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"Pre-Crime" Comes To the HR Dept. 554

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-wouldn't-work-out dept.
storagedude writes "Like something out of the Steven Spielberg movie Minority Report, a startup called Social Intelligence is mining social media to weed out job applicants based on their potential for violence, drug abuse or just plain bad judgment. The startup also combs sites like Facebook and Twitter to monitor current employees, presumably to monitor compliance with company social media policy, but as the criteria are company-defined, anything's possible. Just one more reason to watch what you post, folks."
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"Pre-Crime" Comes To the HR Dept.

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I take it this screening company dont mind a few lawsuits for deformation and libel ?

    • by spazdor (902907) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:30PM (#33741070)

      Hah! For that to happen, they would have to notify the people they defame.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mr. Freeman (933986)
      The problem is that if they prefix this with "This program is not 100% perfect" then it's an opinion, which isn't libel. Also, if they say "so and so posted such and such to some website", that's not libel either, because truth is an absolute defense against libel claims.

      Better to go after the employer who fires you based on activities outside of work... though that isn't likely to succeed either unfortunately.
  • by elucido (870205) * on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:16PM (#33740890)

    It's better than the "IQ" test if it predicts behavior.

    It's better than the "drug" testing because not every drug user is a drug addict.

    It's highly focused on what actually matters.

    If you are rational you won't go online saying and doing stupid things in a way in which it's linked to your workplace persona. If you are irrational and completely lack self control then you might, but then you might be like that Barksdale Google engineer and I'd rather people like that guy be filtered out than to continue with hiring irrational but brilliant.

    That being said nobody is rational 100% of the time, but those people who are at work using their work computer to search for pornography -1, those people who are spouting idiocy under their real name -1, those people who don't protect their name, their reputation, as they would protect their company -1.

    • by Potor (658520) <farker1&gmail,com> on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:27PM (#33741026) Journal

      I am in favour if they are testing for spelling and grammar.

      Otherwise, not so much.

    • by cappp (1822388) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:33PM (#33741096)
      TFA makes a point that invalidates yours though - they specifically mention the fact that if you're tagged in an image your boss is contacted. At that point it doesnt matter if you're rational...every single person in your social network, no matter how extraneous, is having their discretion and rationality tested. Go to a party and have a couple of pictures taken and tagged of you messing around, harmlessly, and forwarded to a boss who perhaps disapproves of heavy drinking/smoking/you kissing guys/stupid pictures of people pretending the Eiffel tower is between their palms...pretty much anything really, and you run the risk of disciplinary action.

      At that point the only rational choice is to not participate online at all, or allow pictures to be taken, comments to be made, anything that relates to you. What a sad life that seems.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:37PM (#33741148)

      The thing is, more people get caught in the crossfire for no reason. For example your boss might object to your political stance, or he might not like you being a atheist, or he might think you're a drunk when there's only one picture of you at your birthday. Maybe he sees you dressed as a woman at a halloween party and fires you because he's homophobic. If your name is John Smith, good luck cleaning up your online identity.
      Sure, some of those things are technically illegal reasons for firing, but really, in the US it isn't that hard to fire you for any reason (sometimes even no reason). Until the position descriptions have "24hr company representative and diplomat" in them (with appropriate pay), what you do on your own time and dime is your business. This just smacks of companies trying to squeeze people by the balls even harder.

    • by Angst Badger (8636) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:39PM (#33741168)

      And best of all, you can find out things through Facebook that you are prohibited by law from asking your employees. Want to discriminate against employees on the basis of religious or political beliefs? Gotcha covered!

      It's highly focused on what actually matters.

      What actually matters is job performance, period.

    • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:43PM (#33741218)
      FUCK. THAT. SHIT. [xkcd.com]

      That is all.

      (Goddamn filters for caps.)
  • by sethstorm (512897) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:17PM (#33740906) Homepage

    Unless they provide a full & accurate report as to what information was collected on you(and how it was used), it shouldn't even be happening.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:26PM (#33741020)

      Guess what? You are advertising yourself.
      You agreed to it when you signed up.
      You agreed to it when you decided posting your life on line was a good idea.
      Not only to future employers but to the marketers who are sold your data from Facebook, Twitter, et al.

      You already sold your right to privacy by:
      a) agreeing to the terms of service.
      b) thinking there are no consequences for permanent and historical archiving your stupidity.

      Companies already have the option to fire you for most any reason they see fit. You've just now made it easier.

