Job Hunting? Recruiting? Fair Credit Reporting Act Standards Extended to Social Media Reporting

by Patricia McGinnis 0

No surprise, privacy in the job-huntingrealm is a thing of the past. Officially, the Federal TradeCommission (FTC) announced last month that it will not continue itsinvestigation into the activities of Social Intelligence Corp., theSanta Barbara-based startup that searches social media on behalf ofprospective (or current) employers. For the partial protection ofjob-hunters, however, the FTC did affirm that Social IntelligenceCorp. qualifies as a consumer reporting agency, and thus mustcomply (and encourage its customers to comply) with the provisionsof the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

What are the benefits to prospective or current employees? First,firms using the services of Social Intelligence Corp. (or anysimilar agency) are required to obtain consent from the subject togather such information, so the prospect knows what is beingexamined. Second, in the event of any adverse action resulting fromsocial-media-based findings, firms are required to disclose whatdata was found that caused their negative response. Third, SocialIntelligence Corp. will not report any information that firms arenot permitted to consider for hiring purposes, such as gender,religion, or health information that might have been accidentallydisclosed in a social media context. Finally, Social IntelligenceCorp. will retain files to back up its findings regarding anyspecific individual, but will conduct a new search for everyrequest, rather than refer to its accumulated files. That meanssubjects have the opportunity to remove web content that they mightregret, or to dispute content from another source, and like acorrected credit record, the subsequent search results will notrepeat old data.

What are the benefits to hiring firms? They do take on anadditional reporting requirement in the event that SocialIntelligence Corp. provides them with information to which theyreact negatively, but in exchange, they gain a powerful defenseagainst charges that they have discriminated against a prospect oremployee. They should also get better results than would begenerated by an internal Google search, as Social IntelligenceCorp. offers specially developed tools and models to interpret wheninstances of the same name are (or are not) the same person.

Will this work to protect both employees and employers? Will firmsfollow up with the required adverse notice disclosures? It remainsto be seen. Most job seekers are accustomed to receiving noresponse at all in many instances, except perhaps for a belatedacknowledgement that the position has been filled.

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