A recent FTC blog questions the legitimacy of the social media background checks with regard to Fair Credit Reporting Act compliance. Thomas Ahearn of the San Francisco Examiner summarizes the FTC concerns with the Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRA's) reporting an employment candidate'a negative characteristics within their social media networks.
One segment of the article, which reports a section of the FTC report cites the following...."“The FTC staff recently looked at a company selling background reports that include information from social media to see if they were complying with FCRA. Staff’s letter to the company emphasized that when reports include information derived from social media, the same rules apply. For example, companies selling background reports must take reasonable steps to ensure the maximum possible accuracy of what’s reported from social networks and that it relates to the correct person."
Reasonable steps is always the slippery slope, the murky place in which identities can not always be absolutely confirmed. A niece of nephew playing Farmville at two in the afternoon might indicate the job applicant is into playing online games during the work hours. Common names can cause mistaken identity mishaps. A lover or friend can post questionable remarks on the candidate's Facebook or other social media.
And then, of course, what constitutes a viable candidate? Does eccentric behavior in one's spare time mean that this employment candidate is not a skilled and dedicated worker? Let's face it some of the more creative people are eccentric in behavior. But then some of the screw ups may also come off as eccentric when they are in fact...well...screw ups. As no lawss have really defined the procedure for conducting social media background checks, the employer should proceed with caution, making sure it is FCRA compliant. There are too many chances to make assumptions that could prove to be incorrect and unfortunate assumptions. As for anonymous negative postings about a job applicant, one shouldn't really consider such postings in deciding on a candidate's viability for employment. Anonymous postings could contain some truth, but then they could be the vitriolic product of disgruntled co-workers or managers with a special agenda to call their own.
There are still a lot of speed bumps concerning social media and background checks. It will be interesting to read other takes on the subject.