  • by ScientiaPotentiaEst (1635927) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:18PM (#33740926)
    ... but how do these "trawlers" get to see what's on, say, a Facebook page if viewing permission has been given only to a limited set of trusted people? Does Facebook permit trawlers access to such restricted information? Do they use subterfuge to get past the restrictions? How?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SuperKendall (25149)

      Most people simply share pretty much everything.

      • by spazdor (902907)

        And if you have any of your info set up as visible to "friends of friends", all they need to do is make a fake profile with a sexy girl photo, and spam friend requests.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Culture20 (968837)
      I heard somewhere that there's a Private Investigator exemption for super-user type viewing, and that a lot of big name companies' HR departments have someone to do that for "identity verification".
    • by Kozz (7764) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @07:33PM (#33741670)

      ... but how do these "trawlers" get to see what's on, say, a Facebook page if viewing permission has been given only to a limited set of trusted people? Does Facebook permit trawlers access to such restricted information? Do they use subterfuge to get past the restrictions? How?

      Maybe they don't need to get past restrictions. Perhaps there's already enough info out there to hang you with. Go search for yourself at www.pipl.com [pipl.com]. It's frightening... I just searched and found a usenet posts I made in '97. Thankfully they're just posts to technical discussions (hardware, programming, etc).

      I once spoke to a woman who said she uses pipl.com to attempt to gather information proving people are fraudulently obtaining worker's compensation benefits, such as a person who says they can no longer walk, but post photos this week of them out dancing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      actually they don't need to. a simple google search gives you the answer.

      facebook policy is that if a company advertises on facebook, they have 100% access to any and all profiles - regardless of your privacy settings..

      so as long as this company takes out an ad on facebook, your profile is completely accessible to this company.. yet one more thing facebook doesn't make very public.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by igy (908081)
        This is completely untrue, and I don't think I've even seen tinfoil hat types claiming that before now... Facebook offers targeting to groups of people based on criteria the advertiser enters, it never reveals who the users are that meet those criteria, nor who clicks the ads, etc.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dwpro (520418)

        so as long as this company takes out an ad on facebook, your profile is completely accessible to this company

        I can find no credible links to verify this, please post them if you have them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tehcyder (746570)

        facebook policy is that if a company advertises on facebook, they have 100% access to any and all profiles - regardless of your privacy settings..

        You just made that up. I dislike Facebook as much as the next paranoid geek, but I just don't believe you.

  • Learn To Cheat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by b4upoo (166390) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:19PM (#33740932)

    Create a persona that is unbelievably wonderful. Give that persons a handle and its own email account. Then if you are asked if you go online give them that persona's handle and email address. Your live in uncle must own all those other handles and he uses your PC a lot. But you are the one who constantly emails about rescuing orphans and stray dogs and cats and attends all patriotic functions ad nauseum.

    • These sorts of tests should be called idiot detection testing. The point of the test is to filter out the irrational type people who can bring down the honor and reputation of any business. A business is represented by the behavior of it's employees. A business has the right not to hire employees who have irrational or just plain stupid behavior.

      • by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:27PM (#33741036)
        They do, however there are limitations on what they can do. They can require a drug screening and back ground check, references, but something like this is questionable at best.

        Basically sounds to me like their trying to find a legal way of going back to pre-affirmative action times and hire people based upon things other than fit and qualification. Perhaps I'm a bit cynical, but this looks like a convenient way to not hire minorities.
    • Re: Learn To Cheat (Score:5, Interesting)

      by istartedi (132515) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @07:06PM (#33741412) Journal

      No. Don't bother learning. Just hire an "online presence consultant" and let them do it for you. Prices and quality of service will vary based on how much is at stake. In the future, smart students will do real socializing at ball games and keggers while AI-bots make sanitized FaceBook postings on their behalf. Sign up for PersonaBot now. $29.99/mo.

  • by ThorGod (456163)

    If a company is so restrictive and intrusive that they can't take a couple crazy, sleep-deprived 3 am posts maybe they're not the best place to work?

    From the company's point of view, any information they can gather on a potential employee is helpful. I just hope who ever uses that type of service is wise enough to not take it too, too seriously.

    • by elucido (870205) *

      If a company is so restrictive and intrusive that they can't take a couple crazy, sleep-deprived 3 am posts maybe they're not the best place to work?

      From the company's point of view, any information they can gather on a potential employee is helpful. I just hope who ever uses that type of service is wise enough to not take it too, too seriously.

      If you are smart you wont have to worry about it even if they take it absolutely seriously.

