In a world where potential employers will almost certainly toss your name into a search engine before considering you for a job, we should all be very careful about what we put online. However, sometimes we slip up, leaving a nasty smear on an otherwise pristine social networking persona. Now, thanks to a ruling by the FTC, background checking services can store those unfortunate moments for up to 7 years after you've deleted them from the web.
A company called Social Intelligence — which provides background checks for companies during the hiring process — recently drew ire from would-be employees due to its practice of building detailed files on applicants. The company keeps these records, which can contain embarrassing pictures or comments that have long since been deleted, in case they are requested by other potential employers in the future. The FTC, after taking a microscope to Social Intelligence's information gathering methods, declared that the company fell within the guidelines of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Individuals who believe their social record is tarnished through no fault of their own are welcome to dispute the firm's findings. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people affected have no idea what information Social Intelligence has on them until they are denied a job. So before you update your Facebook or Twitter status, remember that the information you put forth can come back to haunt you, years after you've wiped your web slate clean.
[Updated 6/21/11]: According to an update on the original article, and subsequent contact with Social Intelligence, the company's records are not reused for later employer inquiries. The historical data is stored, but according to the company, it is only used to verify chain-of-custody should legal issues arise down the road. Social Intelligence insists that it pulls a new report on each individual each time it is requested.
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