Byte This (Bumped and Updated)

I’m all for free enterprise, but some people need to be flogged disciplined for having bad ideas. Be careful what you say on these here Interwebs. From Forbes:

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission gave a stamp of approval to a background check company that screens job applicants based on their Internet photos and postings. The FTC determined that Social Intelligence Corp. was in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This means a search of what you’ve said or posted to Facebook/Twitter/Flickr/blogs and the Internet in general may become a standard part of background checks when you apply for a job.

No big deal, right? You already knew that employers were Googling you. I argued this was actually better, because Social Intelligence has to make sure its clients inform job applicants if they took adverse action based on something found on the Internet. That way you can delete and change privacy settings accordingly.

But there’s a wrinkle. Social Intelligence offers its services to employers en masse and builds files on people. If something job-threatening pops up on Facebook or Flickr or Craigslist in a search of you, you can’t just erase it so that future employers don’t come across it. Social Intelligence puts it into your file — and it stays there for seven years.

More at the link and some more background at this Forbes blog post from last week.

UPDATE: The original blog post at Forbes was updated and corrected. Here is the blogger’s (Kashmir Hill) correction (bolding mine):

Update (6:47 p.m) — Social Intelligence has an important clarification: COO Geoffrey Andrews sent me a statement via email this evening explaining that negative findings are kept on file but are not reused when a new employer runs a check on you:

While we store information for up to seven years we do not “reuse” that information for new reports. Per our policies and obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, we run new reports on applicants on each new search to ensure the most accurate and up-to-date information is utilized, and we store the information to maintain a verifiable chain-of-custody in-case the information is ever needed for legal reasons. We are not however 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.

23 comments to Byte This (Bumped and Updated)

  • Dr.Schplatt

    I’m not so big a fan of this because there is so much risk of misidentification when searching social networking sites. What if I decided to start commenting on every message board as Bill Cosby? Eventually, if I did it enough, I would start seeing Google hits based on that.

    Of course the real Bill Cosby has enough stuff online that the chances of my small amount of information traffic showing up are small. But what if someone did it with my real name? I have a very uncommon name and it would be easy for someone else’s crap to show up as me.

    • -fritz-

      I have a name that isn’t what I would consider mainstream. It’s not especially odd, but my surname isn’t one that I run into everyday, or year for that matter. Yet if I Google my name (all three in combo together) I come up with some hundreds exactly the same around the country. I can see where this could become very problematic, especially for those with names like Smith or Jones and the like.

      • Dr.Schplatt

        Yeah, there are two sides to this. When I Google my first and last name together, I am the fist thing I find, simply because my last name is unusual in the USA, but if I Google just my last name, there are thousands of hits in Germany and Austria. So it could become pretty confusing.

        • -fritz-

          When I was still working for the railroad, I had to make a couple of business trips to St. Paul, Minn. I looked in the St. Paul, and Minneapolis phone books while there, and found that my last name was so common in those parts that there were literally hundreds by that name there. While in Texas, and even here in NV, there were none but me.

          • Good amounts of Porvazniks in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Chicago-area phone books. Anywhere else, not so much.

            • -fritz-

              Well, I guess then, that the country still has a tendancy toward certain enclaved areas depending on cultural background. I know there are large German derived populations in places like Nebraska and Minnesota, and even quite a large grouping in Texas. Obviously the same goes for your heritage background as well.

              • Yeah, it was nice to have people in Austin and San Antonio properly pronounce my last name due to the Czech population a little west of that area. Of course, ask people in SoCal, who regularly see 20-letter-long Polynesian to get it even remotely close? As my wife’s people say, fuhgedaboudit.

                And, no, -fritz-.

                • -fritz-

                  There seems to be an evil plot afoot, amongst 3D hierarchy, to keep me from obtaining any 10-peats. I have actually given up the quest, because I am on and off here enough, that I may browse around making comments and then have to leave before obtaing the “golden fleece!”

                  As for last names, when I was in Germany, the people there in Bavaria could not pronounce my name properly. You know how those “southerners” are?! My dad’s forebears were from the Oldenburg and Prussian areas up north. My dad used to have a very old photograph of a great uncle of his who was in full dress Prussian Army uniform mounted on a white stallion. My last name in German actually means judge or executioner. I prefer the latter of the two choices! :-)

  • Yes Steph probably knows fritz’s last name if they’re facebook friends… and I think they are judging from Threedonia’s FB page.

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