ve been thinking very hard about the delicate balance between anonymity and accountability, it just hasn’t made its way into the privacy policy. (The privacy policy, like the service itself, is still in beta.)

In speaking to Kazanjy, I gained a better appreciation of the problem Unvarnished is trying to address. It’s the same that Eric Goldman has been thinking about (PDF) for years: the virtual impossibility of getting a frank review of an employee without fear of blowback, legal or otherwise. Unvarnished allows “anonymous” reviews, in the sense that it obscures the name of the reviewer from view. The reviewer herself accrues a reputation, can be blocked from the site, and can be revealed in the event of a defamation suit.

Ryan may have gained a better appreciation, but as he notes, the privacy policy remains “crappy for now.” Read more here.

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