Monitoring Employees' Online Behavior

Not their online behavior at work, but their online behavior in life.

Using automation software that slogs through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs, and "thousands of other sources," the company develops a report on the "real you" --- not the carefully crafted you in your resume. The service is called Social Intelligence Hiring. The company promises a 48-hour turn-around.

[...]

The reports feature a visual snapshot of what kind of person you are, evaluating you in categories like "Poor Judgment," "Gangs," "Drugs and Drug Lingo" and "Demonstrating Potentially Violent Behavior." The company mines for rich nuggets of raw sewage in the form of racy photos, unguarded commentary about drugs and alcohol and much more.

The company also offers a separate Social Intelligence Monitoring service to watch the personal activity of existing employees on an ongoing basis.... The service provides real-time notification alerts, so presumably the moment your old college buddy tags an old photo of you naked, drunk and armed on Facebook, the boss gets a text message with a link.

This is being sold using fear:

...company spokespeople emphasize liability. What happens if one of your employees freaks out, comes to work and starts threatening coworkers with a samurai sword? You'll be held responsible because all of the signs of such behavior were clear for all to see on public Facebook pages. That's why you should scan every prospective hire and run continued scans on every existing employee.

In other words, they make the case that now that people use social networks, companies will be expected (by shareholders, etc.) to monitor those services and protect the company from lawsuits, damage to reputation, and other harm.

Posted on October 4, 2010 at 6:31 AM • 89 Comments

Comments

ThomasOctober 4, 2010 6:50 AM

How long before someone offers the complimentary "we produce a fake 'you' on social networking sites" service?

Mace MonetaOctober 4, 2010 6:50 AM

"Using automation software that slogs through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs, and "thousands of other sources..."

I think they're trying to say that they Google them.

Joe AbbeyOctober 4, 2010 6:58 AM

"What happens if one of your employees freaks out, comes to work and starts threatening coworkers with a samurai sword?"

Automated Ninja Detection.... Good luck with that.

GweihirOctober 4, 2010 7:10 AM

I do not think there is a computationally effective definition of "poor judgment". Otherwise we could get rid of businesses like these (and most politicians) automatically....

wiredogOctober 4, 2010 7:15 AM

This is why I post as "wiredog" everywhere except FB, and only post mild things there.

It helps that if you google for $MyRealName you get 15 million or so results, and none of the first several pages are me. If you google for $NameEveryoneCallsMe you get 100 million results, and discover that my name is also a common name for a product class. It's like googling for "joe suitcases"

MMOctober 4, 2010 7:19 AM

This is why I'm glad to share my name with a (fading) Hollywood star. Makes me worry a little less about a potential employer tracking me down online. That doesn't work for everyone though.

RandyOctober 4, 2010 7:21 AM

It sounds like to me that the *easiest* thing for companies to do would be to *ignore* everything online. Then they could say, "We never monitor the online behavior of any of our employees. We care only about their at-work performance."

If a company judges their employees online activities then they have to judge them perfectly. It's easier not to do it.

BobSmithOctober 4, 2010 7:22 AM

@mlwilki - Refuse to be terrorized.

@Thomas - You would probably find that their sister company offers exactly that service. It then because the fight between the two clients to see who is more motivated (financially).

RandyOctober 4, 2010 7:25 AM

@wiredog:

At best there are *two* people with *my* full name. However, like everything that's good and bad.

BF SkinnerOctober 4, 2010 7:30 AM

Assessments are done with the record and personal interviews.
The 'record' collected here is prone to errors, exageration, confabulation, preverication; not authoritative.
People put what they want to be on FB not what they are.
Record can never be challenged or corrected for errors.
When will we see someone convicted of crime they post on FB?

wiredogs strategy valid.
Internet anonymity necessary for free speech.

Things to do today...
Watch for laws restricting tor and proxies.
Lie to facebook.

terenceOctober 4, 2010 7:41 AM

The Fed's have been doing this kinda stuff for years (wholesale data-mining & profiling everybody) to "protect" the nation.

So what's the big deal over some small private company doing a tiny, tiny bit of similar profiling ??

