I'm quite sure most of us have friends on Facebook and other social networking sites like Twitter that we are only somewhat distantly familiar with or perhaps don't really even know at all.
I'm also sure that you have seen more than one person on Facebook ramble on about negative things all the time or post material that some might deem "questionable."
Unfortunately, what many of these people don't think about is that potential employers may see things posted on social networks and use it as a reason not to hire a particular applicant.
Of course, it is somewhat surprising that many employers don't even disclose how or why they use social networks to weed out job applicants.
Then again, it is probably obvious that posts filled with foul language, questionable photos and other types of objectionable content will likely play a role in losing that potential job you really wanted. Indeed, there are even companies which specialize in social networking "intelligence gathering" for employers.
"We have seen pictures of people driving a vehicle with a beer in their hand and that's posted," Max Drucker, CEO of Social Intelligence told the San Jose Mercury News. "We [even] found a picture of a person wearing a T-shirt with flagrantly racist remarks."
Although there is no certain legal precedent on the subject, numerous privacy advocates believe this sort of information gathering practice is completely inappropriate. "It's like saying, 'Can I read your personal diary?" explained Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, who also noted that the practice dampens free speech.
One primary concern is that employers might be viewing the profile of the wrong person as they blithely trawl social networking site to weed out potential hires. With the huge number of users on social networks like Facebook, the chances of more than one person having the same name is actually quite high.
Surveys have determined that somewhere between 18% and 63% of employers use social networks to check potential hires. Many of them also don't tell applicants they use that sort of data, and some don't even give people a chance to explain information they find. The moral of the story? Watch what you say online or secure your profile ASAP.