The Federal Trade Commission green lighted a startup called Social Intelligence Corp. last week, giving the company permission to track and create files on peoples’ postings on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and use those files to help companies screen job applicants.
The FTC determined that Social Intelligence was in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, meaning that publicly available data could be collected and used for job screening purposes so long as Social Intelligence informs applicants after they’ve been denied jobs as a result of dirt dug up on the Internet. Arguably, having this information–albeit in retrospect–could help job applicants locate and delete harmful posts.
But further inspection by Forbes shows that Social Intelligence’s filing system actually thwarts peoples’ abilities to clean up their online tracks. How so? Whenever something an applicant posts on Twitter or Facebook ends up resulting in a non-hire, that post is flagged and saved in the applicant’s file for seven years. Any other company that uses Social Intelligence would see the post, regardless of whether the applicant deleted it following the first non-hire. Per the guidelines of the FCRA, job applicants’ information must be deleted after seven years.
The company can only legally access data that is publicly available, so the best way to avoid having your posts used against you (other than not posting them at all) is to clamp down on your social network privacy settings. Also, be wary of what you post on blogs, wikis, and take care in choosing online groups as they could show up in background checks.
According to Forbes’s Kashmir Hill’s interview with Geoffrey Andrews, CEO of Social Intelligence, the company specializes in mining data from “social networking websites (i.e., Facebook and others), professional networking websites (i.e., Linked In and others), blogs, wikis, video and picture sharing websites, etc.).”
Therefore it is important that you monitor very closely all of your web output, as anything you say or do could possibly be used against you.