      Now if they started looking and judging us by the music we listen to or the politics we talk about, then I would say there is a problem. But lets be honest, who wants to hire a complete irrational moron? They have to be smart enough not to strip naked on facebook and talk BS on twitter.

      • by compro01 (777531) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @07:13PM (#33741486)

        Aside from the fact these people are monitoring pictures tagged with your name, which are not necessarily posted by you. Are you going to walk around in an invisibility cloak all the time to keep people from taking pictures of you?

        And how are you supposed to know if someone decides not to hire you because you're a catholic/wine taster/gay/republican/metalhead/model/democrat/atheist/country fan/jew/bagpiper/brewer/etc. I think you put far too much faith in the rationality of managers.

    • by spazdor (902907)

      I hope this too, but this hope is hopelessly naive.

  • local newspapers... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by markass530 (870112) <markass530 AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:21PM (#33740954) Homepage
    so what if "someone i know" is from as small boring ass town that printed a mini article (full of bs, mostly) about one of his D.I.P's and now that is #4 when you google his name (mark stolzoff) how do you fix that?
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:22PM (#33740970)

    You don't think when you apply for a job that the people hiring you are not already looking at social media (and of course Google) to see what kind of person you are?

    Now I'm against HR doing this by policy as they will come up with some absurd guidelines that a real person closer to the hiring would be able to make a judgement call on. But that doesn't mean your social media footprint has not already affected your ability to be hired, for some time now.

    • by sqrt(2) (786011)

      And what if they can't find anything because all the info is private?

      • And what if they can't find anything because all the info is private?

        Then nothing at all will happen.

        But most people don't careful pour over privacy controls the way you or I would. They just open the kimono wide for all to see. If they find a setting they just set it more open.

        Truth to tell, I don't even bother changing Facebook privacy settings. I just treat anything I post there as utterly public, that I don't care about every person on earth seeing. And if you are smart that is true for all forms o

  • How unoriginal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sethstorm (512897) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:22PM (#33740972) Homepage

    In a bad economy, sticking it to the individual worker through HR seems to always creep up.

  • Nice profession (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KnightBlade (1074408)
    So now stalking is officially a profession. "Don't call us stalkers! We believe in the well being of our clients so we want to stop crime before it happens. We are doing a noble deed here."
  • by notthepainter (759494) <obliqueNO@SPAMalum.mit.edu> on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:27PM (#33741030) Homepage

    My name is shared with a very famous (dead) person so I'm hard to google. But of course he had my email address. From that he found my geocaching account, liked that I made puzzles (he was looking for a game developer) from that found my /. postings, liked what he saw.

    Yeah, I got the job and it was fun, but it creeped me out. I hardly ever post anywhere anymore.

    Except, of course, for this...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:36PM (#33741132)

      Notthepainter, could you come see me in my office? I want to talk about your public discussions of my web stalking activities.

      -the boss

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by joe_frisch (1366229)

      The mis-identification problem is a big issue. If you have an uncommon but not unique name you can be in trouble. For a while a Google search on my name returned writings of a neo-nazi in Germany. This is of course a problem when people manually search the internet for social information on someone, but there is a tendency to trust results from automated systems because of the assumption that "someone" made sure this problem didn't happen.

  • by mandelbr0t (1015855) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:27PM (#33741034) Journal
    The big danger of judging people by their character as a fit to a culture is that a particular character type becomes over-represented, and all decision-making could basically be made interchangeably by any member of the organization. Just as a gene pool that has little diversity is much more vulnerable to disaster, so to is the organization that believes that it will be more effective by stereotyping people according to their determination of their character.
  • Choices (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Andy Smith (55346) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:28PM (#33741042) Homepage

    Just one more reason to watch what you post, folks

    Or one more reason to make ethical career choices, such as not working for a company that doesn't respect your right to a private life.

  • When will people learn not to give out your private information to people that have total control over your earning power? It doesn't even matter if you do anything illegal, just something that can be construed as bad for the company image. Have a photo on Facebook of you drinking MGD at a party while you work for A-B? Sorry dude, you added your boss as your friend, and he just fired you.
  • Thats a great idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:30PM (#33741068) Homepage Journal

    The hardest thing about being in HR is justifying your existence. The HR department where I work spits out a constant stream of useless projects, purely so they can claim to be doing something. For example we have a program to encourage employees to find people to apply for jobs at our company, but there are no positions open to apply for. The list goes on.

