Last year a young and pretty female former co-worker at the Office of Senator Richard Gordon got in touch with me through Facebook chat. Although I initially savored the idea that the conversation was going to be somewhat purely social, talk eventually turned to one particular facet of everyone’s life online: Will prospective employers Google her and use the information they find to decide on whether or not to hire her?
Being somewhat the office’s second default expert on all things online, I said “Yes. Of course.”
If someone else had asked me the same question before Facebook became one of the biggest social networking sites on the planet, my answer would have been “No. Not unless you’ve been involved in a crime or scandal that was published on an online newspaper, blog or forum.” The reason for this is that online newspapers, blogs, and forums used to be the most likely ones to turn up a person’s name. Moreover, the more common reason for a person’s name to turn up on Google search would be either because they’ve been very good or very, very bad.
These days, anyone who has ever Googled themselves will know that their Facebook profile (along with LinkedIn, Twitter, Google profile, etcetera) will invariably turn up in the first ten search results. This can be both a boon and a bane, most especially now after a company got the nod of the US Federal Trade Commission to screen job applicants based on their Facebook and Twitter postings.
Enter Social Intelligence Corporation
Social Intelligence Corporation recently got the US Federal Trade Commission’s approval to obtain and distribute personal information and photos of job applicants gathered from social networking sites. Job applicants, however, must acknowledge and approve of the social media background check, similar to the approval needed for criminal and credit checks. If the search turns a red flag, the prospective employer must inform the applicant.
Social Intelligence Corp. can keep records of a job applicants social networking activities on file for seven years.
To avoid becoming the digital equivalent of Inspector Javert to those who would cast themselves as Jean Valjean, the company makes it clear that the only information it will collect are those required for compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and “employer defined criteria that is legally allowable in the hiring process”.
Moreover, the company says in its website:
We are not building a “database” on individuals that will be evaluated each time they apply for a job and potentially could be used adversely even if they have cleaned up their profiles. It is important for job applicants to understand we are not storing their historical information to be used against them the next time they apply for a job.
The company also assures that it only gathers information that has been publicly displayed and that can be seen without needing to be a friend or associate of the prospective employee. So, just by changing one’s privacy settings, a job applicant can prevent potentially unsightly content from being readily available to the company and future employers.
Will your boss be able to snoop on your Facebook or Twitter activity through Social Intelligence?
Apart from screening new hires, Social Intelligence also monitors the online behavior of employees by “active tracking of publicly-available social media content generated by employees”, “manual review of objectionable material by social media experts” and “near real-time notifications and alerts”.According to their website, the Social Intelligence will “ensure that employees abide by a company’s existing, or newly created, social media policy. We will even support a company in the creation of such a policy.”
So, basically, that’s a big “Yes.”
Is it fool proof? Do you have an alias?
Of course it isn’t.
Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking accounts aren’t at all like Social Security numbers, Tax Identification numbers, or other legal/official identification records. The thing is, even legal identification records can be faked and not be detected for years.
Anybody, anywhere in the world can create an e-mail address or several e-mail addresses and then proceed to create several social networking accounts.
This means that you can create one real account under your name and several others which you can use for whatever activity you want to engage in. One can appear to be the perfect job applicant in one account while using other accounts to harass people, leak damaging information about employers, or engage in fraud.
In addition, with the number of identity theft and social networking account hacking going on around in the world, it’s a pretty plausible reason to claim that one had been a victim of either.
At best, Social Intelligence can provide additional information on a job applicant that should be incidental to their decision on whether or not to hire.
Paul Farol is a Filipino writer and blogger currently based in Manila. He is currently a media practitioner and is involved in community development projects in Northern and Southern Luzon, Philippines.