[Marxism] Reminder on using your real name

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Jul 21 08:32:54 MDT 2011

(From time to time comrades ask us to delete their posts from 
Marxmail because they are worried that a prospective employer 
might find them when googling their name. This article is a 
reminder why you should not use your real name on the list if yu 
think that this might affect you in the future.)

NY Times July 20, 2011
Social Media History Becomes a New Job Hurdle

Companies have long used criminal background checks, credit 
reports and even searches on Google and LinkedIn to probe the 
previous lives of prospective employees. Now, some companies are 
requiring job candidates to also pass a social media background check.

A year-old start-up, Social Intelligence, scrapes the Internet for 
everything prospective employees may have said or done online in 
the past seven years.

Then it assembles a dossier with examples of professional honors 
and charitable work, along with negative information that meets 
specific criteria: online evidence of racist remarks; references 
to drugs; sexually explicit photos, text messages or videos; 
flagrant displays of weapons or bombs and clearly identifiable 
violent activity.

“We are not detectives,” said Max Drucker, chief executive of the 
company, which is based in Santa Barbara, Calif. “All we assemble 
is what is publicly available on the Internet today.”

The Federal Trade Commission, after initially raising concerns 
last fall about Social Intelligence’s business, determined the 
company is in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, but 
the service still alarms privacy advocates who say that it invites 
employers to look at information that may not be relevant to job 

And what relevant unflattering information has led to job offers 
being withdrawn or not made? Mr. Drucker said that one prospective 
employee was found using Craigslist to look for OxyContin. A woman 
posing naked in photos she put up on an image-sharing site didn’t 
get the job offer she was seeking at a hospital.

Other background reports have turned up examples of people making 
anti-Semitic comments and racist remarks, he said. Then there was 
the job applicant who belonged to a Facebook group, “This Is 
America. I Shouldn’t Have to Press 1 for English.” This raises a 
question. “Does that mean you don’t like people who don’t speak 
English?” asked Mr. Drucker rhetorically.

Mr. Drucker said his goal was to conduct pre-employment screenings 
that would help companies meet their obligation to conduct fair 
and consistent hiring practices while protecting the privacy of 
job candidates.

For example, he said the reports remove references to a person’s 
religion, race, marital status, sexual orientation, disability and 
other information protected under federal employment laws, which 
companies are not supposed to ask about during interviews. Also, 
job candidates must first consent to the background check, and 
they are notified of any adverse information found.

He argues the search reduces the risk that employers may confuse 
the job candidate with someone else or expose the company to 
information that is not legally allowable or relevant. “Googling 
someone is ridiculously unfair,” he said. “An employer could 
discriminate against someone inadvertently. Or worse, they are 
exposing themselves to all kinds of allegations about discrimination.”

Marc S. Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information 
Center, based in Washington, said that employers were entitled to 
gather information to make a determination about job-related 
expertise, but he expressed concern that “employers should not be 
judging what people in their private lives do away from the 

Less than a third of the data surfaced by Mr. Drucker’s firm comes 
from such major social platforms as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. 
He said much of the negative information about job candidates 
comes from deep Web searches that find comments on blogs and posts 
on smaller social sites, like Tumblr, the blogging site, as well 
as Yahoo user groups, e-commerce sites, bulletin boards and even 

Then there are the photos and videos that people post — or find 
themselves tagged in — on Facebook and YouTube and other sharing 
sites like Flickr, Picasa, Yfrog and Photobucket.

And it is photos and videos that seem to get most people in 
trouble. “Sexually explicit photos and videos are beyond 
comprehension,” Mr. Drucker said. “We also see flagrant displays 
of weapons. And we see a lot of illegal activity. Lots and lots of 
pictures of drug use.”

He recalled one man who had 15 pages of photos showing himself 
with various guns, including an assault rifle. Another man 
included pictures of himself standing in a greenhouse with large 
marijuana plants.

Given complex “terms of service” agreements on most sites and Web 
applications, Mr. Rotenberg said people do not always realize that 
comments or content they generate are publicly available.

“People are led to believe that there is more limited disclosure 
than there actually is, in many cases,” he said, pointing out that 
Facebook’s frequent changes to its privacy settings in recent 
years may have put some people at risk in getting a job now 
because of personal information they might have inadvertently made 

“What Facebook was doing was taking people’s personal information 
that they made available to family and friends and make that 
information available more widely to prospective employers,” said 
Mr. Rotenberg, whose organization has several pending complaints 
at the Federal Trade Commission about Facebook’s privacy settings.

Joe Bontke, outreach manager for the Equal Employment Opportunity 
Commission’s office in Houston, said that he regularly reminds 
employers and human resource managers about the risks of violating 
federal antidiscrimination employment rules and laws by using 
online research in hiring decisions.

“Things that you can’t ask in an interview are the same things you 
can’t research,” he said, which includes the gamut of information 
covering a person’s age, gender, religion, disability, national 
origin and race.

That said, he added that 75 percent of recruiters are required by 
their companies to do online research of candidates. And 70 
percent of recruiters in the United States report that they have 
rejected candidates because of information online, he said.

Dave Clark, owner of Impulse Advanced Communications, a 
telecommunications company in Southern California, began relying 
on Social Intelligence for background screening because he said 
the company needed a formal strategy and standards before 
assembling online information about job candidates. “They provided 
us with a standardized, arm’s-length way of using this additional 
information to make better hiring decisions,” he said.

About half of all companies, based on government and private 
surveys, now use credit reports as part of the hiring process, 
except in those states that limit or restrict their use. As with 
social media background checks, there are concerns about 
information that is surfaced. The equal employment agency filed a 
lawsuit last December against the Kaplan Higher Education 
Corporation, accusing it of discriminating against black job 
applicants in the way it used credit histories in its hiring process.

But it is not unusual for senior-level executives in many 
companies to undergo even more complete background checks by a 
private investigating firm.

“We are living in a world where you have an amazing amount of 
information and data on every executive,” said Ann Blinkhorn, an 
executive recruiter in the converging technology, media and 
communications industry. “I think that puts the burden on the 
recruiter and the hiring manager to be really thoughtful about 
what is important and not important when making the hiring decision.”

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