    Snake oil products like this are ideal for HR. They take maybe a fifth of an HR person to administer, so it looks great on the HR managers resume (always looking for that next job, go home and update your resume). They use money (administered a budget of $DOLLARS, also great on the resume). They sound like a good idea. Its sounds really web 2.0 and hip to be involved. Really, it can't fail.

    It just won't work.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JonySuede (1908576)
      that sounds like HR in my organization, always cluelessly creating non-working program to solve inexistent problems while totally ignoring the real problems.
  • I wonder... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by holiggan (522846) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:34PM (#33741118)

    ... what the Facebook/Twitter/media-stuff profiles of the people involved in that company look like.

    What was the expression? "Eat your own dog food",was it?

  • Unintended effects (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:36PM (#33741128) Journal

    If these people can't get a job, what motivation do they have to change? If you've got nothing to lose and no prospects of anything better, why not commit crimes? Do we really want violence prone drug addicts wandering the streets with nothing to do?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fafalone (633739)
      This country has decided that yes, we in fact do want to perpetually punish drug offenders by eliminating opportunities other than becoming more serious criminals. We've decided drug users endangering themselves is not a medical problem, but a serious criminal offense that should be handled by militarizing the police departments and eroding civil liberties because they have to be punished (you can't stop victimless crimes without trampling rights), and that the costs to society accrued by this punishment ju
  • by sqrt(2) (786011) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:38PM (#33741156) Journal

    I would never allow anyone I work for (or with) to be friends with me on Facebook, and if I haven't added you all you can see is my name, picture, and a link to message me and request to be added as a friend.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:40PM (#33741192)

    Shouldn't we be giving credit to Phillip K. Dick for authoring this story idea instead of Spielberg who, undoubtedly, has enough credits to his name and merely directed this film?

  • You know, there may be a bit of a masked positive side to this kind of behavior...depending on how you look at things. Sure, you may not be able to get just any job you apply for anymore. On the other hand, this helps act as a bit of a filter for you, by weeding out employment solicitations from companies that you wouldn't enjoy working for in the first place. I know that if a company I otherwise found interesting was extremely biased towards folks with, say, unpopular political views, I wouldn't want to wo
  • based on their potential for violence, drug abuse or just plain bad judgment.

    Posting anything on Facebook or Twitter is proof of bad judgement.

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @10:15PM (#33742942) Homepage

    It's these low end "background checks" and "clearances" that suck. I used to be in the aerospace business, working for a company that did business with the 3-letter agencies. I've been through the clearance process for the higher level clearances. [clearancejobs.com] At that level, there are real background checks, where Government investigators go out and quiz your neighbors, friends, previous employers, and creditors in person. Fingerprints are taken and checked. Police records are checked. Birth certificates are checked; not only do you have to show yours, they check it against the hospital birth records. There are interrogations, lie detector tests, and an interview with a shrink. The whole process takes about a year.

    But because the high level clearance process is reasonably thorough, it's not as random as the low-end stuff. It's not "competitive", in the hiring sense. There's a limited list of things the security people worry about, and they're the items that, historically, have caused people to sell or give secrets to the enemy - relatives in an enemy country, vulnerability to blackmail, financial problems, gambling or drug or alcohol abuse history. They don't care if your Facebook page makes you look like a jerk.

  • Some day... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @10:29PM (#33743032) Homepage Journal

    ...it will be considered a sign of anti-social and possibly criminal behavior if you AREN'T active on FaceBook and such sites. So you won't be able to just avoid the shit and cover your head.

    You'll have to hire a company to create fake profiles all over the net for you and routinely post things to them that make you seem like the model worker and/or citizen. And of course it will have to be tailored towards your type of work.

    Hospital work? Patient, caring, giving.
    Stockbroker? Sexist, cracks sick jokes, and laughs at other people being fucked over.

  • by radarsat1 (786772) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @11:14PM (#33743280) Homepage

    Just one more reason to watch what you post, folks.

    But won't "watching what we post" only serve to lessen the dilution of social media "behaviour", making it even easier for classifiers to pick out outliers?

    Put another way, if we act ashamed of ourselves and play cards close to the chest, won't this simply encourage conformal social behaviour and help to undo the social upheaval of the 60's?

    In other words, while I agree that making yourself look stupid on the internet is not the smartest move, I would also say that asking everyone to "watch what they say" for fear of future repercussion sounds somewhat doubleplusungood [wikipedia.org] to me.

    In other words, we need to figure how to let teenagers be teenagers. It scares me, but I agree with Eric Schmidt that it might one day be necessary to let people change their name [slashdot.org] when they get to a certain age, similar to how we let people clean their criminal record at 18.

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