Personal Observations

Social Intelligence… defining an oxymoron

Social Intelligence HR logobig brother is watching you

There’s a new company on the web – Social Intelligence – that archives your online behavior for up to seven (7) years, to facilitate retrieval within the scope of a background check for employment.

My favorite paragraph on their front page (and this is an excerpt for informational purposes):

“We are not building a “database” on individuals that will be evaluated each time they apply for a job and potentially could be used adversely even if they have cleaned up their profiles. It is important for job applicants to understand we are not storing their historical information to be used against them the next time they apply for a job.” (their emphasis)

There is something so Orwellian about this company it’s sickening. This post will probably end up in their database, and that’s fine. I’ve always been a privacy advocate, and that is not about to change under the threat of these online monitors of personal behavior.

I’ve always lived by the rule –  if I don’t want my grandmother to read it, I’m not publishing it as an update to Twitter, Facebook or any other social network or internet outlet. However, young people don’t always have this foresight. For a company to exist on a providing a product that is technically legal, but morally questionable (such as this one) is troubling to say the least.

I understand the concept of background checks, and don’t dispute their value. What bothers me is that momentary lapses of judgement are now going to be archived for reference by future employers.

This company (accurately) states that they provide information that is legally allowable under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  One question: how many of you have ever had something appear on your credit report, and you’ve attempted to dispute it? How much time does this take? How much effort? And besides, what if you just made a bad decision, and later corrected it?

Too bad.

An article in the New York Post – “How to Protect Your Online Rep” – provides some good oversight into this new info industry, that you should really review.

I think what bothers me the most  – outside of the impetuous nature of youthful mistakes being archived (potentially indefinitely) to be used in screenings (the infamous ‘permanent record’ syndrome)… is that the information shared by these companies can effectively shut down freedom of expression, association and speech.

Think about it – if you know that “liking” a certain group on Facebook that holds politically charged opinions – and the potential of that information is going to be shared with a future employer:  where’s the ability to have an opinion, or to associate with like-minded people?

I’m not worried about what I put out there (if I was, I surely would not have authored this blog post). I believe in the basic rights of our constitution – and I think companies like this (regardless of their legal standing) have the potential for truly destroying the freedoms we are supposed to enjoy.

The phrase ‘slippery slope’ comes to mind…

What do you think?



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