Social-networking data — from sites such as MySpace and Facebook — have been usedÂ to gather evidenceÂ in trials againstÂ jurors andÂ defendants, in divorce cases, againstÂ employees (whichÂ can lead toÂ lawsuits), applicants toÂ colleges and graduate schools,Â politicians andÂ high school students. We’ve seen it affectÂ applicants toÂ jobs in the United StatesÂ and abroad. The New York Times takes a closer look at the problems that can arise for job applicants when their social media history is searched by companies:
Companies have long used criminal background checks, credit reports and even searches on Google and LinkedIn to probe the previous lives of prospective employees. Now, some companies are requiring job candidates to also pass a social media background check.
A year-old start-up, Social Intelligence, scrapes the Internet for everything prospective employees may have said or done online in the past seven years.Â Then it 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. […]
The Federal Trade Commission, after initially raising concerns last fall about Social Intelligenceâ€™s business, determined the company is in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, but the service still alarms privacy advocates who say that it invites employers to look at information that may not be relevant to job performance. […]
Other background reports have turned up examples of people making anti-Semitic comments and racist remarks, [Max Drucker, chief executive of Social Intelligence] said. Then there was the job applicant who belonged to a Facebook group, â€œThis Is America. I Shouldnâ€™t Have to Press 1 for English.â€ This raises a question. â€œDoes that mean you donâ€™t like people who donâ€™t speak English?â€ asked Mr. Drucker rhetorically.
Mr. Drucker said his goal was to conduct pre-employment screenings that would help companies meet their obligation to conduct fair and consistent hiring practices while protecting the privacy of job candidates. […]
Less than a third of the data surfaced by Mr. Druckerâ€™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 â€” or find themselves tagged in â€” on Facebook and YouTube and other sharing sites like Flickr, Picasa, Yfrog and Photobucket.