FTC Approves Social-Media Background Searches

Employment-related background searches are commonplace today. For the past few years, there has been quite a bit of controversy over background searches that include searches of social-networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, for information about potential job candidates.

Personally, I’ve spoken to only one employer who outsources social-media background checks to a third-party vendor. I talk to a lot of employers about this topic, so I’d guess that there aren’t many engaging in this practice and probably for good reason. One of the features of searching online for information about candidates is that it’s free, which would be eliminated if outsourced.

Of course, there are risks that come with these searches, too, particularly if not done properly.
I’ve written about the risks and benefits extensively and have detailed the best way an employer can conduct these searches with minimal legal risk. A different way to minimize risk is by outsourcing these social-media searches.

This idea may seem even more attractive-despite the added costs-thanks to the Federal Trade Commission. According to Kashmir Hill’s blog on Forbes.com, the FTC investigated a company that performs these social-media background searches, Social Intelligence Corp., and concluded that its background checks complied with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The FTC determined that Social Intelligence Corp., as a vendor for employers, may continue to search for Facebook photos and profile information, provided it continues to do so in a way that complies with the FCRA. In other words, the “old” rules still apply-even in the world of new media.

For more information about how employers can integrate social-networking searches into their job-screening process, see my three-part article on Screening Job Applicants With Facebook, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

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