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Introducing the safe social media background check

Meridith Levinson (CIO US) | May 25, 2011
Background checking companies conduct checks on behalf of potential employers.

"The number of sexually explicit photos and videos [that people post of themselves online] is staggering," says Max Drucker, CEO of Social Intelligence, citing the shocking things his company has uncovered. Social Intelligence conducts social media background checks for employers that either want to monitor their employees' online activities or screen job seekers' Web-based pursuits.

The privately-held Santa Barbara-based startup seeks to help employers out of the Catch-22 presented as more hiring managers snoop into prospective employees' social networks: On one hand, says Drucker, if employers check out job seekers' social networking profiles, they risk being exposed to information that's illegal for them to include in hiring decisions and that might constitute employment discrimination. On the other hand, if they seek to avoid any legal risk by turning a blind eye to the information people post online, they risk making negligent hires. That is, hiring someone who engages in questionable--if not criminal--activity that could put the company's reputation at risk.

Social Intelligence is one of a handful of companies offering social media background checks. InfoCheckUSA and Tandem Select are two other background checking companies that offer their own social media services.

By having Social Intelligence administer the background check, employers don't have to do the dirty work themselves, and thus are spared exposure to information that they can't legally include in hiring decisions.

"We explain to customers that they will not see anything that's federally or state protected: race, religion, national origin, age, marital status, disability status, military status, etc.," says Drucker. "We redact all that information. So the applicant is protected against being evaluated based on information that's not legally allowable--or frankly relevant for that job--and the employer is protected from allegations of discrimination because that employer was never exposed to anything they could illegally discriminate against."

Meanwhile, Social Intelligence remains off the legal hook because, says Drucker, it's not making a hiring decision based on the information it finds. "We are a consumer reporting agency," he says. "We just present the information. Nothing we do is subjective. We simply go out and do what they [customers] ask us to do. We find what they ask us to find."

And boy does Social Intelligence find a mother load. In addition to sexually explicit and provocative photos, videos and text, Drucker has seen racist activity, violent activity, and pictures of people brandishing assault weapons, handguns, even samurai swords. "We see people looking to acquire Oxycontin," he adds. "We see pictures of people using drugs."

Racial slurs, photos of people with weapons or in sexually compromising positions are fair game for employers to consider, Drucker says, because they indicate an individual's judgment and employers are allowed to make hiring decisions based on a job seeker's perceived professional judgment.


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