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Conducting free background checks on search engines and social networking sites

Posted By: Thomas Shaw, 11:13am Monday 09 February 2009    Print Article

There are many ways to conduct a background check on someone and you can gather a lot of free information by using search engines and social networking sites. This dangerous practice is becoming very common among Recruiters and Employers. It is as easy as typing a name into Google.

All you have to do is to put someone's name into the search field to see what comes up when you hit enter. You may find that you get a lot of results to go through for a common type of name, but you should take the time to look through and refine the search string by using "quotes", location, etc. Searches can be conducted by name, email address or phone number.

More and more people are getting hooked with the different social networking sites available on the web. With the availability of social profiles, employers now have an easier way to conduct free background checks via their profiles. You can learn more than you think about someone by seeing what they have put on a social networking site like Facebook, Myspace, Bebo, Linkedin.

Just think of the information you could see - status updates, blog posts, comments, groups, images, friends and so forth.

Social networking aggregator tools can search multiple sites in one go. Sites such as Spokeo, YoName, Wink, etc...

A warning to everyone - Ask yourself if this is an ethical practice you should be conducting? Everyone has the right to privacy so respect that of other peoples.

Because these social networking sites offer profiles that can be viewed by a number of people, some employers use these sites to check around and dig up someone's personal behavior and identity. What these employers usually forget is the fact that the profiles made through these sites only offer viewing profiles to which they are closely related to or to whomever they allow their profile to be viewed by.

These profiles can be set for viewing to up to the third level of connections or simply to the first level only, depending on the profile owner's settings. Thus if proven that at some point the employer goes further to hack someone’s profile, they could face a serious privacy concern which is a potential legal minefield

This means that even though the network profiles, that a person provides online can be viewed publicly - They don't necessarily guarantee strict privacy security; the option of showing this still depends upon the owner of the profile.

Employers should keep in mind that not all profiles are factual. False statements can easily be made in a profile which could affect or twist the truth that a researcher might wrongly depend on.

If someone uses the social profile as basis for their hiring decision, the applicant or employee carries the right to bring the issue to the court with grounds concerning privacy intrusion. However, it can be hard proving that an employer actually wrongly used the networking site for their advantage.

While there are a lot of valid reasons for employers to check the background of applicants they are interested in hiring, there are also several factors why some employers forego this process. One reason is that it takes some time and money to do a background check. Thus, small companies tend to give up background checking besides the standard phone reference.

On the other end of the spectrum, some employees are against background checking believing that it is a form of invasion of privacy or the belief that a background check could result to illegal discrimination based on the past of a person or the people he or she is associated with in the past.

It's still best to hire third party organisations to conduct the background check where you can be guaranteed that the data collected is legal and results are secured, true and necessary.

Social networking sites are the future for background checks, and there is not much you can do about it. Once something is posted online, it may be hard to remove.

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