This is a  frightening prospect that any social media posting, even years old, can be used in background checks.

A controversial firm which scours social media sites to check on job applicants has bee approved by the Federal Trade Commission. The approval 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.

The company has defended its policy of keeping the searches on file, saying it’s for compliance reasons only.

It says the negative findings are not re-used if a new employer runs a check on an applicant.

Its chief operating officer, Geoffrey Andrews, said: ‘We are not… building a “database” on individuals that will be evaluated each time they apply for a job and potentially could be used adversely even if they have cleaned up their profiles.’

One of the reports, released to Forbes magazine, flagged an applicant for ‘demonstrating potentially violent behaviour’ because he’d posted a photograph of him holding a gun on his Facebook account.

Another was flagged for ‘illegal activity’ after putting an advert on Craigslist searching for the drug Oxycontin.

So far the company says it has found ‘negative’ online postings in up to 20 per cent of applicants it’s been asked to investigate.

Social Intelligence Corp. was founded a year ago, and soon afterwards the Federal Trade Commission began investigating over fears it could be in breach of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

But the government has now dropped its inquiry, ruling the company is within the rules as long as it lets applicants know whether they failed to get a job as a result of the report.

It also changed the wording on it permission form – which all applicants must sign before the checks are carried out – to make sure they know exactly what will be checked during the review.

Social Intelligence Corp says its reports are fairer than if employers simply Google candidates.

The reports only take into account ‘job-threatening’ characteristics – such as criminal activity – and does not include personal information, such as sexuality or religion, which an employee legally cannot see.

Applicants can also dispute the report’s findings, and the offending record will be deleted if it is found to be incorrect.

Mr Andrews told Forbes: ‘I like to think we are providing a service not just by screening for employers, but in helping to protect job applicants by creating a standard process for online background checks and a service that presents them with reports on negative material.’

Photo credit:  TechCrunch

 Via Daily Mail