Personal Internet Use Becoming Part of Employee Record

By Andrew G. Simpson | December 9, 2010

  • December 9, 2010 at 7:59 am
    Kurt says:
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    In a college history class many years ago, we studied Henry Ford’s “Socialogical Department”. Basically, Ford had 150 investigators who visited employees’ homes and questioned them about everything from their marital status to their savings, health, hobbies, and child care. If someone determined the employee did too much drinking or gambling, bought things on credit, had a dirty home, did not regularly attend church and/or ate an unwholesome diet, these things were grounds disciplinary action up to and including termination. Ford came under intense criticism over this intrusion into his employees lives and disbanded the practice in 1920. (Probably also helped stave off unionization for a few more years.) So, how is Ford’s Socialogical Department much different from the “service” this guy is selling? We ought to be careful to protect some of the rights we too easily take for granted. I guess I’ll step off my soapbox now and go check my Facebook settings.

    :o)

  • December 9, 2010 at 11:12 am
    Shaun says:
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    this is all fine and dandy but if you have your page blocked to outsiders (so only your “friends” can see the content) would it be considered illegal to use this information against you? how does Social Intelligence Corp. obtain this blocked information without your permission? Of course if you do not block your page…and the public can see it….then you are a sitting duck but more and more people are closing their social network pages to the public.

  • December 9, 2010 at 12:16 pm
    parannoyed says:
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    Be wary when you get an email that says “Max Drucker wants to be your friend.”

  • December 9, 2010 at 12:20 pm
    Sam Smith says:
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    A new cause of action.

  • December 9, 2010 at 12:26 pm
    Guy Smiley says:
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    You might have your FB page blocked to the public (friends only) but maybe your friend has their page open to the public. Then, the posts you make to their wall and the posts and raunchy pictures they post of you to their wall becomes public.

  • December 9, 2010 at 12:49 pm
    nk says:
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    Noone should never do or say anything on the internet that they would not do out in the middle of a busy street. After all that is what the internet really is.

  • December 9, 2010 at 1:16 am
    Positive Guy says:
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    So use this as an opportunity to gain a leg up on the competition. Post really positive pro-industry and pro-company stuff. They will see you in a positive light. Someone holding a bong & 5th of whiskey on facebook may be a better employee than you, but you will be viewed as a better selection.

  • December 9, 2010 at 1:26 am
    matt says:
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    “…all companies in the Fortune 500 do some form of a criminal background check. I don’t see this as any different”

    I cannot disagree more. Employers must recognize and encourage employees to have lives outside of work.

    Employees can control what they post themselves, but they cannot control what someone else posts about them.

    This has crossed the line from proper hiring due diligence into the realm of surreptitious monitoring of active employees activity oustide and unrelated to the workplace. Frankly, it’s none of their business, and things like this have already and will continue to have an immense chilling effect.

    TL;DR An employer has absolutely no right or business knowing anything that an employee does outside of the workplace that does not involve the employer or a potential risk to the employer. It is irrelevant.

  • December 9, 2010 at 1:38 am
    SecretAgentMan says:
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    I think a person’s conduct outside of the workplace is completely relevant for the hiring process. I want an employee with good morals that conducts himself as a respectable responsible member of the commuinity. If an NFL team hires a thug that is getting busted and alway center stage is that a problem?

    I think the line was crossed when your friend took a photo of you waving your hairy *** in your other friends face while he was passed out on the bathroom floor.

  • December 9, 2010 at 2:06 am
    Gray says:
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    For it to be public domain there has to be a LICENSE that allows the companies to use that stuff! Without such, nobody has the right to simply copy that stuff. After all, the author has the copyright, and if he doesn’t explicitly allow copying, it’s illegal. That’s the law, and companies are usually the FIRST to point at it if it’s their content that is copied! So, under the DMCA, probably all of these data miners are engaging in illegal activities on a large scale. Federal proseuctors should start investigations!

  • December 9, 2010 at 2:10 am
    Tommy says:
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    Yeah… just don’t give him/her any t-shirts with your company’s name on it. That way when he/she gets filmed getting a DUI, you won’t have to worry bad press.

    C’mon, really? Any indication of a potentially negative employment scenario would warrant investigation and evaluation. I would rather employ someone with pictures on his profile holding his kid vs someone holding a bottle of liquor. Wouldn’t you?

  • December 9, 2010 at 2:10 am
    GL Guru says:
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    I get very nervous about this privacy issue. People can take what they find about you out of context. Also People change. A picture of me in college is not a reflection of me now.

    And also, how many of you trust an HR rep making the right call? Are they putting their own twist on it to show their value to their organization? Or do they have biases?