Of course, the Feds monitor ALL your phone calls, internet activity, banking & financial actions, credit card purchases, travel, political activity, USPS mail, etc., etc.

By now Homeland Security/NSA have a detailed digital dossier on you ... everybody you know, and everybody you ever will know.

Relax -- what possible harm could come from all this {?}

PhillipOctober 4, 2010 7:43 AM

Another good reason I'm not on Facebook -- at all.

That being said, I do belong to Michigan Open Carry, a group of Gun toaters. I don't use my real name for online purposes there.

DayOwlOctober 4, 2010 7:46 AM

Despite the fact that even the most knowledgeable and experienced psychologists cannot predict who really presents a threat and who merely mouths them, you the Human Resources director, will be expected to know who among your employees might present a threat to the company some day, even though it isn't actually possible to know!

Soon all of the Human Resources filtering software will disqualify any and all potential employees for employment. This will open a whole new field for robotic employees programmed to your specifications. No more worrying about the .0000000001% chance that an employee will flip out on you. We guarantee that all propensities toward acting like humans will be screened out before you make that essential hiring decision based on our recommendations.

TheDoctorOctober 4, 2010 7:48 AM

Hehe,

I┬┤m invisible with my real name and non-unique with my nick...

...so whoever uses (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn) gets what he/she deserves

Jean-Marc LiotierOctober 4, 2010 7:59 AM

I'm whoever I am - and it is public knowledge. If you don't like it, it will be best for both of us that we don't work together. Why settle for anything less ?

Hum HoOctober 4, 2010 8:09 AM

Actually no need to wait for a "we produce a fake 'you' on social networking sites" service...one can start creating a fake self on ones own...

Take for example a nice, professional looking Facebook page where one "brings up" (invents) accomplishments that never happened. Then combine that with similar fake info in LinkedIn and other locations.

A good tip is to make it look like a lot of "accomplishments" were made abroad, so if your target jobs are in USA, make it look like you did great deeds in UK, Australia, and other respected countries.

Besides the adage "a prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown" also applies to other "experts" (someone once said that a person is automatically an expert when he is more than 100km from his home).

Clive RobinsonOctober 4, 2010 8:12 AM

@ DayOwl,

"We guarantee that all propensitie toward acting like humans will be screened out"

So no rules of the jungle rule, no morals or compassion or hesitation to go for the target and eliminate all oposition and competition.

Sounds like an ideal hire for some places but not most.

Dave FunkOctober 4, 2010 8:18 AM

If your facebook account has questionable entries, you would probably not be a good fit at a company that would go looking for such. If you have pictures of toga parties, you may think you would like the money, but in reality, if you went to work for a stoggy blue-blood insurance firm as a junior exec, you and the company would probaby not be very happy.
On the other hand, there is another Dave Funk out there (probably more than one.) How do I avoid not being hired because of his facebook account. Again, I'm probably happier not working for that company.

jacobOctober 4, 2010 8:34 AM

Weird. I thought serfdom and indentured servant contracts ended in the middle ages. Apparently not so in the modern age. In the name of profit, protection from terrorists, and of course the children everybody from the government, employees, to the local HOA needs/wants/will get all information about you that they can. In the 19th century all we had to worry about was the local gossiping wimmens (sp).
They want your online behavior, thoughts, and inventory of your personal effects. They want to randomly xray you and your car from afar, and up close and personal at the airport. They want to know what you buy and sell (not just for tax purposes). The modern society? oh yeah...wimper.

jacobOctober 4, 2010 8:41 AM

sorry meant to say. The only thing truly private nowadays is your own internal thoughts. You better not write, blog, talk on the phone, or otherwise communicate what you really think. Didn't Mike and the Mechanics write a song about that?? "swear allegiance to any flag they wave, never indicate what you really feel". obscure 80s reference. LOL

Dave Funk 2ndOctober 4, 2010 8:46 AM

@Dave Funk:

Nice to meet you! We have the same name...maybe...

I wonder *how* this company intends to determine which persona is for which real person? Age? Location? That seems intractable and error prone. Some American names like Robert Jones would be impossible...wouldn't they?

