Law Enforcement - and Potential Employers - are Watching What You Say and Do Online
Think twice the next time a contact tries to "friend" you on Facebook or "follows" you on Twitter. It may turn out to be an undercover fed looking to scrutinize your employment history or examine your personal references.
U.S. law enforcement agents are following people into popular social-networking sites, going undercover with false online profiles to communicate with suspects, gather private information and view photos and videos that are restricted to a user's network. Their main intention is to trail and catch criminals, tax evaders and other wrongdoers, as well as gather evidence to support their cases.
Information on social media sites has been used against employees in ways ranging from performance evaluation to legal risk. For example, when an employee files for disability compensation and during the same period posts pictures of physical activity."There are real concerns in terms of how social media can affect your employment status and potential job opportunities by what you do on a daily basis on these sites.
Tips for Job Seeker's Safety
From a job seeker's perspective, one needs to be consistent in one's activities and information posted about employment history, business references and recommendations provided. The slightest conflict in their profiles can make them a potential target for fraud and ruin their online reputation.
Use Good Judgment: Consider how your comments would be perceived before you actually post them, and put logic above emotion at all times. Before you hit 'post,' realize that this will be a permanent reflection of your identity, and it may never be erased. Assume that anything you put on a social networking site will be seen by third parties, and "ask yourself whether you would want that seen.
Know Your Contact: The key is: know your contacts. Do not accept friend requests from suspicious people. Use proper introductions when adding users as friends or connections. Once you connect with somebody, they will have access to your information, and -- depending on who they are -- you might not want them to have that level of access. A good practice is to go through your contact list frequently to ensure you have a tight and trusted network of people.
Do Not Tag Photos: Don't allow individuals to tag your photo, as unflattering pictures could end up costing you or your friends their jobs. A big risk in your friend putting that picture up of you from college doing silly things, and then tagging the picture -- It might also get picked up on a search engine. So, if a recruiter does a search, it could come up. There are settings in social media sites to prevent friends from being able to tag you.
Change Your Passwords: often and do not use the same password for social networking sites that you use for your email accounts and online banking.
Know Your Privacy Settings: Many sites such as Facebook provide users with a great deal of control over who can access their information. Those settings can be confusing, says Navetta, but there are websites like these that explain how to lock down Facebook's privacy settings, including BusinessInsider.com. Note also that Facebook is creating simplified privacy settings for future use.
Be Consistent: Using the same photo, consistent profile language, message and links on all social media sites reduces the chances of identity theft and generates trustworthiness and recognition among employers when conducting background checks. Job seekers also need to think twice before clicking on any links in social media sites, as these links can show up on their online history and result in turning off recruiting and hiring managers.
Avoid Controversial Statements: If you think that somebody could take offense with respect to a political view or offensive language or comments, don't make them on a social media site that can be viewed by others, says Navetta. "Remember: if there is nothing offensive on your site, there is nothing for potential employers to get judgmental about."