FTC-approved start-up checks your Facebook use for your boss

Posted by Emma Woollacott

We've all been warned that careless Facebook posting could jeopardize our employment prospects. Let's face it, who's going to hire you after they've seen that photo of you last New Year's Eve?

Up to now, though, this sort of trawling to find out about job applicants has been a pretty hit-and-miss affair - something which is about to change.

Start-up Social Intelligence has gained the seal of approval from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for a service offering employers a full background check of a candidate's online presence.

It carries out a full search of a person's activities on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Craigslist, as well as any personal blogs, and delivers a report to a potential employer. And, unless the job applicant challenges their file, Social Intelligence keeps it for seven years.

And it also offers a social media monitoring service covering existing employees - with 'near-real time' notifications and alerts. If a friend posts pics of you dancing naked on a table, you can be confident it'll give your boss a good laugh the next day.

Such searches are only carried out with the candidate's permission - although one would imagine that anybody refusing would be raising a red flag by doing so.

And the company says that it only collects information that can be legitimately used in the hiring process - racist remarks, sexually explicit photos or videos or drug use, for example. And while it keeps the information, it does a new check every time it's asked.

"We are not building a 'database' on individuals that will be evaluated each time they apply for a job and potentially could be used adversely even if they have cleaned up their profiles," it says.

"It is important for job applicants to understand we are not storing their historical information to be used against them the next time they apply for a job."

In some ways, the service could be good for applicants who are a little embarrassed about their past. Social Intelligence will only hand over information that it's legitimate for an employer to use - so they shouldn't, for example, get to see pictures of you looking like an idiot, unless it's a racist or drug-taking idiot.