DATE: March 2007 - Myspace is Everyone's Space
Out of the many social networking websites, two of the most well known are MySpace and Facebook. There are over 150
million members of MySpace’s worldwide virtual community. Members are able to make their own layout, put up their
pictures, tell their life stories and have everything about them open for the world to see. They can post blogs, bulletins,
comments, slideshows and surveys telling or showing all different aspects of their personal life. What some people may
not realize is that their private life is out there on the Internet for the public to see and the public bases their judgment
of these people’s character on what they see on their MySpace page. It is a personal website, but if it isn’t on a private
setting where only “friends” can view the page, then anybody can and the owner has waived any right to privacy.
Many members of MySpace and Facebook may not realize that the information they post could be used against them.
Many high school and college age members post pictures of themselves and their friends at parties where there is
usually alcohol and even illegal substances visible. Members put things on their websites to be funny, but they can
often be seen as inappropriate. Employers look at these websites to get a better look into who somebody really is,
rather than relying on just an interview.
Many employers are now doing their own background checks on potential employees by using social networking
websites along with basic search engine queries. By using these websites, employers may acquire information that a
standard background check would not provide them. These employers don’t see this as an invasion into an applicant’s
private life. These internet searches are easy, free and legal. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, applicants must be
told the reason why they were not offered a position. The problem for applicants is that these new “cyber searches” do
not fall under the Fair Credit Reporting Act when conducted by the prospective employer. This means that applicants
being denied positions don’t know that they might not be getting jobs because of something they have posted on their
Personal characteristics such as race, religion and sexual orientation are listed on many social networking websites.
This information could lead to discriminatory acts against applicants or the perception and allegation of discrimination.
Although these categories are protected by law in most states, there currently isn’t any proven enforcement method to
protect applicants discriminated against by this new search method.
Employers who are interested in this type of information should look into cyber searches offered by background
investigation companies. All of CI’s background investigation inquiries, including Cyber Investigation are reviewed and
processed to assure Fair Credit Reporting Act protection. Professional Internet background investigations provide
employers with a more ethical search that includes information provided on social networking sites. In addition, they
are also able to find illegal or unwanted activities, such as cyber crime, data piracy or drug use through special archived
With CI’s Cyber Investigation employers can choose the parameters of the data revealed in their reports. These
parameters are customizable on an employer-by-employer basis. For example, an employer can indicate that they do not
want to know personal characteristics that are protected by discrimination laws. Another popular choice is excluding
legal activities, such as drinking by individuals over the age of 21. Even more specifically, an employer can choose to
obtain information specific to their products or services and the subject’s view point of those products or services, e.g.
animal rights, abortion and even politics.
The use of an applicant’s Internet information by employers is and will continue to be a topic of debate. However, it is a
legal method for obtaining more information about a potential employee who will be trusted with company assets, trade
secrets and most importantly the company’s clients and reputation.
Article written by Sarah Rosney, Intern Investigator, Sage College of Albany