“I know, I know—all of that detail regarding privacy settings on Facebook is such a hassle,” acknowledges Steven Wyer of Reputation Advocate and author of Violated Online (Dunham Books: September 2011). He says that you may even ask yourself “why bother?” but that there is a very good reason to sober up and think again.
According to the Violated Online author, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has given the thumbs up to Social Intelligence Corp., which keeps files of Facebook users’ posts as part of a background-checking service for screening job applicants. STOP. Re-read this again! If you are still not using any of the privacy settings available on your Facebook account, there is an absolute reason to reconsider.
“We didn’t even have room to cover this in Violated Online,” says Wyer. So who is this “Social Intelligence” and what are they doing with your Facebook content? According to their spokesman here is what they say:
Data is archived purely for compliance reasons and not used for any other purposes. This is to provide a verifiable chain-of-custody in case the information is ever needed for legal reasons. Archived data is never used for new screens.
Wyer remains skeptical. If there were ever an opportunity for information to be abused this is it, says the Violated Online ambassador. Here is more of the statement:
As per our policies and obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the only information we collect on job applicants is employer defined criteria that is legally allowable in the hiring process. Examples of this include racist remarks, sexually explicit photos or videos, or illegal activity such as drug use.
The Violated Online author asks, “Anyone see the potential for an online violation here?”
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. It is important for job applicants to understand we are not storing their historical information to be used against them the next time they apply for a job.
Wyer’s perspective is that with time, things usually change. Credit scoring is a good example of information creep. However, the FTC decided Social Intelligence complies with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Here seems to be the central issue. Even if you delete an embarrassing photo or bawdy status update, the material could stay in your file for seven years, during which time it might be used against you if a prospective employer were to use the agency’s services to screen applicants. Words like could and might have always made Wyer, a privacy advocate, nervous.
So, now jump out and pretend you are applying for a job. You have read Violated Online; you are aware. You have, however, been really busy and those privacy settings are such a hassle! Your potential employer is “Googling” your name. They see Twitter, Linkedin, your blog, a few other social sites and Facebook. You made sure everything was cleaned up and tidy before you began your job hunt right? No way you will be violated online.
If Wyer and others are interpreting things correctly, Social Intelligence would have the goods on you before you cleaned up your online act, dating back seven years! You were how old then? You put what on your wall? The even bigger concern is that, just as there is more than one credit reporting bureau out there, others—perhaps dozens of companies like this—will archive your information.
The Social Intelligence Corp. has been given the go-ahead to operate by the Federal Government. Wyer says this is yet another example of how people’s online privacy is attacked—how they can be violated online. Awareness is the beginning of an online defense. Action is the solution. Here is yet one more reason to be deliberate when using social sites. Throwing caution to the winds will almost always expose you to being Violated Online.
As Wyer says, “If it could happen to me, it can happen to you.”
For information on author Steven Wyer, or the book Violated Online, go to Violatedonline.com.