The national unemployment rate has yet to see any steady improvement, and in many states, has seen another recent increase. As if job seekers needed any more hurdles, the New York Times recently reported about a new trend among employers screening prospective employees: social media background checks.
We’ve heard the stories about employees who have been fired for their activity on social networks, and most of us are aware that employers might comb Facebook to conduct a little personal investigation on applicants; but now, there is a new company devoted entirely to trolling the internet to dig up any online dirt from potential employees over the past seven years. Social Intelligence, a year-old start-up, “assembles a dossier with examples of professional honors and charitable work, along with negative information that meets specific criteria: online evidence of racist remarks; references to drugs; sexually explicit photos, text messages or videos; flagrant displays of weapons or bombs and clearly identifiable violent activity,” reports the Times.
Last fall, Social Intelligence came under fire by the Federal Trade Commission for concerns about non-compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, but were found not to be in violation. However, many privacy advocates believe that the practice “invites employers to look at information that may not be relevant to job performance.” Although there have been many instances of prospective employees losing potential job offers due to their online activity, like one woman who posed naked for pictures she posted on an image-sharing site, many experts believe that employers shouldn’t be judging people’s activity in their private lives, away from the workplace.
While less than one-third of Social Intelligence’s data comes from major social platforms like Facebook and Twitter (pulling information mainly from deep Web searches), it is certainly cause for concern for those who use social networks to, well, socialize. Many social network users have already made the choice to remove any incriminating photos, videos or personal exchanges from their accounts once they graduated college or began to apply for jobs, raising the question of whether or not it’s still safe to enjoy a casual, carefree social existence online.
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