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Carbonite nabbed with hand in review jar

Caught pulling a Belkin

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Comment Online backup service supplier Carbonite has been fingered by a disgruntled user for writing its own reviews on Amazon.

Bruce Goldsteinberg signed up for the service from Boston-based Carbonite, and everything went well until a system crash when he found that the restore process broke. He phoned Carbonite support, taking time off work to do so, chose not to pay $20 for a premium response and so, as he wrote on his blog, was put on hold for an hour. Eventually he got help but the restore process took several days, meaning more time off work, and it finally failed to complete with some files being lost for good. He got a refund of his subscription.

He looked online for other users' views on Carbonite and came across a posting by trw41 in the Carbonite Online Backup Forum on Amazon.com. This suggested that some gushing 'reviews' of Carbonite were actually written by Carbonite employees, such as its VP of marketing, Swami Kumaresan.

The Swami Kumaresan review is no longer available on Amazon but Goldsteinberg has a screenshot of it on his blog, and Google's cacheing works a treat so we can read it in all its glory.

This was posted on October 31, 2006, at which time a Swami Kumeresan was VP Marketing for Carbonite, having joined the company as its fifth employee in October, 2005. Another Carbonite employee, Jonathan Freidin, a senior software engineer, also wrote an ecstatic review.

Bruce Goldsteinberg's blog posting earlier this week quickly came to the attention of the New York Times.

Carbonite's naughtiness was exposed soon after electrical device supplier Belkin was found to be paying for positive reviews.

NYT blogger David Pogue got in touch with Carbonite and received an email from its CEO, David Friend. "These ‘reviews’ on Amazon from 2006 should have sourced the authors as Carbonite employees," it said. "I will personally see that the reviews are updated to disclose their employment affiliation. Had they been brought to my attention, they would have been removed long ago.

"We do have a policy about such things. I apologize to anyone who was mislead by these postings.”

The combination of partisan employee reviews masquerading as independent and pleased customers and a poor service betray an apparent contempt for customers - not good for an online backup service provider whose main requirement is that customers trust it.

After the outing of its shabby marketing one wonders why should anyone trust it again. Further proof that on the internet, you can rarely be sure that an apparently unbiased product reviewer is not just a shill. ®

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