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« S.M.A.R.T. News 13-Oct-2010 | Main | S.M.A.R.T. News 18-Oct-2010 »

October 15, 2010


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Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD

I just posted a follow-up piece entitled "Social Screening: The Expanded Discussion." Here's the link:

Brandon Hunt

This was a really informative post. I especially liked the information about protecting your digital identity. I will be sharing this content with my undergrad and grad students.

Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD

It looks like the EEOC is starting to show some interest in regulating employers' use of social media sites. Check out this post:

Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD

Nancy Mann Jackson recently did a nice job of summarizing some of my recommendations for candidates, including some ideas not shared in the white paper. Here's a link to her post on

Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD

Please also see my comment on the piece below, noting in particular my response to the recommendation to ask candidates for access to their social networking accounts:

Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD

Recently, the Federal Trade Commission made some decisions about Social Intelligence, the company that inspired this post last fall, that are being misconstrued and misrepresented in cyberspace. Here's a link to one of the articles, in Forbes, along with my comments:

I'm always wary of sensationalistic headlines, and I'm glad to see you added qualifications to this post to put the news in better perspective. These are important issues that should be discussed rationally and on the basis of facts rather than emotionally-driven.

I wrote about Social Intelligence and the practice of "social screening" last fall in a white paper entitled "Social Screening: Candidates - and Employers - Beware" ( That paper has been widely read and shared, and I've followed it up with other pieces that focus on the legal issues surrounding social media, particularly in terms of employment law. All the links should be available through

Bottom line: this *sounds* a lot scarier than it really is. In fact, it's a pretty good outcome for individuals. I generally advise against employers directly accessing social networking sites to screen job candidates. At least by using a service like Social Intelligence there will be discipline and layers of protection.

Which reminds me: this news *only* applies to employers using a background screening company like Social Intelligence. The FCRA does *not* apply to employers who do their own screening. I'm not sure how many employers actually use screening companies, but I expect it's not the majority. So, the impact of this news is even smaller than people may think.


Hi Courtney,

Thank you for posting this article- very informative. I had one question I was hoping you could clarify. You write "The not-so-good news: Always remember that even private digital information can become public. Act accordingly" Can you explain how private information can become public? Can these social screening services access information that is "private"? Also, can you comment on internet content that has been "deleted" by a user? We've all heard that nothing deleted on the internet is actually gone forever. Can this service gain access to these X files as well? Thank you.

Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD

Thanks, Sarah.

There are several ways in which private information can become public - all of which, unfortunately, involve someone you consider a friend violating your trust. The simplest way is for someone to take a screen shot of something you've shared and then reshare it. Someone could also download pictures from Facebook or Flickr and reshare them. They could also give someone access to their account and/or log in and show someone your information.

It may be hard to imagine someone you consider a "true" friend violating your trust in this way, but many people are too indiscriminate in connecting with people via social networks, so they end up having many more acquaintances in their digital circles than close relationships. But even close friends can violate your trust, knowingly or unknowingly.

Regardless, the safest course of action is to always assume anything you share can get reshared.

Social screening services cannot - and more importantly, do not attempt to - access private information. They only search for information that is publicly available. As I've discussed in other posts, though, many employers do not necessarily restrict their searches in the same way.

If information is publicly available (even if someone attempted to delete it), any screening search can find it. It's important to remember, though, that these companies aren't going on witch hunts, and they won't dig until they find dirt. If something is old and (presumably) buried, it might surface, but I don't think the searches are designed to be perfectly exhaustive.

The idea of social screening is still fairly new, so we're still working out the details of how it should work. Eventually we'll figure out the best boundaries and rules.

Thanks for your questions!

Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD

I’ve just written a new blog post that provides more in-depth discussion of the practice of social screening, particularly by third-party firms. Here’s a link:

Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD

Based on the feedback I received on the "Social Screening Facts" post, especially from Mark Hammer in GovLoop, I was inspired to create a follow-up post. It's entitled "Social Recruiting 101: Overview and Recommendations. Here's a link:

Muhammad Saad Khan

Hi Courtney!

Excellent information regarding social media employment background checks.

I have recently been following the topic and found some interesting information on two different blogs. I am sharing it here for the audience to know how these social media background checks are now becoming employer's primal choice and how a job seeking person can survive social media background check by knowing an employer criteria to data mine his/her employee.

Below is the links for the targeted information:

Social Media Employment Background Checks – Another Tight Curve for Your Job Hunt!

Social Media Employment Background Checks – Know the Employers Criteria to Win Your Job Opportunity!

Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD

Thanks for your comments and for sharing these links, Muhammad.

Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD

Here’s another update:

Recruiting in the Digital Era: Updated Guidance for Employers, Recruiters, and Candidates

Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD

I just published another blog post that consolidates resources addressing this and related issues:

Demanding Access to Individuals’ Social Networking Accounts: A Digital Era Worst Practice

Please help me educate people about this important Digital Era issue, which potentially affects all of us, by sharing the post. Thanks!

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