Potential Employers Looking to Cyber Detectives to Track Down Your Online Sins

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by Alonzo. on September 13, 2011

As if job hunters didn’t have enough to deal with in this tough economy, now comes the social media background check.

That’s right, employers are increasingly checking social media footprints to weed out “questionable” employees. But firms are going beyond the simple Google or Facebook searches. They’re hiring companies to sniff out your digital bread crumbs with a fine tooth comb.

Start-up company Social Intelligence, run by Max Drucker, looks at anything a prospective employee may have said or done on the Internet in the last seven years.

As reported by the New York Times,

“Less than a third of the data surfaced by Mr. Drucker’s firm comes from such major social platforms as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. He said much of the negative information about job candidates comes from deep Web searches that find comments on blogs and posts on smaller social sites, like Tumblr, the blogging site, as well as Yahoo user groups, e-commerce sites, bulletin boards and even Craigslist.

Then there are the photos and videos that people post—or find themselves tagged in—on Facebook and YouTube and other sharing sites like Flickr, Picasa, Yfrog and Photobucket.”

Hey we all do stupid stuff from time to time, but one episode of stupidity online may haunt you for years to come.

Using a pseudonym or online screen name may not help. Social Intelligence uses special software to link online personas to real life people.

According to Forbes Magazine, some of the things that have been flagged include a job seeker whose online photos showed him holding guns and swords, another who was a member of the Facebook group “I shouldn’t have to press 1 for English! Learn the language”, and one person who was a member of a pro-cannabis campaign and involved in Craigslist ads seeking oxycontin.

My question is who gets to decide what is racist, tasteless, or otherwise inappropriate? Of course a picture of someone snorting a line of coke is cause for concern, but does a picture of a job candidate in underwear dim job hopes?

Is joining an anti-affirmative action Facebook group enough to get you flagged? How about frequenting a militia website? And what about jokes or blog comments taken out of context?

It seems like we’re entering a brave new world of online surveillance, one many are bound not to LIKE.

Sound off. Do you think social media background checks are warranted, or are they over the top?

Photo Credit: Ell Brown

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