Be Careful Out There

A couple of weeks ago, my wife sent me an email with a link to this PC-Mag article. ???FTC-Approved Company Will Save Dirt from Your Facebook Profile for 7 Years.

My first reaction was that isn’t all that surprising, and people really do need to learn to think before they post anything to a social networking site. Even if you’re only sharing it with a small group, in Google+ Circles for example, nothing is stopping someone from capturing that photo, post, etc. and sharing it elsewhere.

However, when I read the article, part of it really jumped out at me, in a disturbing way.

?Forbes got its hands on a few reports Social Intelligence has made for reporters. One job applicant was indicated to be a racist for joining a Facebook group called “I shouldn’t have to press 1 for English. We are in the United States. Learn the language.”

If that’s the sort of thing that gets you dropped from a potential job, wide-spread use of this service is going to lead to the majority of the country being unemployable. Good luck finding someone who passes this sort of examination hiring managers!

The other thing that this shows is the danger of large, widespread, data collection, especially by government entities. Anytime the subject comes up there’s always the chorus of “If you’re not doing anything wrong, what’s the big deal?” comments to anyone who thinks too much information is being collected. It’s not the data, it’s that someone is going to be interpreting the data completely out of context. Is the Facebook group mentioned above sort of just stupid? Sure. Does joining it make you racist? I think that’s a pretty big stretch, but someone at this company decided that it did, and now the background check run by potential employers is going to come up with you being a racist.

Extrapolate this example out, and you can see how it would be really easy to find information that would hurt you taken out of context. For example, tweeting in support of the US National Team in their recent soccer match with Mexico might be taken as racist, or maybe even anti-immigrant, when taken out of the context of a soccer match. (“C’mon boys beat those Mexicans” sounds somewhat normal during a game, not so much outside of that!). Talking about enjoying a drink after a stressful day might mean you’re a raging alcoholic, looking forward to the weekend might make you a disengaged employee, and on and on. It is all open to interpretation, and if someone can officially label you based on their interpretation, we have problems.

Still, be careful what you put out there. Some things are always stupid. đŸ˜‰

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  1. Thanks, Bake. Great post. Hope your use of the r word doesn’t get you unfairly labeled by the interpreters!

  2. As you say in your Post, if they put the bar that low then anyone who gets stuck on the phone listening to a machine for an hour and the ranting about it online will be unemployable.

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