I wonder if I can sue an employer that uses this service for wrongful termination? Or discrimination?

Randy - oppps.

HJohnOctober 4, 2010 9:31 AM

This seems to be a good fit for Redesk's quote of the day for yesterday:

"Technology makes it possible for people to gain control over everything, except over technology." - John Tudor

karrdeOctober 4, 2010 9:33 AM

This appears to be a logical extension of earlier stories (2-4 years ago, if my hazy memory has the date right).

Those earlier stories had a recently-hired person from HR looking at new job applicants, finding them on FaceBook, and recommending against people who had photos of partying with alcohol and/or marijuana.

I wonder, if this current idea is being done at the Hiring phase, or if it is being done at Yearly Job Review phase?

As a note to people with common names: sure, there are 100,000 other John Smith's on the internet. How many live in the city you live in? How many are of your age? If the name/age/location combination is visible to a search engine, or can be data-mined out of a pool of search engine data, then you aren't covered as well as you think you are.

I'm now wodering if there's a direct search-engine method of peircing the Privacy settings on Facebook (or any other social media site).

I do know that a (potential or current) employee is typically known to HR by Name/Current-Address/Age/School-Last-Attended/Year-Of-Graduation.

That combination might yield some data if the searchers are willing to browse through all the publicly-available FaceBook data from other people in the same School-Last-Attended/Year-Of-Graduation category.

If an automated version of this search is available, it would be attempted, even if the results are known to be scattered and noisy.

robOctober 4, 2010 9:37 AM

"Take for example a nice, professional looking Facebook page where one "brings up" (invents) accomplishments that never happened."

Yeah, we have politicians who do this already, O'Donnell is only the most recent example.

jay steeleOctober 4, 2010 9:49 AM

I see this as backfiring. If a company collects so much information on a person what is their liability IF that person ever does something wrong? Right now companies can claim ignorance about their employees lives outside of the company, but if they are actively mining their lives then they become a type of expert. If that employee then commits a crime (especially affecting another employee) then the company may be liable for not being proactive in removing the employee or preventing the crime.

And of course there is the age old question - who watches the watchers?

Angel OneOctober 4, 2010 9:52 AM

I wonder what happens the first time someone with the same name as someone with violent tendancies (or whatever) gets turned down for a job because this software couldn't tell one "John Smith" from another.

bob (the original bob)October 4, 2010 9:53 AM

So if they are "all about protecting the company from liability"; who then will be liable when someone is turned down for a job on the weight of this evidence and the non-hiring company is sued because these guys looked up and reported on the wrong bob?


Watt R WordsworthOctober 4, 2010 9:54 AM

In victorian times, when people in my country typically had one employer for life, the employer was frequently also the guardian of the employee's moral life. A dismissed employee would not easily walk into a new job. All that sort of thing vanished for most people along with the urban explosion, increased mobility and social welfare.
Communications technology is bringing back the small-minded aspects of village life, without restoring its pleasures.

jjacobsOctober 4, 2010 9:56 AM

George Orwell is laughing himself silly right now (or sobbing uncontrollably).

HJohnOctober 4, 2010 9:58 AM

@jay steele: "I see this as backfiring. If a company collects so much information on a person what is their liability IF that person ever does something wrong? "
__________

Unfortunately, that may change from day to day. It used to be a company was liable if they knew of something in an employees background.

Then it became they were liable if there was something they reasonable should have known (presumably because some companies didn't check backgrounds to limit liability, and partly because of sue happy trial lawyers).

Who knows where it will go next. Seems there are so many contradictory laws and rules, perhaps by design, so no matter what one does they are guilty of something.

Fred POctober 4, 2010 10:08 AM

People actually both use their real names and single identities on the internet?

How strange!

Peter A.October 4, 2010 10:09 AM

This is madness. The blame of a crime, felony, misconduct, whatever lays squarely on the perpetrator - not on his parents, tutors, bosses, the bad society which failed to educate him etc. etc.

Errr... wait! It could be useful! let's hold the President responsible for not stopping any and all petty crime, he has all the CIA, DHS, FBI, DEA, NSA, etc. etc. etc. - he should have seen it coming!

