Earlier this month, Gizmodo.com Senior Reporter Mat Honan reportedly failed his own Social Media Background Check (SMBC) when six Gizmodo employees decided to test their own “Internet innocence.” They wanted to know: What exactly is this strange, new screening tool? Here’s what they found, according to Honan:
Social Intelligence, a new company on the HR front, has recently been granted legal authority by the Federal Trade Commission to relieve executives from lawsuits that can arise (and they do) when an employer “Googles” job candidates for illicit content that they have posted on the Internet. Now the employer simply sends Social Intelligence (SI) the information that you put on your résumé (i.e., your name, home town, university). From there, SI people conduct your SMBC, scanning up to 7 years of your social media activity, including past blogs, comments, and pictures.
So how exactly did Mr. Honan fail? For now, let’s just say he failed in a big way. Posts about drug use, excessive partying, and other comments (whether serious or sarcastic) caused Mat’s case to come up guilty. Reflecting on his report, Honan writes:
“Mine's filled with delightful details, like ‘subject admits to use of cocaine as well as LSD,’ and ‘subject references use of Ketamine.’ Basically, I may never work again.”
Honan’s advice? “You should both freak out about and embrace it.” And set your accounts to the strictest privacy settings available. Whether it’s progress for employers or just another step toward Big Brother, SI has appointed itself referee in the fight for work amidst a highly competitive job market.
As Honan learned the hard way, there is a lot more to your “online self” than you may be aware, and certainly more than you would want a potential employer to see. That’s why SI has launched the SMBC as a legally safe product by which the company may screen up to 7 years of past blogs, posts, and pictures for anyone whose résumé is sent in by an employer. The employer simply takes the information that you (yes, YOU) provide in your application (i.e., your name, address, university) and sends this information to SI where real people (SI employees) dig up the dirt about all that you do and say on the Internet.
The one exception from the report that SI generates has to do with pictures that reveal your race (i.e., your skin color), which are all blocked out when they appear in SMBC files, so as to prevent issues of discriminatory hiring from rising on the basis of their reports.