Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Can Your Social Media Past Hurt Your Job Prospects?

Although criminal background checks, credit reports and online searches are standard fare these days for employers evaluating potential employees, social media history is growing increasingly important as part of the equation.

Social Intelligence, a social media history aggregation company, is banking on it. It provides a unique service for employers and gives them everything they need to evaluate someone in terms of their online activity.

While this may seem like detective work, CEO Max Drucker is quick to dismiss the connection. “All we assemble is what is publicly available on the Internet today,” he stated in a recent interview. The gathered information is categorized into several different sections, including professional honors, charitable work, racist comments, references to drugs, racy photos, displays of weapons and violent actions.

The service may seem like a safe bet for employers, but the FTC was notified by privacy advocates who are concerned with employers making determinations based on factors that aren’t relevant to job performance. In the subsequent investigation, the FTC determined that Social Intelligence’s business is in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

According to the company, the reports remove references to religion, race, marital status, sexual orientation, disability and other protected information. What is exposed can be damaging – like a woman who was found to be hunting for Oxycontin on Craigslist. With employers looking to make smart hiring decisions in the tight economy and social media data being created every day, Social Intelligence is likely to be joined in the social background check space by competitors soon.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Facebook and Twitter Buttons Track Users Around the Web

According to a new study by the Wall Street Journal, Facebook and Twitter social widgets are being used to track website visitors around the web, whether or not they engage with these buttons.

The social widgets – Facebook’s “Like” button and Twitter’s “Tweet” button – are ubiquitous. In the past year they have been added to millions of web pages and are normally used to share content with friends and followers.

The Wall Street Journal found that Facebook and Twitter are able to tell which websites the users are visiting even if they don’t “like” or “share” the content. The tracking happens unless users completely log out of their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Facebook says that they only use the tracking function for advertising purposes in order to display ads related to search history on a user’s Facebook sidebar. Twitter reports that they delete tracking data “quickly” and that the tracking is an unintended side effect of the functionality of the button.

Although both Twitter and Facebook deny that the tracking has any other purposes, theoretically the implications are much different: User search behavior can be linked back to a person’s social profiles, which normally includes detailed personal information. A person’s reading habits can be tracked back to their name, email address and offline information – everything from health concerns to past times to political and religious views. Privacy advocates compare it to having someone follow you around the library and taking notes about every book that you look at.

The new revelations come out amidst increasing concerns about Internet user privacy. There have been at least five bills presented before Congress dealing with online privacy issues in the last year.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Google Investors Ask, “What’s Next?”

Google has become synonymous with the Internet.

Google has also become a fixture in the American home with many people opting to “Google it.” The search engine giant has many things going for it, but even so, there is still some cause for concern.

Growing competition in the areas of search has cut into Google’s action and new emerging markets are still too young to count as assets. Does Google have what it takes to meet its investors’ growing appetites? In world where you are only as good as your last whopping success, can Google pull off a second miracle?

The rise of social networking catapulted Google into the stratosphere. AdWords, a pay per click advertising model created by Google, saw a tremendous rise in revenue thanks to market-targeted advertising. Facebook has taken notice crafting an ad program that bares striking resemblance to that of Big G’s.

Still not convinced? Let the numbers do the talking.

Just-announced 3Q numbers tell the story: Revenue from search drove a revenue increase of 23 percent and a net income increase of 32 percent. Google told analysts that display ads (images and video on YouTube, no text) are set to bring in over $2.5 billion in revenue in the coming year. (And mobile is estimated at about $1 billion.)

Yet for all of its successes, Google is still showing signs of age.

People are getting smarter about search and now with big box style websites like people are able to find all of their needs with less need to hunt around. As Google looks ahead it banks on the mobile market buying out AdMob, a mobile advertising agency.

Acquisition is the order of the day as Google strengthens its engineering and sales division by several hundred strong. The company is taking aggressive moves to make the leap into the new markets. Google’s vision is clear: To become the search engine for the social network generation, a sleeker more user intuitive interface working seamlessly behind the scenes.