Social Media Background Checks Get FTC Okay: Would You Pass?

By Kelsey Blair Comment

Ever wonder what it would be like to have your social media fingerprint taken? Well, you might find out. A new company offers social media background checks to companies. Job seekers beware!

Recently, the FTC has given Social Intelligence Corps approval to run social media background checks on potential employees. This means that Social Intelligence is permitted to search through Facebook photos, videos, and groups to determine an applicant’s social media history. The searches aren’t limited to Facebook either; anything positive or negative in social media is fair game including Twitter, YouTube accounts, and LinkedIn.  Sound creepy? Scary, even? Don’t panic yet; the approval isn’t a free for all for the company. In fact, what Social Intelligence claims to look for is relatively specific.

They do a seven year search of social media history; while they must keep the data to meet FCRA requirements, they don’t re-use data for future searches. And, they aren’t looking for photos of you in a feather boa at your buddy’s bachelor party. The company notes that it screens for more significant offenses. According to their website: “Social Intelligence Corp solely generates reports based on employer pre-defined criteria, both positive and negative. Negative examples include racist remarks or activities, sexually explicit photos or videos, and illegal activity such as drug use. Positive examples include charitable or volunteer efforts, participation in industry blogs, and external recognition.”

To meet FTC regulations, the company also requires applicants to sign a waiver that gives permission to perform a social media background check. This means you shouldn’t worry about Social Intelligence running background checks randomly without warning and consent.

When put like that, it’s a little less scary. This is particularly true given that there is an underlying truth here: companies are doing this anyways. It may be better to have a third party, who has to answer to the FTC, searching for social media dirt than an intern trying to work their way up the corporate ladder. It is, perhaps, inevitable that social media background checks would become a business of their own. Moreover, what professional doesn’t know they need to be aware of their online reputation?

On the other hand, it’s hard not to feel like we’re getting a little too complacent with big brother watching us. Who determines what constitutes aggressive or discriminatory? Is it participation in a Facebook group? It could be. Is it angry status updates? Absolutely. And who gets to decide? The good folks at Social Intelligence Corp, of course. According to Drucker “since our team are in fact human beings, they are able to discern to the best degree possible what ‘explicit’ means.” And what discriminatory means. And what violent means.

If you had a background check of your social media history over the last seven years done right now, would you pass?