When Your Facebook Account Becomes Part of the Job Application

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My sense from reading a story that ran on Washington DC radio station WTOP was that General Gansler may not have been captivated by the policy but wasn't necessarily convinced that under the circumstances the Department had done anything illegal. He said that there was no written policy for correctional officers.

Gansler drew the distinction between being forced to give up the keys to one's cyber kingdom "after" passing all the required background checks and being informed "before" the fact that if you wish to work in a particular sandbox you needed to "give it up"—so to speak—to get your own shovel and pail.

[Article: Checking Job Applicants' Credit Discriminates, Feds Say] The Trend is Not Our "Friend"

Would he have his druthers, I believe that Maryland's AG prefers to do background checking "the old fashioned way"—like reviewing applications, doing traditional criminal background checking and talking to folks who are knowledgeable about the applicants—over this or even more invasive tactics like looking at private e-mail or text messaging.

So what's next? Asking for one's list of "matches" on Match.com? Or will Maryland's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services ask for permission to intercept and read candidates' snail mail?

I am offended by Maryland's policy. But, even assuming the Department officially ends the practice, on the issue of social network site screening by the majority of recruiters and employment professionals, the trend is not our "friend." It is hardly a secret that more and more employers are looking at credit reports and it is common practice that HR Directors scour the Internet looking for any evidence of impropriety or stupidity—all too frequent in today's Generation Invincible online world.

Fact: too much information about too many people is too abundantly available. Knowingly and unknowingly, wittingly and unwittingly, people are hemorrhaging personal identifying information by the minute. More than 81% of divorce lawyers credit sites like Facebook, Match and other online trend-setters with giving them the ammunition they need to bring home the bacon for their clients. Ah, the thanks of a grateful matrimonial bar nation. Perhaps that explains why more than 80% of the respondents in a recent Credit.com/GfK Roper poll said they "will not tolerate" online tracking.

[Credit.com Survey: Americans Understand Online Tracking. And They Don't Like It.]

The 60 Minutes Theory

Fact: We complain about tracking yet at almost every turn in the road leave behind a trail of breadcrumbs not so that we may find our way home but rather that subconsciously we can lead others to us. Why?

Well that is a question for folks at a higher psychological pay grade than me.

I, however, am reminded of a principle that my old press secretary at New Jersey's Division of Consumer Affairs referred to as "The 60 Minutes Theory."

Larry Nagy counseled, "Never do anything that would prevent you from finishing your TV dinner on a Sunday evening if Mike Wallace appeared on your television set and began telling you about you."

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