Do you know what your employees are doing on Facebook? Should you?
Serial entrepreneur Max Drucker and his business partner Geoff Andrews cofounded Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Social Intelligence, a company that tracks individuals across social media, in 2010. The company’s business: investigating people’s online activity. Is this information you ought to know?
Q: What does Social Intelligence do?
We conduct social-media background investigations on potential employees. We also do corporate due diligence and fraud investigations for insurance firms.
Q: Why do employers need this information?
Before an employer makes a hire, they conduct a criminal background check, they look at credit history (when legally allowed), they often conduct employment verification, education verification, a drug screening, etc. This is one more piece of data.
Q: Other than obvious sites like Facebook and Twitter, what online activity do you monitor?
It depends on the type of screen or investigation. For Fair Credit Reporting Act-compliant background screens, which adhere to the FCRA’s consumer protections, we only look for user-generated content. That includes social media sites, personal blogs and websites, photo and video sharing sites, message boards and forums. For fraud investigations or due diligence reports, we also look at media articles, local recreation sites, ecommerce sites and other, more obscure places that can only be uncovered in the deep web.
Q: So if someone posts an anonymous comment on the Huffington Post...?
While we cannot always identify the person who posted the comment, we have proprietary tools to assist in identification. We often look to triangulate the alias of the poster through an intermediate site. For example, we might find a Twitter profile of a subject and from there identify their personal handle, then perform a new search.
Q: Give me an example of what you can find out.
Often a person will be out on workers’ comp—they say they can’t work because of an injury at the workplace, yet we’ll identify images of them clearly conducting physical activity.
Q: Why would people post such incriminating information?
It may not come from them. Sometimes a friend or a spouse reveals this stuff. We’ve found rec league postings—we once found a guy’s time in a local race. We’ve also found people looking for side work while they claim not to be able to work. One guy, a roofer, filed a workers’ comp claim; we found him on Craigslist looking for handyman work.
Q: Where do you draw the line?
For our FCRA-compliant searches, we only identify three things: potentially violent or racist remarks, sexually explicit material and illegal activity such as drug use. Alcohol use is not material we identify, unless it is clearly underage or involved in the operation of a vehicle. Everything else is ignored.
Q: Is it safer to have you conduct these searches than for the employer to do so?
If an employer does this, he can expose the company to information that’s not legally allowable for hiring—someone’s religion or some form of disability or sexual orientation. If you make a hiring based on that, you’ve broken the law. You’re also exposing yourself to allegations from the job applicant—if he’s sharing his sexual orientation online, or religion, or she’s obviously pregnant—that you didn’t hire based on that information. One of our taglines is, protecting the job applicant equals protecting the employer.
For more information, visit socialintel.com or contact Max Drucker at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805.456.7065.
This article originally appeared in the August/September 2012 issue of Worth.