HJohnOctober 4, 2010 10:26 AM

@Peter A: "This is madness. The blame of a crime, felony, misconduct, whatever lays squarely on the perpetrator - not on his parents, tutors, bosses, the bad society which failed to educate him etc. etc."
__________

Pretty much. I can see where it would be unwise to put a convicted embezzler in charge of petty cash, in such a case the company would be negligent if not liable. However, to say the company should have known just because an employee complained of financial problems on facebook is nonsense.

In government, it is different. Usually, the "connect the dots" argument is more about political positioning than logical culpability. It's easy to see when that is the case, because the same people argue the complete opposite when someone else is in the hot seat.

scottOctober 4, 2010 10:30 AM

I can think of a couple guards against this kind of thing, but neither of them are technical.

They are both audit systems (of a sort) working 'after the fact' to diminish the effect of tools like this.

The first is simple relationship - employers who abuse these tools will be surprised to find that, over time, people don't want to work for them.

The second is the natural distribution. If you were to use this sort of tool extensively, I think you would find that everyone has dirty laundry, and that 'dirt on the internet' is not always a good hiring/firing criteria, because, hey, you can't sack *everybody*.

If you're wise enough to correctly interpret and infer character from scraped internet data, you're probably wise enough to be able to just hire well from standard interviews.

The greater danger is that it will take many years for standard business books to start taking up the phrase, "Internet sniffing tools must be used with sober discretion, as they have the potential to severely jeopardize working relationships, and provide limited true value."

Simple moral behaviour would, of course, solve the issue.
In a world of the voyeur employer, a company that establishes actual trust with its employees will make a killing.

Imperfect CitizenOctober 4, 2010 10:50 AM

Great article.
@terrance
Its not just that the feds are doing it, and now employers, another creepy aspect is how the info is handled when you are one of the data mined people. There is no accountability for how your personal information is handled even when the feds are calling you a domestic terrorist and they are using the Patriot Act to get information that isn't even on google. Contractors handling the info have no accountability, at least I haven't seen it and I'm a target they blab in front of. It was especially heartwarming to hear my confession to a priest bandied about in three other cities by observers. Its far worse than just a digital dossier.

HJohnOctober 4, 2010 11:01 AM

Only valid use I really see for Facebook or other online snooping is when it actually involves violation of office policies. For example, if a person calls in sick and later they are posting pictures of themselves at the ball game, it is absolutely the company's business. Also, anything posted from the office during work hours becomes fair game since they are using the Office's resources on office time.

This will no doubt be abused though.

Lan ColshawOctober 4, 2010 11:07 AM

@DayOwl "No more worrying about the .0000000001% chance that an employee will flip out on you"

Robots run on software. There isn't a software product in existence with anywhere near that reliability.

MailmanOctober 4, 2010 11:16 AM

Once a company starts monitoring their employees' online behaviour, IF something happens, they will possibly be held liable because they "should have seen it coming."

However, if they just respect their employees' right to be left alone once they leave the workplace, and don't try to monitor them outside, then I see no reason why they should be held liable.

AlanOctober 4, 2010 11:22 AM

I had an interesting experience with name collision eight years ago when I traded in my previous state's driver's license for one in the state I moved to.

The examiner looked up my info, then showed me the computer screen and asked me if I knew anything about "this": someone with my same first name, middle initial, last name, and date of birth - precisely one decade off - who had a license permanently suspended in a neighboring state. It was obvious that it wasn't me by the age, so she got a supervisor to sign off on it.

It probably was a breach of that person's privacy to show me the info, because I now know who to blame for anything illegal I might do!

Just Another SchmoOctober 4, 2010 11:25 AM

What happens if the mined data reveals the candidate or employee is a member of a federally protected class, such as ethnicity or religion? Suddenly it becomes a lot easier to claim discrimination.

mcbOctober 4, 2010 11:26 AM

@ Joe Abbey

"Automated Ninja Detection.... Good luck with that."

We have the systems to detect ninjas once they arrive...this purported service is "inclination to become a ninja detection." Yeah, good luck with that too.

