Cyber-profiling – A Major Privacy Threat

What is cyber-profiling?

Today people spend a great deal of time on the Internet, visiting and contributing to social networking sites. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, and many other services allow people to communicate with others, while recording information a potential employer can use to assess character, cultural fit and other attitudes and characteristics. Organizations use content on social network sites to understand whether a job candidate may present a risk to the business if hired.


Examples include:

The candidate harbors potentially inflammatory views about race, religion, or other sensitive social domains. For example, an employer in the United Kingdom opted not to interview a man because he “…declared in his [MySpace] personal profile that he was against religion and anyone who believed in it.”
The candidate participates in off-work activities which might cause embarrassment for the organization.
The candidate’s views on one or more topics indicate he or she would not be a good “cultural” fit for the organization or for the team supervised by the hiring manager.
The candidate’s participation in activist or political action groups might pose a threat because the business is involved in activities which conflict with the agendas of those groups.
Discussions about the candidate might cause doubt about his or her character in general.
The number of organizations using social networks for employee screening varies by country. Research indicates 20 percent of organizations in the United Kingdom use cyber-profiling with up to 77 percent cyber-profiling in the United States.

Benefits of cyber-profiling

Vetting is an important part of ensuring employees handling sensitive information or managing critical systems present as low a risk to the business as is reasonable and appropriate. It is also important in today’s world of Internet business assessments, by both the informed and the uninformed, that each employee reflects the values of an organization, whether acting on behalf of the business or during personal time. Further, with insiders responsible for 70 to 80 percent of all organization security incidents, an organization should do everything it can to hire only those individuals it believes trustworthy. However, traditional background checks are often not enough.

A background check provides information about a candidate’s involvement in criminal investigations, civil action, or financial problems. What it doesn’t report about a candidate, especially one who has a clean history, is information about his or her general character and behavior.

Cyber-vetting presumably enables organizations to look for red flags indicating potential incompatibility with the organization or position. As a result, organizations ostensibly can screen applicants more comprehensively before an interview is even scheduled, saving time and money (p. 3-4).

Something as simple as a Google search can provide pages of information about individuals active on the Web or who associate with friends who are.

Pitfalls of cyber-profiling

Trying to understand a person’s character by looking at his or her online persona is not without issues. For example, many social networkers create digital identities which are completely different from their actual personality or belief system. The reasons for this are many, including trying to fit in with a group or simple experimentation. However, most employers believe there is no separation between the “real” person and the digital one.

This means employers tend to use whatever they find on the Internet about a person, whether the information is vetted or not, whether the intent or agenda of the person posting the information is known and evaluated. Such oversights can result in passing over perfectly suitable prospects during the hiring process, and unfairly tagging a person as “unfit.”

The original article was first published on the IDG Contributor Network. Read the original article Here .

Internet of Things

Intellectual property law

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