A Santa Barbara, Calif., start-up is officially launching a social media screening and monitoring service Tuesday that the nation’s 14.9 million unemployed might want to know about before their next job interview.
Social Intelligence Corp. is essentially taking the traditional background checks that are commonly used by corporate human resource departments to look for things like criminal records and moving them online to track social media networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, LinkedIn, and individual blogs.
“You cannot believe the things that we see. The amount of references to drugs and alcohol and the amount of provocative photos and the things that people say is jaw dropping,” says Max Drucker, chief executive of Social Intelligence Corp. “People that we see that are applying for jobs that have this kind of really incriminating information out there.”
The background screening services market generates some $3 billion in annual revenue, but Drucker claims that most companies are simply using Google on an ad hoc basis for quick online searches on prospective employees and do little to monitor the online habits of potential and existing employees.
Social Intelligence Corp. takes personal information given to the company by its clients and uses its own software to search the web for user-generated content, collecting a broad array of links and categorizing data to generate matches. The data is reviewed manually by human beings and the company generates a report that only includes information an employer client has requested, filtering out legally sensitive information like a prospective employee’s sexual orientation, race or religion.
Operating as a consumer reporting agency, Social Intelligence Corp. says its social network screening process is compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The company says it does not engage in old-school spy tactics like social engineering. It does not, for example, try to friend people on Facebook, using only information made available on public profiles.
Federal law enforcement is apparently having trouble meeting its objectives by tracking online social networks. But according to Drucker, his company has had little trouble uncovering dirt on people. He says a person Social Intelligence Corp. investigated online was found to have a threatening photo on a MySpace page showing the individual holding a gun and making an aggressive pose. One investigated person left inappropriate and profane comments on a blog entry and another posted a racist video clip on a message board.
At age 36 Drucker says he founded Social Intelligence Corp. earlier this year and that he is backed by professional money. He declined to identify his financial backers. Drucker previously founded Steal Card, a software development company focused on creating web-based applications for insurance companies that was purchased by ChoicePoint in 2006 for an undisclosed sum. “People need to exercise good judgment and understand what they post publicly is public and an employer has a right to know about it,” says Drucker.
Companies already know a tremendous amount about you in the name of generating credit scores and assessing your risk not only for your employer, but also health insurers, mortgage lenders, banks, and the like. Privacy advocates have been losing battles for years, but outfits like Social Intelligence Corp. are certain to get their fair share of scrutiny.
Drucker claims that the standardized process Social Intelligence Corp is offering is better for everyone since companies have an obligation to assess employment risks. In addition, he rightly claims that it’s undeniable that companies are going to search the web to investigate prospective employees. Drucker says a company is particularly exposed to risk if it’s not conducting proper due diligence on an employee who is publicly behaving on the Internet in a way that indicates risk for the organization.
“You need to understand if you are a publicly-traded company and one of your employees is talking about that company in Yahoo finance message boards,” says Drucker. “If someone drinks alcohol that is not relevant for most employers, but if you are in the transportation industry, you don’t want a truck driver that has pictures of them partying on their Facebook profile.”
COMMENTARY: I find it amazing the type of startups that the social media revolution is sprouting. Sooner or later a company like Social Intelligence Corp (what an appropriate name) would rears its ugly head to assist employers in unearthing unsavory or "incriminating" things we are saying online about ourselves, former wives and girlfriends, products, companies, CEO's, etc. or images and videos we are uploading to Internet sites like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Social Intelligence Corp is the type of company that you often associate with the image of "Big Brother", akin to foreign dictatorships, the U.S. federal government and its clandestine organizations like the FBI, CIA, NSA that nose into our personal lives, tap our phone calls and intercept our email, and accumulate huge reams of data about our personal lives, in the hopes of finding something they can use against us.
It is my understanding from other articles I have read, that employers not only use credit bureau information, but are surfing the Web to find out about us and how we "behave" online, then use that information to determine whether they want to hire us. There is something definitely creepy and distasteful about these employer practices, and I believe that we should tighten Internet privacy laws and pass legislation to prevent this invasion into our personal lives
Mr. Drucker is quoted as saying, "People need to exercise good judgment and understand what they post publicly is public and an employer has a right to know about it.” I could not disagree more. This idea that whatever we say or post online can be used as "evidence" against us leaves me wondering whether anyone will ever be hired. I am sure we have all reluctantly said or posted things online, and I am definitely guilty of this, but to use that information to brand us as unhirable just plain stinks.
I am in the process of reviewing Social Intelligence Corp's website, and one of their services is Special Intelligence Monitoring. Here's how Mr. Drucker describes that service:
Once employees have been hired, their online behavior poses a possible threat to your company. Employees may criticize managers or coworkers on a social networking site, post questionable photos on a blog, or regularly update personal sites while on the clock. Therefore, it is vital that employers implement and enforce a strong social media policy.
- Active monitoring of publicly-available employee social media activity
- Real-time notifications and alerts
- Manual review of every flagged incident (of questionable content) by social media experts, prior to company review
- Customizable filters to monitor for company-specific activities
- Simple, easy-to-understand results
- Limits internal risks and legal liability from inside and outside parties
- Enforces your company’s social media policy
- Protects employees’ privacy while protecting the company
- Avoids potential disasters, such as company leaks and other forms of major corporate embarrassment
- Proactively identifies potential problems before they happen
Boy, the above is truly SCARY, not just CREEPY
If we can block our email addresses and telephone numbers from spammers, we ought to be able to block employers or government organizations from playing the "Big Brother" act on us. Write to your U.S. Congressman and Senator. Let's stop this practice before it gets totally out of hand.
Courtesy of an article dated October 2, 2010 appearing in Forbes