This thread seems to be focusing (correctly) on the social and business impact of false positives. Having seen the The Social Network (good flick BTW) this weekend, it occurs to me that some of the brightest minds in the business world would have been summarily judged as unemployable if a sufficiently detailed pre-employment background investigation had been conducted.

What about the risk to a pre-crime detection service that provides a false negative about the next Seung-Hui Cho? No doubt that will be addressed in 8 point legalese across a multi-page "terms of service/can't touch us disclaimer."

It should go without saying that pre-screening is only one step of an effective employee selection, training, development, and leadership process. Unfortunately, the sorts of people who will be most attracted to the notion of pre-crime investigation are not the people who know that goes without saying.

Just Another SchmoOctober 4, 2010 11:28 AM

@HJohn - How do you know the posting during the day took place using office equipment, and wasn't during a break?

One can easily SMS a status update during a smoke break.

BF SkinnerOctober 4, 2010 12:18 PM

@imperfect citizen "Contractors handling the info have no accountability,"

Within the larger case, IC, of there being not enough accountability for agencies, perhaps not.

But contractors are generally held to account for their contract deliverables and clauses. Contract employees who misbehave are handled in one of two way. The Gov't forbids them access to the place of performance and then the contractor finds them other work or fires them.

There has been a trend since 2000 where contractors ARE getting more power in their contracts than their nominal bosses the CO/COTR. I know of at least one case that made the news where the contractor Halliburton had, either it was an IG or COTR, removed and downgraded.

But the degree of behavior is generally not specified to a granular level. Of course...if they are talking in front of you it could be they are disclosing classified information (about you) in front of
someone not cleared to recieve it (you again).

Wear a wire. catch them out on it and report them to either their supervisors/COTR or the media. It won't change your over all condition because that's structural but you can have some fun tormenting the piece you can grab...the lackies. Check to make sure you only do this in a state with one party consent laws.
Maybe Maryland. Maryland threw out the case of the motorcyclist who videotaped his own arrest.

@ Joe Abbey, @mcb
"Automated Ninja Detection.... Good luck with that."

Not Ninja that's hard. Samurai. Samurai are easier.

HJohnOctober 4, 2010 12:21 PM

@Just Another Schmo: How do you know the posting during the day took place using office equipment, and wasn't during a break? One can easily SMS a status update during a smoke break.
_________

If the update is detected through the internal monitoring software or on the employees internet history on their workstation. If they update on break through their own device, it shouldn't be the companies business, barring something grossly unusual.

mcbOctober 4, 2010 12:42 PM

There is a quaint cluelessness to their marketing. On their media and events page http://www.socialintelligencehr.com/events they link to a half dozen articles, most of them skeptical, several down-right negative. So long as Max Drucker, the founder and CEO of Social Intelligence, gets quoted in the articles they treat it like good publicity.

In Fast Company's article "Meet the Big Brother Screening Your Social Media for Employers" by Austin Carr http://www.fastcompany.com/1692172/... Drucker is asked whether he has applied his company's process to himself?

"Well no, I'm CEO," he says, chuckling. "I created the company!"

paulOctober 4, 2010 12:44 PM

This is really pretty brilliant as scams go. You market to employers based on fear, and then you go after individuals, offering a service whereby they can "verify" the information you're collecting and get false information purged. And of course anyone who uses pseudonyms or privacy settings that don't allow full collection will come up as suspiciously blank...

mcbOctober 4, 2010 12:48 PM

@ BF Skinner

"Not Ninja that's hard. Samurai. Samurai are easier."

You want hard? Try stopping the housekeeper.

Zygmunt LozinskiOctober 4, 2010 12:52 PM

Every time I see discussions about using overt behaviour (social networking or any other) to determine suitability for employment, I am reminded of the following quote:

'I knew my people very well. Some were horse players, several were skirt chasers, a few were not always prompt about paying thier bills.
For all I knew some of my best people might be part-time transvestites.
I had no doubt that some of the younger ones may have indulged in
"recreational drugs", like toking marijuana at rock shows.
Any of these "sins" could sink a valuable worker.'

The quote is from Ben E Rich: Director of Lockheed's Skunk Works from 1975 to 1991.

