You’re being watched: Privacy is dead

Sharing is great. It’s easy, it’s fun and pretty much everyone does it. With the technology available today you can share anything, with anyone, from anywhere. Unfortunately though, there is one major negative impact of this for professionals: Privacy is dead. And Facebook, with its 800+ million user base, is the main culprit.

In 2010 Mark Zuckerberg labeled sharing as “the social norm.” What he didn’t choose to bring up, or even consider, was the other side of the sharing equation: Privacy. Now, there are various problems or dangers that can arise from the privacy issue but the one that’s most prevalent, and perhaps most influential at the moment, concerns the job seeker.

There’s been a lot of buzz about Facebook privacy in the recruitment world recently. According to a recent survey, around 70% of recruiters in the US have rejected an application based on information found online. That’s a pretty high number, and it’s important to underline that it isn’t just a trend confined to the US; it really is a global phenomenon.

So how are job seekers reacting? Well it is now quite commonplace for a jobseeker to invent a Facebook alias to protect themselves. By changing their display name and tightening their privacy settings, in terms of who sees what content, jobseekers (mostly young professionals/graduates) are essentially having to “hide” from potential employers. And with stats like that who can blame them?

It’s definitely becoming more and more important to manage your online reputation.

But it’s not just jobseekers that are at risk. It seems like every other day that I hear a “horror story” about someone who’s lost their job because of something they’ve said/done on Facebook. Anything from an inappropriate comment or an unsuitable photo or video to a criticism of a former employer/colleague or even a comment left by a friend or family member have landed people in hot water.

According to the same survey, 79% of US companies admitted to having used the internet to “better assess applicants.” As the world, and more importantly the working world, becomes more social, a site like Facebook becomes more and more influential for professionals. Although it did begin as a purely social site used for personal connections, it is now widely used for networking, job hunting and recruiting and therefore to ignore the privacy issue is a mistake which you are likely to regret.

So, what should (and shouldn’t) you be doing?

Number one for me is to take a look at your privacy settings. Make sure you only share posts, information, photos etc with the people you want to see them. Facebook “lists” make this an easier task. Secondly, make sure never to criticize or complain about your work on Facebook – nothing good can come of it! Thirdly, and this one’s probably less common but not unheard of, only accept to add people you know. The reason for this is that sometimes a recruiter will create an alias, friend you and essentially spy on you. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t believe that this occurs too often, and certainly none of the recruiters I know do it, but as I said it’s not unheard of and you should always be careful.

Remember a recruiter is well within their rights to research you. They will happily throw away your CV if they see something they don’t like and they can fire an existing employee for the same reason. So be careful! Your life is not as private as you think it is.

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  1. The Dangerous World of LinkedIn « TM International

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