What’s a “Social Media Background Search”?
Whether it’s a formal background check or a potential referral looking for information about you, don’t be surprised if you undergo a social media background search. Many companies, recruiters and patients now know to look for information on not only Google and Bing, but also Facebook, Twitter, YouTube videos, rating websites, Flickr, blogs, and other services to catch a glimpse of the “real” you.
You may have seen the news about the FTC investigation of Social Intelligence, a start up company designed to troll the Internet for whatever information, pictures and comments you post, and sell that data. The investigation led to what amounts to a surprising and upsetting outcome to many. Social Intelligence was found by the FTC to be compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Nothing you post on the Internet is off-limits.
Whatever you put online can be repackaged and sold. Accessing it can often be free, involving only a Google search. You might know that employers can’t legally hold your race, religion, disability, gender, age or marital status against you. However, they can base their decisions on less tangible factors, such as what they perceive to be your ethics or attitudes.
What to Do?
Here are a few ideas to help you be more in control of what anyone sees about you online:
- Search your own name in as many search engines as you can find. Google, Bing, Yahoo! are only the bigger ones. Find out what’s out there online about you. Anything you have posted that might be seen in a negative light by referrals or employers should be removed from however many sites you can contact or change yourself.
- Check your social media privacy settings regularly. Schedule a day every 3 months or so. Many such sites change their policies without telling you, so today’s privacy settings may not adequately protect your family photos next year.
- Look beyond Facebook. “Data crumbs” can be pieced together by anyone with an hour to two to spare: Gather a name here, a school there, a date from LinkedIn, an employee ad or bedroom furniture sale on Craigslist, track your whereabouts for a week on Foursquare,and someone intent on learning about you can discover patterns and events that might raise the hair on the back of your neck. Be aware of wikis, blogs and other forums you visit.
- If your online profile seems unmanageable, you might want to hire a company to do profile cleaning for you. Look into the servcies offered by online reputation management company, such as Reputation.com and Unsubscribe.com.
- You might also ask your local professional association to hire a speaker to come into your association to lecture about the topic. Our own Dr. Maheu is available for this type of presentation.
These are some of my thoughts. What are yours?