The social-networking site Jerk.com secretly took information from Facebook to label millions “a jerk” and “not a jerk,” the Federal Trade Commission said Monday.
FTC is seeking an order to stop Jerk.com from using improperly obtained personal information and to require the website to delete the information. An administrative judge will hear the case next January.
In what FTC called a “brazen attempt to exploit” peoples’ concerns about their online reputation, the consumer-protection agency charged Jerk.com and its operator, Napster cofounder John Fanning, with deceiving more than 73 million consumers.
Between 2009 and 2013, the FTC says, millions of Americans searched themselves on search engines to find out that they had been labeled either a “Jerk” or “not a jerk” on Jerk.com. Adding insult to injury, the website told consumers that they would have to pay a fee to revise their profile.
Visitors to the site believed that that their profiles were made by other users, but most profiles were actually created from information harvested surreptitiously from Facebook, according to the FTC.
Additionally, the agency said that the site told consumers that they could pay $30 to amend their profile or $25 to contact customer service, but those who did shell out money “received nothing” in exchange for their payment.
Profiles included photos and detailed personal information, including name, address, contact information, and even Social Security numbers in some cases.
Jerk.com also let users vote on whether or not a person was a jerk and allowed for personal comments on user profiles. Comments were generally unkind, such as, “Omg I hate this kid he’s such a loser,” and, “Nobody in their right mind would love you “¦ not even your parents love [you].”
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