Posted July 8, 2011 9:16 am by with 9 comments

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Even if you have been living under a rock for the past several years you are likely to be aware of the importance of keeping tabs of what is being said on the Internet about you personally, your business, your brand etc.

The theory is that if something is out there that could harm your reputation or brand etc it could hurt your ability to get a job or a client etc. Old news, right?

Now, it looks like formalized social media background checks could become the norm for employers when doing their due diligence. A company called Social Intelligence is providing the service. How they get that information is completely out of your control but knowing what they look for isn’t.

Gizmodo reports on this phenomenon and clears the air on some early misinformation

First, some context: In May, the FTC gave a company called Social Intelligence the green light to run background checks of your Internet and social media history. The media made a big hulabaloo out of the ruling. And it largely got two important facts wrong.

Contrary to initial reports, Social Intelligence doesn’t store seven years worth of your social data. Rather it looks at up to seven years of your history, and stores nothing.

The second was the idea that it was looking for boozy or embarrassing photos of you to pass along to your employer. In fact it screens for just a handful of things: aggressive or violent acts or assertions, unlawful activity, discriminatory activity (for example, making racist statements), and sexually explicit activity. And it doesn’t pass on identifiable photos of you at all. In other words, your drunken kegstand photos are probably fine as long as you’re not wearing a T-shirt with a swastika or naked from the waist down.

What the post was trying to say is that while this may seem a bit daunting to some (take note you idiots that have no filters on your online activity), it’s not the end of the social world as we know it.

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In fact, if employers take the easy route and rely on a service like this to do their social media monitoring for prospective employees you could get away easy. Think about the example above. If the drunken kegstand photo requires the extra trimmings (i.e. an offensive T-shirt and nudity) to trigger a red flag that gets you a fail (it’s just a pass/fail result apparently) then it’s good for you. Let’s be honest, if that is something you are proud of in a social sense, most reasonable employers wouldn’t care if you were doing it in formal wear, that’s an activity that shows a person might have some issues and isn’t hiring material.

The Gizmodo post goes on to explain some techniques that could help with getting around some potential social media background check concerns. I will warn you that the author of the post did fail the test and if you do read it you can get an idea why.

At any rate, how are keeping tabs on these things? Do you even remember what YOU have posted let alone what friends may have posted that are public? Are you giving information to employers and other that will ultimately lead to your demise?

As for you brand marketers and employers of anyone at all, would your current employees pass a test if your team was being vetted for a project or contract?

So many things to consider with so few people considering them until it is usually way too late. Gotta love the Interwebz.

  • You just have to be mindful that when you post something online, someone could potentially find it. If your worried about protecting your personal brand, don’t take that chance. Granted, most of us have said something on some blog at one point or another that doesn’t make us look great, but one or two mishaps is expected and forgiven. A lot of red flags starts to have a big impact.

  • As someone once said: “If you don’t want it to show up in your local newpaper, then don’t post / write about it.”

  • More accurately, if you would be uncomfortable if someone found out that you did something, online or otherwise, you should not be doing it. Remember you are not the only one who can post and tag photos. If in 12 months you retweet one questionable item no one is going to hold that against you, but a string of issues that is a red flag

    • E.S.

      I suppose if one wants to be truly boring, they can circumscribe their life to meet everyone’s expectations. I prefer not to work for busybodies.

  • What everyone is failing to report and even sites like these that simply take someones else’s post and re-writes it is a simple fact.

    Even though the FTC has cleared it it wont protect an employer from what is known a law suit if they claim you did not get hire because you failed the “Social Background Check”.

    I suspect this quick gimmick to upsell service come from a Database driven background screening company because they are not FCRA compliant and you can’t use those background checks for pre-employement checks anyway. But, not from FCRA compliant background screening company.

    I can’t wait for the reports of people suing for discrimination because of their political, religion, sexual orientation remarks that caused them not to pass the so called Social background check and their for did not get the job.

  • I think the point was that the potential employer is just trying to make sure they are not hiring a person that doesn’t worry about how much of their life is public knowledge. I mean think about it, if they aren’t concerned about what parts of their private life ends up on the internet for all to see then they would probably share company information too. That’s just protecting your company and existing employees from a possible embarrassing situation.

    • Cindi: You think if someone is an open book online then they’ll automatically give away company secrets? That’s crazy.

      I generally have few filters online and I was just hired to a great job. A job that requires trade secrets not be disclosed. So while I open up at will about my son, my sports teams, my wife and potty training, that has absolutely no bearing on my ability to keep certain business-related items confidential.

      I just think you’re comparing apples and fire hydrants.

  • Employers are becoming more and more aware of what people are doing online. I think we are going to see an entire cottage industry around online background checks. What I am afraid of is these checks being more and more subjective. At what point will social network checks cross the legal line?

  • Elections is 2-4 years will be very interesting as people bring up dirt on what they posted one time, or got posted about on social sites… it’s almost ridiculous to a point now.