FTC says "yes" to Facebook activity inclusion in background checks

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has just given Social Intelligence Corp the go ahead to include Facebook profile activity in its background checks when screening employees.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

You now have another reason to check your privacy settings. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Social Intelligence Corp, has been given the legal thumbs up to archive seven years worth of your Facebook posts. These archives will be used by SIC (oh the applicability of the acronym) as part of their background checking service for job applicants.

There are a couple sides to this argument that have been hashed out many times over. A hiring manager could say that they were glad they discovered that Johnny the master of the great resume also drank heavily every night and posted all his parties on Facebook - so they could avoid hiring him. The other side of the  argument has been that if someone is functional, professional and sober at work, then why is it fair to factor in what they do outside of work when deciding if you should schedule an interview? As long as they are not a violent criminal or addicted to hard drugs, who cares?

The biggest issue I have with this is that my Facebook activity (i.e. the pieces of my personal life that I chose to post) might not jive with the individual hiring manager, regardless if I'm amazing at my job, it's a good fit, and everything else matches up. But what if said hiring manager, who maybe didn't drink alcohol, had a bad experience with some jerk in Cabo who drank too much tequila at a club and picked a fight with him unprovoked while he was on his honeymoon? All of a sudden that photo of me sharing a pitcher of margaritas on Cinco de Mayo with my buddies bounces me off his short list of contenders.

The problem with allowing personal life activities to play a factor in background checks and hiring decisions is that there are many in life that work hard and play hard. There are many things that people do for fun that offend others or make them uncomfortable, regardless of how harmless it actually is. Will companies now spend more time looking for the ultimate employee who has not only the required skills and education, but also has a specific name, favorite food genre, never attended Burning Man, likes to wear t-shirts on the weekend, loves gardening, and hangs with a certain circle of friends that are "comfortable" enough for that manager to emotionally accept? That is a slippery slope.....like the U.S. workforce doesn't have enough subtle instances of discrimination that slip by in several top companies. But that's another post for another blog.

Here's to hoping that those hiring managers that check the Facebook profiles of potential candidates are level-headed enough to realize that everyday life happens and that while someone may do something different than they do in their spare time, they may also be good employees and high-quality people to boot.

Here are some other articles on Facebook privacy settings

Facebook just made you invisible to most of your followers. Here's how to fix it:

Facebook's photo facial recognition enabled: Time to check your settings

10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know

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