Big brother bursts onto the blogosphere

InternetSpyRemember that Drew University frat party photo you posted on your wall in 2007? 

How about the steamy text exchange with the woman you met at Del Frisco’s three years ago?

Or, what about the e-mail rants against affirmative action you posted on back in 2009?

Well, it's all fair game to prospective employers now that a year-old company called Social Intelligence is on the case. A new software solution that would make Sherlock Holmes green with envy and George Orwell recoil in disgust is being used by organizations near and far to pry into your innermost Internet intercourse (as in the conversation, not the deed).

Social Intelligence “…scrapes the Internet for everything prospective employees have said or done online in the past seven years.” That's right. It unearths EVERYTHING you've said or done on the web. EVERYTHING.

To make matters even worse, the Federal Trade Commission says this seeming invasion of privacy is perfectly legal and “…in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act,” whatever that is.

Max Drucker, the CEO of Social Intelligence, says his employees “…aren't detectives (at all). All (they) assemble is what is publicly available on the Internet today.” Right. And, the Gestapo was just a bunch of good-natured pencil pushers looking to find out whose Nazi party membership fees had lapsed. Gimme a break. 

I don't like this at all. And, I'm an EMPLOYER!

I definitely want to know if someone has broken the law or done something amazingly tawdry in his or her personal life. But, seven years is one helluva long time. I have to believe there isn't a single reader of this blog who hasn't done something in the last seven years that they'd rather not have a prospective employer see.

And, trust me. If you did it, Social Intelligence will find it. They go far beyond Facebook, Twitter and MySpace to conduct searches that unearth comments on blogs and smaller sites such as Tumblr, Yahoo user groups, e-commerce sites, bulletin boards and, yes, even Craig's List. Good Lord!

Big Brother has clearly arrived on the blogosphere, and it got me thinking.
Will we now lose otherwise stellar candidates because they once wore a toga to a party? And, how would some of history's greatest figures have fared if Social Intelligence had existed way back when:

– Would St. Peter have been recruited to the original group of Apostles if Christ had access to S.I.? Maybe. Christ was into forgiveness, not casting the first stone and all that. But, if Jesus had had a human resources manager on staff, Peter (nee Saul) never would have made it to a first interview.
– Would Thomas Jefferson, who sired numerous children with his slave, Sally Hemmings, been elected to two terms as president? Ditto for JFK, FDR, W, Slick Willy and other presidents who misbehaved long before they entered the Oval Office.

On the other hand, S.I. might have prevented the likes of Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin from rising to power.

So, color me very concerned, but open to arguments as to why corporate America needs Social Intelligence. What about you? Would you be cool with someone digging deep into your entire online world while you were job searching? And, for you corporate types, do you think S.I. steps over the line and is, in fact, an invasion of privacy? Would you be able to support it from an ethical standpoint?

I'd ask more questions, but Ed and I need to do a deep Internet dive right now on a prospective account supervisor's personal life. Seems she once dated a member of Hamas. Does that disqualify her, or make her even more attractive since she understands how a different culture acts and thinks?

11 thoughts on “Big brother bursts onto the blogosphere

  1. Point made, Julie. But, some human resource managers see themselves as private detectives who, by uncovering a photograph of a young Ed Moed cavorting at a Drew University frat party, believe it will make her look like a hero to her direct reports.

  2. Call me old-fashioned, but wouldn’t it be more advantageous for employers to judge prospective employees on their work experience — rather than their FICO scores and seven-year old blog posts?
    Any recruiters reading RepMan should feel free to ignore this message… it has no bearing on my qualifications for the job.

  3. Ignorance is no excuse. Just because someone did know then, or is too stupid to know now, doesn’t make it an invasion of privacy. The internet never was and never will be private.

  4. So much for “letting down your hair” in the internet age. Girl can’t even puke without someone posting it on facebook. Good employees will always find work even if there is some “questionable” social media out there. I would be suspect if the applicant worked for the social intelligence network, that’s for sure.

  5. Ah, but there’s the rub, Bubbles. Yes, we should all now know that nothing whatsoever is private. But, Social Intelligence checks as far back as the year 2003. Tell me you knew back then that everything you wrote or posted would be one day seen by any and all prospective employers. I guarantee you 99 percent of the Internet world at the time did not. And, that’s where invasion of privacy comes in.

  6. OK we have established the fact that the world is riddled with publicity crazy people. Look at reality TV and the insane, dangerous and sometimes illegal stunts people post on YouTube. The point is that how we represent ourselves to the public speaks volumes about ourselves. And I think it’s fair game for employers to use any tool available to learn as much as they can about a prospective employee. It’s the same as buying a product because all your friends recommend it rather than because of it’s self-promoting advertising. How do we advertise ourselves? By some snazzy I-saved-the-world resume, or by chugging a bucket of beer throwing up and posting the pic on Facebook?