Be Careful: Big Brother Watching

OK. In my dotage I’m either becoming more of a libertarian — or an asshat (maybe both). But here’s something that troubles me more than a little. It appears that the FCC has approved a firm that searches social media, compiles records on individuals, and then provides that information to organizations as part of background checks as people apply for jobs.

Oh, boy. And you thought George Orwell was a fiction writer.

Anyway, here’s from the story from The Daily Mail, “How everything you EVER said on the internet could be seen by employers as Feds approve firm that dishes dirt on applicants“:

The Federal Trade Commission has approved a controversial firm which scours social media sites to check on job applicants.

It means anything you’ve ever said in public on sites including Facebook, Twitter and even Craigslist could be seen by your would-be employer.

The Washington-based commission has ruled the firm, Social Intelligence Corporation, complies with the Fair Credit Reporting Act – even though it keeps the results of its searches on file for seven years.

It raises the frightening prospect of any social media posting, even it’s years old or was meant as a joke, being used in background checks.

Applicants who use online pseudonyms aren’t safe, either – the firm uses special software to link those nicknames with real, offline names known to employers.

One applicant found himself out of the running for a job after being branded racist because he once joined a Facebook group called ‘I shouldn’t have to press one for English. We are in the United States. Learn the language.’

Social Intelligence Corp scours everything from social networking sites, such as Facebook, to video and picture sharing websites as well as blogs and wikis.

I understand why potential employers do background checks — and realistically, almost nobody these days gives a negative reference in writing and even if asked during a phone interview.

Still, this idea of compiling records based on using social media — sort of a personal credit score based on what you show or tell — strikes me as creepy and an invasion of privacy. It’s not like Anthony Weiner. He elected to self-destruct.

But is there anyone at 18, 40 or 63 who hasn’t done or said something online these days that could potentially raise a red flag with employers? Fortunately, as best I can tell, Mother Teresa was not on Twitter. And remember that most human resources flunkies exist only to find reasons to reject applicants. For them, this will be a wet dream come true.

I guess the great American philosopher Sergeant Phil Esterhaus on Hill Street Blues has the proper perspective on this by opining: “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”



2 responses to “Be Careful: Big Brother Watching

  1. burghthoughts

    If anybody really believes this will only be used by “employers for background checks” and not by the government I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell them.
    Let me know when your done scrubbing your files so I can start posting under a different name on my wife’s computer……

  2. I’ve certainly said a thing or two that, taken out of context, would be a poor representation of my true character. I’ve also said a few devilsh things that, even in context, might raise an eyebrow. They were jokes. I was 18, 19. Is it overkill to go back to a potential candidate’s SM history from their freshman year of college when they’ve now been a professional in the industry for a couple of years? Undoubtably. But in George Orwell’s 1984, it was the government who installed and inforced the use of information-gathering devices in every home, building and street corner. In our 2011 reality, we’ve willing purchased these devices and knowingly poured our personal information into them. Is the FCC’s approval of this aggregation/research service right? I say no. Is the idea that an agency of this kind is out there legally operating a suprise? Not in the least.

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