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Your history on the social web: privacy is not an option

Or, how you may not get hired.

I have long had problems with the social web numbers game, which can be described as the utter willingness (foolishness?) of people to allow access to their social web activities to companies such as Klout or Peer Index, in search of the ability to prove to their followers that they are "influential." This manic urge to measure one's "influence" is promoted by Klout, a company that goes as far as to say that they are "The Standard for Influence" - who sets these standards I have no idea. Meanwhile PeerIndex offers ways to "Understand Your Social Capital."

On the surface these web scraping applications seem innocuous enough but they have their downsides - for instance Klout scrapes the web for mentions of me via my @DaveAtNorth Twitter account and Facebook page, yet it misses out on a large part of my career, the professional music part, for some reason. Ironically I can be called a "rock star" in Klout but the algorithms don't know the half of it.. unlike my close friends and personal acquaintances. Honestly I could care less as I've had way more "influence" writing posts in my multiple blogs for years. [I wrote about Klout back in January when it was discovered some people were not getting hired because their Klout "score" was too low. Link]

Things are getting darker in this space though. Yesterday I read this article in the NY Times - Social Media History Becomes a New Job Hurdle. Perhaps you will be alarmed by the opening paragraphs:
Companies have long used criminal background checks, credit reports and even searches on Google and LinkedIn to probe the previous lives of prospective employees. Now, some companies are requiring job candidates to also pass a social media background check.

A year-old start-up, Social Intelligence, scrapes the Internet for everything prospective employees may have said or done online in the past seven years.

I am. Not because I have anything to hide unless a Human Resource department should take badly to the fact that I am politically well aligned to the Left, I am a rock musician with a long history of ________ and ___________ (fill in the blanks.) I am also an atheist and agnostic.

And therein lies the problem - how I think and act outside of the workplace should be completely private and have no bearing whatsoever on my ability to perform in the workplace. Another problem - Who is training Human Resource specialists to fully understand how people express themselves in social web arenas? Are they simply left to stare at the homepage of the Social Intelligence website where they will come across statements like this: "Are you putting yourself and job candidates at risk by using Google as a background screening tool?"

Here's the CEO defending his company:
“We are not detectives,” said Max Drucker, chief executive of the company, which is based in Santa Barbara, Calif. “All we assemble is what is publicly available on the Internet today.”

The Federal Trade Commission, after initially raising concerns last fall about Social Intelligence’s business, determined the company is in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, but the service still alarms privacy advocates who say that it invites employers to look at information that may not be relevant to job performance.

"All we assemble is what is publicly available on the Internet today." Think about that next time you click on that link that asks you to sign into Twitter or Facebook to "get more followers" or "share your influence ranking" - you are giving away much more than you think. That could include your career..

Something in the mail from

A history of horse racing and our current political climate