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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Social media checks

Background checks use to be associated with financial institutions during applications for loans. Now they are performed during job applications, college admissions, even dating sites. One of the most important parts of the background check is the character reference. References were historically performed by field investigators interviewing the person’s friends, neighbors, associates, coworkers, etc. This is still an integral part of checking someone’s references, but in today’s online all the time society, social media is fast becoming the standard.

Who’s looking?

Private employers are. Social media checks are now on the checklist during candidate research. HR hiring surveys estimate that more than half of employers search an applicant’s social media during the hiring process. The New York Post reported on January 29, 2016, that at least 40% of college admissions officers report they check applicants’ Facebook pages and other social media when weighing who should get accepted. A third say they Google applicants. Even professional sport franchises do their due diligence when deciding on draft picks. As part of the vetting process, social media of potential draftees are reviewed. With the media attention on football players gone wild in recent years, franchises are doing every thing they can to determine the character of the player they are drafting.

Now the federal government is getting into the game. Investigators will now be probing social media as part of background checks for security clearances. Seems far-fetched that federal investigators didn’t perform these checks in the past, but now it’s official. On May 13, 2016, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper signed a policy directive that allows investigators to collect publicly available social media information pertaining to the person whose background is being investigated. In a press release, Bill Evanina, Director of ODNI’s National Counterintelligence and Security Center stated, “We cannot afford to ignore this important open source in our effort to safeguard our secrets—and our nation’s security.” While federal investigators are prohibited from requiring or requesting applicants’ password information, they will be searching for publically accessible accounts.

Privacy concerns

States and the Federal government have responded in a challenging effort to protect citizens’ privacy and rights. Twenty-three states have enacted laws that prevent employers from requesting passwords to personal accounts to either apply for or keep a job. Maryland was the first state to enact such a law, which took effect on October 1, 2012. Maryland’s law states that employers may not require employees or applicants to disclose a user name, password or other means of accessing a private Internet site or electronic account.

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regulate, monitor, and enforce employer misuse of social media during the hiring process. Since 2010, the NLRB has heard dozens of cases regarding employers infringing on employee rights through social media. Both the EEOC and the NLRB have issued guidance to employers regarding social media rights of employees.

Does your mother see your posts?

Whether you’re currently looking for job or suddenly need a clearance, you never know when a situation will surface that requires a background check, which will now more than likely include social media checks. As we are seeing, the trend is spreading beyond dating sites to employers, college admissions, pretty much anyone who wants to know more about who you are. A picture truly is worth a thousand words.

Getting a lot of ambiguous rejections? Check your social media posts.
Even social media posts from years ago can haunt you. During the 2016 NFL draft, a potential first round pick had his Twitter account hacked.  A years old video showing him allegedly smoking marijuana with a bong hit the web. As this sorted out, draft round after round passed. He eventually was chosen in the thirteenth round, costing him millions.

Because of the anonymity of the Internet, the narcissist in us all, and the instantaneous culture we have, social media seems to be a window into our daily lives. Not only what cat videos we find hilarious or what we’re eating and where, but social media goes a long way in determining who we are, the character of the person doing the posts. Now one could argue that it’s not how they really are, that they use social media as an alter ego. But over time, patterns do develop and the onus appears to be on the account holder to justify the veracity of their posts and not the reviewer.

A good rule of thumb is-If you wouldn’t want your mother to see it, then don’t post it.

See our blog archive for other posts relating to social media:

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