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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.

How Social Intelligence Conducts Its Background Checks

Social Intelligence's background check product is based on a software application that collects data from across the Web on an individual's social activity. Employers select from a list of 25 types of Internet activity that they want Social Intelligence to search for, including racist activity, violent activity, sexually provocative activity and illegal activity. Employers can also have social intelligence search for positive activity, such as whether the candidate does volunteer work, has been published, received awards or honors, or actively promotes himself in a professional way online.

Social Intelligence says most clients want the company to report everything that is legally allowable, so they select all filters. The top activities employers are interested in are illegal activity, potentially violent activity and racist or discriminatory activity.

After employers have selected the criteria they want Social Intelligence to search, the company's software scours social media sites, e-commerce sites, blogs, the Twittersphere, chat rooms, online forums, and photo and video-sharing sites. The software only has access to information in the public domain. So if a job seeker has personal information on a Facebook profile, but that profile is locked down through Facebook's privacy settings, Social Intelligence will not be able to access it. Drucker notes that the company doesn't employ hacking or "fake friending" techniques to access individuals' private social networks.

Because Social Intelligence searches so many different Websites, Drucker believes the quality of his company's search results will be "far greater" than what an employer could do [on its own], looking at just the early results of a Google search.

Finally, a team of analysts review all the links that Social Intelligence's technology gathers to give some context to that data. For example, if a Social Intelligence background check turns up an image of a job seeker with some kind of marijuana imagery, the analyst might discover a caption under the photo that reads, "Vote NO on CA Prop 19 to legalize marijuana," which would indicate that the candidate is opposed to the legalization of pot. If the caption read, "Awesome weed last night! I was so high!" the photo would tell a different story about the job seeker. Only a human is able to discern the difference.

How Employers Act on Social Intelligence's Findings

If an employer decides not to hire a candidate based on something Social Intelligence discovered in a background check, such as racist comments the candidate left on a blog, the employer is obligated under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to notify the employee that it intends to take "adverse action" (e.g., deny employment to the candidate) based on the findings in the background check. The employer is also obligated under the FCRA to send a copy of the background check results to the job seeker along with a document that explains how the job seeker can dispute the report. Employers may opt to have Social Intelligence send these notifications to the job seeker.


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