Social Media Background Checks — Is Yours Clean?


I’m very fortunate to have a job — although, like most others, I’ve been unemployed for a time when I’d rather not have been. But current jobseekers now have yet another hurdle to climb in the form of social media background checks. Gizmodo ran some intel on its own staffers and found some surprising results. Read up, and think about what people would find if they really looked at your online history:

Here’s what we found, and why you should both freak out about and embrace it.

First, some context: In May, the FTC gave a company called Social Intelligence the green light to run background checks of your Internet and social media history. The media made a big hulabaloo out of the ruling. And it largely got two important facts wrong.

Contrary to initial reports, the company doesn’t store seven years worth of your social data. Rather it looks at up to seven years of your history, and stores nothing.

The second was the idea that it was looking for boozy or embarrassing photos of you to pass along to your employer. In fact it screens for just a handful of things: aggressive or violent acts or assertions, unlawful activity, discriminatory activity (for example, making racist statements), and sexually explicit activity. And it doesn’t pass on identifiable photos of you at all. In other words, your drunken kegstand photos are probably fine as long as you’re not wearing a T-shirt with a swastika or naked from the waist down.

Basically, it just wants to know if you’re the kind of (jerk) who will cause legal hassles for an employer. Which brings us back to my report.

We ran background checks on six Gizmodo employees, including our editor in chief Joe Brown, and all but one came back clean. When it doesn’t find anything incriminating on a potential employee, it simply issues a notice that the employees passed (see below) and doesn’t generate a file.

And then there’s me. I flunked hard. When that happens, Social Intelligence creates a report, which it would then send to an employer. And if you don’t get a job because of your social media report, you can request a copy. Mine’s filled with delightful details, like "subject admits to use of cocaine as well as LSD," and "subject references use of Ketamine."

Basically, I may never work again.

Read the full story to see what the report actually looks like (beware, some salty language). Pretty fascinating.

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