March 2012 update: Companies and public agencies are now asking for an applicant’s social media passwords so they can go through your Facebook posts and “likes” to see if you are the perfect, compliant, robot that they apparently are looking for. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Do they get to keep your passwords as a condition of continued employment? We have met the future and it doesn’t look pretty.  Here’s the original post on social media background checks.


The following post may disqualify me from corporate employment for life. In fact, your reading it may disqualify you.

The Federal Trade Commission gave the green light to Social Intelligence Company to monitor Social Media profiles and give reports, similar to credit reports, to potential employers. Social Intelligence acts as Big Brother and finds all of those embarrassing photos, off-color comments and politically incorrect “likes”. They then flag you as “positive” or “negative”, and if negative, your employability may be down the drain. The reports are kept on file for seven years, just like your credit report. Social Intelligence claims that they are not keeping a database on prospective hires, but will pull a new report each time.

One applicant was given a “negative” for “liking” a page that said “I shouldn’t have to press 1 for English” deeming that evidence of racism. (Presumably you don’t go on record criticizing lax enforcement of immigration laws either). Another had a picture of himself holding a gun. This gun collector just might shoot up the place, so the software says. I’m thinking the gun enthusiast is probably less likely to commit workplace violence.

What are the implications and unintended consequences of social media background checks? I don’t remember ever using a social security number to sign up for an e-mail account. How does Social Influence know that it is me that made that politically incorrect post on an online forum? It may well have been me, but how do they know for sure?

Will other companies come on the scene to do a “black hat” service? Perhaps creating fake profiles to “friend” candidates for a peek at their private information (I’m told this happens already)? Using hacking techniques? The possible abuses are endless. Between credit checks,  social media background checks and the usual discrimination that occurs (age being a big one) are enployers telling us only the perfect may apply? Are employers looking for automatons, with no opinions, no passions, no preferences, no life? Compliant beauracrats? Let’s hope not!

If I even could be bothered with a social media background check on someone, I’d remind myself that I don’t want a clone of myself. That person I may vehemently disagree with on religion or politics may be just the person I need on my team. If you were to ever work for me; go a few rounds with me on a business or personal topic. I need your passion, not someone who is a drone.

Is everyone’s employability really going to be reduced to a number? Maybe there will be only four employable people in the U.S.

What are your thoughts?