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Anything you post can and will be used against you

Mike Elgan | March 13, 2017
Sure, the CIA can hack your TV, but public posts on Facebook could really hurt you

U.S. Customs is proposing to add all Chinese visitors to the list of people asked to disclose their social media profiles.

Current policy is based on the religion or nationality of travelers and is mostly superficial and voluntary. But the trend is clear: The U.S. government is rapidly expanding the invasiveness of social media checks in order to figure out who is trustworthy -- and who is not.

Other nations are likely to follow the U.S.'s lead, but would search social media based on their own national criteria. Your business trip to Turkey may involve searches that look for support of Kurdish independence. Your vacation to China may involve searching your social accounts for trade secrets to steal. Your weekend in Cuba may end before it begins if Cuban customs agents find a three-year-old tweet shaming hipsters for wearing Che Guevara T-shirts.

Social media scrutiny increasingly affects spheres of life beyond travel.

Between 35% and 50% of college admissions officers now check the social media accounts of applicants as part of their selection process.

Some insurance companies are reportedly checking social media to find out if customers live risky lifestyles, raising the cost of premiums for those who do. Some are even denying claims based on social posts.

A CareerBuilder survey last year found that 60% of employers look at the social media posts of prospective employees before choosing which candidate to hire. That number jumped to more than 75% for IT companies, according to the survey.

More than 40% of HR managers routinely check the social media accounts of current employees, and a quarter of them have found something that led to action ranging from reprimands to terminations.

In the past year, CEOs have become the target of intense scrutiny of social posts, according to Ken Springer, a former FBI agent and current president of Corporate Resolutions, a company that performs such checks on behalf of clients.

The bar for acceptable posts by CEOs is high: The CEO of a company called Taylor Gourmet posted a picture of himself with President Trump, which caused a "social media backlash" against the company, according to a report in Bloomberg BNA.

All this checking of social media comes with risks. But today's risks are nothing compared with what's coming.


Social media posts reveal more than you think

Your social media posts are a theoretical open book into your state of mind, opinions, religion, personality and social connections.

One example in the news: Facebook is testing the use of artificial intelligence (A.I.) tools to analyze posts and determine whether people are feeling suicidal. Flagged users are reported to the community operations team for possible intervention.


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