The Federal Government Is Charging Jerk.com With Deceiving Customers

FTC says the social-networking site secretly took information from Facebook to create user profiles.

National Journal
Laura Ryan
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Laura Ryan
April 7, 2014, 11:26 a.m.

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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