Leadership, and managing for exceptional performance is not the same thing as managing by the book for medocre performance.

mcbOctober 4, 2010 12:59 PM

I put a few questions to Social Intelligence via their Contact Us page just now:

How do you address responsibility to a client in the case of false negative finding?

How do you detect information regarding candidates who use alias when posting in social media?

Do you plan ever to sell candidates access to your service so prospective employees can determine what you will tell potential employers?

Let's see what they have to say.

absentOctober 4, 2010 1:09 PM

@paul--And of course anyone who uses pseudonyms or privacy settings that don't allow full collection will come up as suspiciously blank...

You bring up an interesting point. If an employer sees that "Candidate A" drinks a lot, and owns lots of firearms, they may not want to hire him.

If "Candidate B" doesn't have an online presence at all, they know less about him than "Candidate A", which may concern them more.

However... If "Candidate B" doesn't have an online presence because he is privacy-aware, he may be the better choice, since if he protects his own privacy, he may be more protective of company secrets, which is exactly the type of employee the company desires.

AppSecOctober 4, 2010 1:29 PM

@absent: "However... If "Candidate B" doesn't have an online presence because he is privacy-aware, he may be the better choice, since if he protects his own privacy, he may be more protective of company secrets, which is exactly the type of employee the company desires."

Or (s)he could have an online presence which is untraceable and (s)he has diclosed corporate details/information.

Davi OttenheimerOctober 4, 2010 1:33 PM

On the bright side maybe more awareness of what constitutes real life will reduce false pride and inflated morality...a shift is possible, even if remote.

Not meOctober 4, 2010 2:02 PM

And Facebook accounts are valid identification.

More disturbing is when you are not hired because you cannot be found on the web.

averrosOctober 4, 2010 2:59 PM

If you don't get hired because an employer doesn't like your facebook wall page, well....

you'd probably be much better off by choosing a different employer.

The corporate idiots will simply discriminate themselves out of services of the best employees (and the best tend to be less-than-traditional in their personal tastes - I personally know quite a few top software people, and many of them do recreational drugs, visit raves, have girlfriends with brightly colored hair, engage in BDSM, go to swinger parties, are bi or homosexual, etc).

ZidOctober 4, 2010 3:23 PM

The problem with this is that there are a lot of people who have the same name as me.

Are they going to credit me for poor judgment or something because one of those folks really, really likes beer?

Mark ZuckerbergOctober 4, 2010 3:35 PM

Yeah, if you're not careful people can think you're someone else and misattribute. Elves are sexy.

Dr. I. Needtob AtheOctober 4, 2010 3:55 PM

"What happens if one of your employees freaks out, comes to work and starts threatening coworkers with a samurai sword?"

Eek! And I've been discussing online how much I like Akira Kurosawa movies! I'm screwed.

Trichinosis USAOctober 4, 2010 4:13 PM

Anyone who thinks your politics or religion don't matter when looking for a job, this makes it official. The Sheriff of Nottingham is hiring; no Saxons need apply.

Dr. TOctober 4, 2010 4:49 PM

Far too many companies are using drug tests, internet searches, and social network parsing in place of good, solid interviewing (a point made by scott in a previous comment). Some companies use random drug tests and annual internet searches in place of good, solid evaluations of current employees.

Why is this happening? I believe it is because most "professionals" in personnel* are idiots who could never become engineers, scientists, programmers, accountants, or even administrators. Because these idiots do not know how to interview and assess employees or potential employees, they recommend the use of alternate methods of judging character. Most workplaces would be better off eliminating their personnel departments and teaching managers and supervisors good interview and evaluation techniques.

* I loathe the phrase "human resources" because it implies that employees are no different than iron ore. The federal government and some corporations also use the phrase "human capital" that implies that employees are owned property.

Peter MaxwellOctober 4, 2010 6:03 PM

@Watt R Wordsworth at October 4, 2010 9:54 AM

To a certain extent that has been and still is the situation in Scotland; perhaps not "intrusively" but employers here do hold a lot of sway. The Scottish economy is small enough that within a given field, most people either know each other or know of each other. Your future career prospects can potentially be irrevocably damaged by one manager. Although, the converse also applies: if enough people know you and you are decent/competent then anyone bad mouthing you stands out.

