The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has decided that the year-old startup Social Intelligence Corporation operates within the guidelines of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This means that social media background checks may be come a regular part of the pre-employment screening process.
Social Intelligence Corporation is “a background screening service that enables employers to navigate the complicated landscape of social media with clear, consistent, and insightful results,” (from their ‘About‘ page).
While it may seem like now employers will have access to more information about job-hunters than they already did, CEO Max Trucker admitted to IT World that “his firm doesn’t turn up anything you wouldn’t find in a comprehensive Google search.” The difference is that Social Intelligence filters the information, focusing only on racist remarks or behavior, sexually explicit photos and video, and illegal activity.
The benefit to employers of using Social Intelligence rather than conducting their own Internet search is that most searches may turn up too much information. Employers may see information about religion or sexual orientation, which cannot be legally considered during the hiring process because of federal anti-discrimination laws. Also, the firm flags positive things in addition to the negative, such as if a potential employee received an award or has a strong influence in the blogosphere.
Social Intelligence reports that 5 to 10 percent of searches turn up negative results, varying of course by job. As you probably already guessed, sexually explicit material is the most common offense.
While many people are uncomfortable with the amount of information Social Intelligence can possibly collect on them, other people, including myself, see this as progress. Most employers already check out applicants’ Facebook and Twitter and run a Google search on them. With the outsourcing that Social Intelligence offers, job applicants can feel more secure that their social media is being scrutinized responsibly and without judgment. Also, the background checks can only see what you make publicly available. So if you haven’t already, update your privacy settings and post responsibly to avoid job-searching problems and becoming a tale about the outrageous things people put on Facebook.