Social Media Background Checks (yes, they exist)

Over the weekend, a friend and I were chatting about whether or not we should feel guilty for ‘Googling’ potential suitors (oh come on, you know you’ve done it at least once). She continued that the information she found (about his family’s history) felt like an invasion of privacy, and after she found it she felt as if she had violated him in some way.

Is information online fair game?

This day and age, you do have some control over what is and isn’t online. Facebook, especially, lets you really dial in on your privacy settings. Aside from our obvious social channels, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ (yep, I went there), to name a few, there may be other, not so obvious channels that potential employers are looking to. 

In a recent article on Social Intelligence by the New York Times, CEO Max Drucker explains how a simple search engine search (ok, he actually used the phrase “Googling”, which I thought was funny) isn’t fair to a potential employee. Employers are able to see way more information than is actually relevant to their potential employment. The California-based start-up claims their service creates fair and legal hiring. Their social media background checks clean out results that are not legal to ask in an interview, such as age, gender, religion, and disability.

As most of us in the social media/online marketing space know, Facebook continues to update their privacy settings, and information that may have been private at some point can be made public without us even knowing it. Drucker brought up some interesting points; their services does a deep web search. Channels such as Yahoo! groups and Craigslist postings are included (you know, the things you may have been involved in/posted over 10 years ago and have since completely forgotten about). I should note though that, similar to a background check, the person must first consent to a social media background check.

Where does that leave us? I’m going to revert back to the post I did a few months ago on whether or not social media channels should be public or professional. I refer to Facebook specifically, but you have to consider other avenues online which potential employers have access to.

If you wouldn’t be ok with publishing that same content on the front page of a newspaper, then I’d think twice about putting it online. Information (for the most part) found online is fair game, and you may not get that dream job because of it.

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