-------------

Back to the original post. If this "service" was created in the UK, I can imagine the employer and potentially the company supplying such service being open to legal action.

i) the report provided to the employer would be recoverable by a court in any proceedings - whether that be an Employment Tribunal, Sheriff Court, County Court, etc - and would likely be foundation for a defamation/damages due to loss of future earnings claim against the company providing the service;

ii) the data held would fall under the provisions of the Data Protection Act, and as such must be correct, so relying on third-party hearsay (facebook friends, etc) is going to land them in hot water;

iii) it is often trivial to create an online identity with someone else's image, so if data is collected from fake profiles then (i) and (ii) are futhered;

iv) the mere act of using such a "predictive" service and then acting upon it would suggest the employer believes the prospective employee to be dangerous in some manner without any substantive proof of the same - again I'm sure a damages claim lies there;

v) some mental illnesses, which are classified as disabilities for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act, could potentially aggrivate alcohol/drug use or at least the expression of desires thereof - if it does not affect the ability of the employee to perform "core duties" then there may be a discrimination claim there as well.


I'm sure if this were thought about, there'd be at least five times this number of potential problems. And that's before considering the ethical or moral rights and wrongs.

I also wonder how pleased the employer would be if a potential employee had the company directors assessed by a private investigator? After all, most of us want to work for companies that are respectable and ran by competent, law abiding, people.

Has trust really gone that out of fashion?


edOctober 4, 2010 8:58 PM

I was thinking of taking donations to have them produce a hirability profile of Bruce.

DavidOctober 4, 2010 9:07 PM

If a company decided not to hire me because of something 'questionable' I said on Twitter or FB that's fine as this isn't a company I'd want to work for in the first place.

A ReaderOctober 4, 2010 10:19 PM

"...company spokespeople emphasize liability. What happens if one of your employees freaks out, comes to work and starts threatening coworkers with a samurai sword?"

Regarding surveillance and workplace security:

In the book "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser (published by Harper Perennial), the issue of fast food restaurants being targeted by robbers is mentioned. Most of the robberies involve current or former employees. Among other things, from what one remembers, it was said that reducing employee turnover and paying decent wages would be more effective at reducing robberies than would an increase in things like hidden security cameras.

Jack StiekemaOctober 5, 2010 1:29 AM

Here in the EU we work hard and have no time to fill those stupid webpages.
Using multiple identities is an other one, as we separate private life from work :-)

fullbirdmusicOctober 5, 2010 3:05 AM

I wonder if the companies considering this service would want to see the cost/benefit analysis of monitoring all that behavior.
What's the benefit of knowing Joe Snuffy got drunk last weekend? Everybody knows the higher-ups are the biggest screw-ups in most companies anyway!

JROctober 5, 2010 7:25 AM

Did anybody thing about exploiting this?

Like posting some ridiculous info online and if company fires you, file for wrongful termination. It may get a bit expensive.

paulOctober 5, 2010 9:38 AM

@Peter Maxwell: There was a company in GB that advertised a service to find out whether a prospective employee had filed complaints against a previous employer or otherwise acted as a troublemaker. Emphasis on "was". When the story came out, every major company on their client list denied ever having used them.

They clearly set up in the wrong jurisdiction.

mcbOctober 5, 2010 4:40 PM

I received an prompt email reply from Social Intelligence this morning addressing the following questions:

Q - How do you address responsibility to a client in the case of false negative finding?

A - We only furnish accurate reports that have met our strict review to ensure accuracy; however, in a case where an applicant disputes the results we do have a documented dispute resolution process.

Q - How do you detect information regarding candidates who use alias when posting in social media?

A - Our system identifies aliases using triangulation based on the information provided to us by an employer.

Q - Do you plan ever to sell candidates access to your service so prospective employees can determine what you will tell potential employers?

A - No, we do not offer a consumer product and do not plan on offering one in the future.

Peter MaxwellOctober 5, 2010 5:01 PM

@paul at October 5, 2010 9:38 AM:

"There was a company in GB that advertised a service to find out whether a prospective employee had filed complaints against a previous employer or otherwise acted as a troublemaker."

