Social Background Checks Okayed by the FTC

Searching for employment is a stressful task – never mind if there is a great or poor economy and job market. It can take a long time to find the jobs you think you could be qualified for, send off the resumes, never mind the waiting game you have to play once you’ve sent off your resumes for qualified positions.

Then the phone call or email comes, inviting you into the office or to hop on a conference call for an interview. You fix your hair, put on your best outfit, go to the interview, and thirty minutes to an hour you walk out of the office building or hang up the phone feeling like you’re on top of the world. Deciding that you need to celebrate, you go home, make a sandwich, and open up your Facebook page.

There they are – those pictures from Spring Break in Mexico, staring back at you like a black thumb on your otherwise perfect record. It was just one night and you were celebrating your recent accomplishments. Surely your potential employer won’t look at this page to make a judgment on your ability to perform the job.

Actually, there is a very good chance that your potential employer might just do that in your background checks. The US Federal Trade Commission has given the OK to Social Intelligence Corporation to archive up to seven years of your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube movements to be used as part of their background investigation services. The FTC has also ruled that this information can be used as part of a potential employer’s determination to hire you for a job or not.

According to the ruling, if your employer uses Social Intelligence to perform the background checks and one of your social media updates (or, well, many) is the reason for you not getting a job, you must be notified as to why. You are then allowed to dispute the records if you feel the social faux paus was through “no fault of your own” (whatever that means)

The ruling means that not only do you need to be aware of what you’re putting on social networks; it also means that you need to be aware of your privacy settings. Facebook, in recent months, has been in the spotlight about changing their privacy settings and the access that third party advertisers have to your profiles and pictures.

We talk a lot about online reputation management and how to protect yourself against websites that are created to make your business look bad or reviews that are left on products and services that are designed to paint your business in a bad light. This ruling from the FTC means that we all have to step back and take a look at our personal reputation management, and know what is out there about us as individuals. Do you know what photos are tagged with your name? How about Twitter or YouTube? When was the last time you did a Google search for yourself and what did you do about it?