Companies have long used criminal background checks, credit reports, and even searches on Google and LinkedIn to probe the previous lives of prospective employees. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") stated that seventy-five percent (75%) of recruiters are required by their companies to do online research of candidates and seventy (70%) report that they have rejected candidates because of information online.
Social Intelligence Corp is a new internet start-up company that does background checks for companies via social media. If the company sees anything pop up on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr, the company stores it in a file, where it will remain for seven (7) years. The corporation assembles a dossier with examples of professional honors and charitable work, along with negative information that meets specific criteria: online evidence of racist remarks; references to drugs; sexually explicit photos, text messages or videos; flagrant displays of weapons or bombs and clearly identifiable violent activity.
The corporation states that it will facilitate better hiring decision, identify insurance fraud, and reduce overall operational risks. Recent reports show that Social Intelligence indicated one job applicant was racist for joining a Facebook group called, "I shouldn't have to press 1 for English. We are in the United States. Learn the language." Another applicant was flagged for having a photo on social media featuring multiple guns and a sword. One prospective employee was flagged for using Craigslist to look for illegal drugs. Recently, the Federal Trade Commission stated that the organization is operating within the boundaries of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Applicants have to sign a form that grants Social Intelligence permission to run background checks, and the company must inform the applicant if it has found a tidbit that has prevented the person from landing a job. A prospective employee can also dispute any found items, the chief operating officer of Social Intelligence, Geoffrey Andrews told Forbes, "If a record is disputed and changed then we delete the disputed record and store the new record when appropriate."
The reports issued by Social Intelligence remove references to a person's religion, race, marital status, disability, and other information protected under federal employment laws, which companies are not supposed to ask about during interviews. An outreach manager for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said that, "things that you can't ask in an interview are the same things you can't research." By allowing another company to perform the research and only notifying the company of non-discriminatory information, an organization now has a strategy for employers to conduct fair and consistent screenings of future employees. As for the percentage of job applicants who are turned down based on their social media checks, the figures are surprisingly low, Social Intelligence's president estimates the number is in the single digits.
If you feel you may have been discriminated against in a pre-employment screening, contact an attorney to discuss your legal rights.