    Remember the Salem Witch Trials? Senator McCarthy’s communism vendeta? Hitler’s persecution of the jews? Just subsitute a a tyrant, scary time and public ignorance and next thing you know your rights as an individual evaporate.

    You can see this with WikiLeeks. What if this guy turned his vendeta not against governments but people that don’t agree with him? What if this company decided to hold you hostage if you had a prospect for a job? Or a person in the organization decided to leak this information about you?

    It is scary.

  • December 9, 2010 at 2:12 am
    1099 says:
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    Poor comparison secretagentman.

    A criminal background check & getting “busted” both involve an arrest and/or a conviction – which is considerably different from a photograph or statement.

  • December 9, 2010 at 2:20 am
    Irate says:
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    Those of you defending this practice need to wake up! I’m sure Spitzer has a squeaky clean Facebook page, but would you hire him now? Everyone is entitled to a private personal life. What I do on my own time is no threat or risk to my employer and it’s none of their business. We’re letting everyone into our private lives, and the government is assaulting us at the airports – what’s next? I’m afraid America is turning into a bunch of lemmings!

  • December 9, 2010 at 2:40 am
    matt says:
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    Is there no longer a concept of privacy?

    What if your Facebook page shows that a particular employee is a member of a pro-feminist Facebook Group. The employee’s boss, a divorcee who was taken for all he was worth in the court system by his ex wife, is bitterly opposed to any form of feminist politics. He promptly fires the employee after finding this out, citing personality incompatabilities.

    Was the employee’s right to privacy violated by the employer?

  • December 9, 2010 at 2:40 am
    matt says:
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    I should add that the profile is set to “private” but that a for-fee company was still able to retrieve and provide this info to the employer.

  • December 9, 2010 at 3:10 am
    Off Tackle Play says:
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    “If an NFL team hires a thug that is getting busted and alway center stage is that a problem?”

    Are you kidding??? If he can score and make money for the team, they’ll sign a serial murderer with no qualms whatsoever.

  • December 9, 2010 at 3:22 am
    Hibbsey says:
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    No, I wouldn’t hire Sptizer, but it certainly take CNN long to hire him.
    By the way, he and his sidekick are a joke on the show. Reminds me of Chris Farley on SNL doing an interview: “Hey, remember when you made that somwhat witty comment two weeks ago on our show? That was really great”……

  • December 9, 2010 at 3:27 am
    Franklin says:
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    Hibbsey,
    Stick to your day job. I will assume you have more success in insurance than you do when performing comedy.

  • December 9, 2010 at 3:28 am
    Hank says:
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    And you spelled Spitzer wrong.

  • December 9, 2010 at 3:29 am
    Tawana says:
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    We are treading in deep, mucky waters. So I’m hanging out on the weekend w/friends. We take pics of us w/drinks & post on Facebook showing how great a time we had does that mean I’m an alcoholic so I shouldn’t be hired???? Are you kidding me??? This is over the top. What if someone takes a picture of you & you don’t know it and posts it on FB or My Space. This is a clear example of an over-achiever. Stupid behavior is not criminal behavior and should not be investigated.

  • December 9, 2010 at 3:32 am
    Eric says:
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    Very handy! Makes sure the type of companies I despise are weeded out completely. Nice!

  • December 9, 2010 at 3:48 am
    Harry Johnson says:
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    Typical salesboy trying to spin and lie his way through this. Yeah sure it is a favor to the employee. Salesboys are destroying this country with their constant lying ans spinning. Nothing can be taken at face value without some marketeer trying to twist it. How do you know when a salesboy or marketeer is lying? Its lips are moving.

  • December 9, 2010 at 4:33 am
    double positive guy! says:
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    And I’ll raise you …

    Take it one step further and like Drucker, open a business that will create and manage an on-line profile FOR YOU that will be filled with only happy,positive and impressive LIES about what you believe, which F500 companies you most admire (and why), what your religious beliefs (always mainstream) and political affinities (always pro-corporate!) are and how thoroughly attractive and acceptable your overloads will grade you by every conceivable measure. Younger people can begin the process of ‘seeding’ themselves on-line as soon as they hit puberty and older workers can purchase additional programs that can search and scour the WWW for any past or present social blemishes. Somebody could make a fortune doing this. Maybe Drucker can double or even triple the profits of his unethical business practices by branching out into this field, too. He’ll have everybody coming and going – and make out like the bandit that he already is, ethically speaking.

  • December 9, 2010 at 6:28 am
    Jerry Wilson says:
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    … are posted on our company blog at http://cseinsurancegroup.blogspot.com/2010/12/should-line-be-drawn-when-looking-at.html

  • December 10, 2010 at 7:54 am
    REALLY!? says:
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    “If an NFL team hires a thug that is getting busted and alway center stage is that a problem?:”

    REALLY!? Michael Vick got put away for dog fighting….paid his NFL fines and is back on the field as one of the best QB’s out there! Yes, the NFL fines players for bad behavior, however, they still get hired, still play, and still do their job the way they are supposed to! Because I like to have a drink or 15 on the weekends….does not mean I can not do my job M-F 9-5.