Until about five years ago it was fairly easy for anyone to do just that, as one could make an appointment and go into the Employment Tribunal offices to search their computer database for previous cases. They removed that facility to protect people from future employers discriminating by doing just that, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, it also works in reverse: you cannot search a potential employer to see if they leave a trail of unfair dismissals. Anything that hits an appellate court is still searchable though, either through the Employment Appeals Tribunal website, Bailii, etc.

doubterOctober 6, 2010 9:09 AM

"A - Our system identifies aliases using triangulation based on the information provided to us by an employer."

Hmmmm, I don't believe it.

If job candidates keep quiet about their online aliases, and tell no one, I seriously doubt that Social Intelligence can "triangulate" the data they have about the candidate from the minimal data the candidate provided the employter through CVs, resumes, cover letters, and face-to-face interviews.

anonymous personOctober 6, 2010 10:01 AM

While this seems like a major issue currently, I can't imagine that it will be that big of a deal after 10 or 20 years of people putting information they shouldn't have on social networking sites. Before too long, we will all have skeletons in our social closets.

Blinky the HitmanOctober 6, 2010 10:03 AM

@doubter

I nailed a guy one time, and all I had on him was that his first name was Bob and he worked for a municipal government somewhere in Southern California and he might be into bondage.

Took 20 minutes, even though Bob was being pretty careful. Then again, I write my own investigative software. And, to be fair, most "careful" people take 45 minutes to 2 hours.

A trained, experienced investigator with really powerful software can do this, but I seriously doubt that these clowns can do it in bulk *and* properly disambiguate for any kind of price even a large company would be willing to pay.

jacobOctober 6, 2010 10:07 AM

my periodic rants aside, I have a question. recently, it was discussed about the government needing the ability to wiretap all comms. This includes crackberry, facebook, etc. Then, this morning the news talked about the recent audio tapes by bin laden and lackeys. The subjects mentioned was the eifel tower and prince harry as possible targets. they said it could be just code for actual targets. Am I the only one who sees a problem? Let the government wiretap and telling hackers there is a backdoor to go for, but wait it all could be a code and therefore meanlingless. I'll go back to checking my tin foil hat for fit and comfort.....

ElliottOctober 6, 2010 12:57 PM

It sounds like this could be abused fairly easily. If you don't like someone in particular--especially if that person doesn't have much of an online presence--you could build a fake set of accounts for them and post whatever you wish.

And, if you know just a few details about someone and have their picture, you could get quite a few of their legitimate, real-world friends as facebook friends, too.

It wouldn't be too hard to photoshop faces into incriminating pictures to post around, etc.

-Elliott

ParanoidOctober 7, 2010 12:13 PM

I knew all that paranoia would eventually pay off. I haven't used my real name on the internet more than a half dozen times (unless I had to pay for something). I've only ever found one picture of me.

In retrospect it might have been fun to go to some of those parties where "Poor Judgment" took place.

psaOctober 15, 2010 10:55 AM

I have an unusual full name but not so unusual that there are four of us with an active web footprint: Me, the has-been tech writer; a film crew guy who worked with Cirque a while back (whom I met, nice guy); an up and coming photographer; and a real nasty, crude rightwingnut who trolls and flames all around.

I guess this is now more of a problem than it used to be...

hotcha23October 15, 2010 5:32 PM

@psa

We has-been tech writers need to stick together.

I also have an unusual full name, which I will not reveal here. It's distressing to me that employers these days care more about this sort of BS than who can do the job efficiently and elegantly.

{Sigh}

TansOctober 17, 2010 6:43 PM

Interesting to see the repeated 'I'm not on facebook so it can't worry me' when your friends/enemies can all tag photos sussposedly of you, or write about you and have it picked up by the above service.

ParanoidOctober 27, 2010 7:44 AM

@Tans

Interesting to see the repeated 'I'm not on facebook so it can't worry me' when your friends/enemies can all tag photos sussposedly of you, or write about you and have it picked up by the above service.

So what? I have no friends/enemies for that same reason I have no name.

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