  • December 10, 2010 at 8:58 am
    JC says:
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    The difference between Ford’s “sociological screening” and looking up someone on the internet is that people voluntarily put this information out on the internet. If you are posting every aspect of your life on a public domain, expect people to look at it and draw whatever conclusions they may. If you don’t want them to know how many drinks you have on the weekend, don’t post it. If your friend posts pictures of you on their site with your name and any other information to tie a stupid picture or story back to you, it might be time to rethink who you’re hanging with.

    Companies aren’t demanding this information, they are only taking advantage of what you make available. If you don’t want them to know something about you, don’t advertize it in a public forum.

  • December 10, 2010 at 10:01 am
    SWFL Agent says:
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    Amen JC. There are some jobs where character, prudent bahavior, and social skills matter and looking at someone’s facebook is fair game for an employer that has these needs. On the other hand, a NFL player doesn’t fit this description. An NFL game is pure entertainment. Like watching a movie. I don’t expect anything from an NFL player other than what I see on TV for 3 hours on a Sunday. However we have somehow given sports figures & entertainers much more creditability than they deserve.

  • December 10, 2010 at 3:02 am
    Walter says:
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    I have gotten job offers in my career where I didn’t think I matched up well in the job or company and didn’t get offers for jobs that I thought I was perfect for and hit the ball out of the park.
    I found out that in several instances, my prospective employer did an informal check on with with people I’d worked for and with in the past, so effectively anonmymous, nameless people with little or no real knowledge of my work other than personal feelings or like or dislike of me decided whether or not I got the job in question.
    As much as companies will say that the hiring process is fair and objective, it isn’t and reviewing social networking sites may not be a fair and true representation of how well or poorly you work, but companies will do what they feel that they can and must do to hire the right person and weed out people they don’t want to have as a part of their organization.

  • December 10, 2010 at 3:26 am
    Don't Know says:
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    If an employer would like to know who they are ‘truly’ employing, then it’s only right that potential hires get access to the bosses after work activities, family life, personal interests, and internet browsing history. In addition to how much more they are making than the peons they hire.

  • December 11, 2010 at 10:57 am
    tom says:
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    either get you to add them, or they are hacking social networks

  • December 13, 2010 at 12:23 pm
    Steph says:
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    Anyone who’s proud of who they are shouldn’t mind if their employer looks at their online postings and pictures. It’s like the old saying, “If you’re doing something you wouldn’t want your mom to know about, you probably shouldn’t be doing it” –And you definitely shouldn’t be posting it on the internet for the world to see. I agree that this is digging deeper into the personal realm than we ever have before, but not everything found out will be incriminating. What I am wondering is: how do we define ‘relevance’ to the job? And, how do we prevent this company from making mistakes and mis-identifying you? There are many people with the same name out there. How do we uniquely identify?

  • December 13, 2010 at 2:23 am
    JB says:
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    It is my understanding that If you’ve set your Facebook profile and information to Me Only or Friends Only that nobody else can see what you post. Is this not true and if it’s not, how does someone find this information otherwise?

  • December 15, 2010 at 11:44 am
    'Scuse me says:
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    GL GURU, your point is well taken but I think you are dangerously confusing categories.

    Please check out the new book, DUPES. There were communists in Hollywood and elsewhere throughout our society in the 20′s – today. So McCarthy was actually onto something. And they have been negatively influential in our US society.

    Also, Hitler’s plans & work to wipe out Jews has nothing in common with the McCarthy-era hearings re who was a communist agent or not. And morally, that evil doesn’t compare to this situation described in the article.

    I think your comparison of the Salem witch trials is a better argument to support your comment to this article. Even though there really were (and still are) witches, hysterical persecution and killing of people labeled as such was and always will be WRONG.

  • December 20, 2010 at 2:10 am
    One says:
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    its a matter of time until everything will be public

  • January 28, 2011 at 1:09 pm
    realistk says:
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    I’m going to go ahead and reiterate the obvious; this is an invasion of privacy, and is detrimental to people as a whole. We NEED to have a personal life to escape from the daily grind of work. So long as our escapes don’t land us in legal trouble or affect our job performance, there is NO reason to intrude upon one’s privacy to try to evaluate their employability. This is why we require convictions in America to give merit to accusations.

    I will take this one step further, however. I would like to ask for discussion on what steps we believe should be taken to combat, prosecute, and otherwise quell this blatant destruction of our expectation and right of privacy.



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