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Social Networking: Something Wicked This Way Comes?


Meteo Xavier
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It's completely ethical. If I'm looking for someone to work for my company, and I'm going to hand them tens, maybe HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars every year, I want to know who I'm hiring!!

So if I had two job offers and I decided to know more about you as a boss, is it right to try to do "research" on your life too? Probably my "research" wouldn't even be finished and I would be arrested by stalking.

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So if I had two job offers and I decided to know more about you as a boss, is it right to try to do "research" on your life too?

Of course it is. People have a right to privacy in this country, but when you yourself publicly post information about yourself then you forfeit that right. Whenever I apply for a job or look for an apartment I always research my prospective employers and landlords. Nothing wrong with that.

So if the school knows, hires the coach anyway and then someone blackmails her it suddenly became wrong? So none of this matter, as long as you don't get caught? Hm. Smells like hipocrisy.

??? What are you talking about? Where did blackmail come into any of this?

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I got the idea of blackmail from this post.

...the Playboy photos were brought to the school's attention by a mother whose daughter wasn't allowed to try out for the squad because of too many unexcused absences from school...

...the Playboy photos were brought to the school's attention by a mother whose daughter wasn't allowed to try out for the squad because of too many unexcused absences from school...

I did understand that as blackmail. However, even if she wasn't really blackmailed, how right is this? Why isn't anyone complaining about the attitude of this mother? Perhaps it was not blackmail, but she did use that kind of information to take revenge on a faulty behavior of her daughter.

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So if I had two job offers and I decided to know more about you as a boss, is it right to try to do "research" on your life too? Probably my "research" wouldn't even be finished and I would be arrested by stalking.

What on earth? And I thought that Pezman was coming in from left field...

Just out of curiousity, how old are you, and what is your current job status?

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Another problem of digging too much into people's lives is: who can guarantee that you'll actually do noble things with the information you got? As I told you, as a boss knowing so much about my employee could lead to situations where there's abuse of authority. I could certainly try to coerce my employee to do things just because I know so much of him. That, and everyone around me would also be exposed.

The last paragraph leads to another problem: what if someone else photographs you drunk, for instance, and puts that in their myspace without your authorization and you get fired for that? I'm not sure in the US, but where I live this person could be sued for at least one thing: unauthorized exposure of a picture.

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Ok, everyone shut the fuck up for a minute while I try to get things back on track here.

This isn't about vampires or guns or playboy teachers or extreme circumstances or special cases or reality or anything like that. This is about DRAWING THE LINE IN THE SAND, dude. This is about boundaries and what seperates what.

First of all, its only been said a couple times, first by me IIRC, that looking for dirt on people online is potentially illegal because it circumvents laws that forbid asking age, sexual preference, religion, family information, etc. If the employer is not allowed to ask those questions during the interview, why is he/she allowed to dig up dirt on you on Myspace where, more than likely, you have that printed?

Secondly, who's talking about poor judgement? If we're going to such fine lengths to arbitrarily prove poor character based on information that is vague and without context, what kind of judgment is management showing by trusting pictures on the internet over an 8-year excellent work record, references, decent interview - pretty much mandated company policy and state laws to a point. What kind of good judgment is that?

Third, and this is where we get to boundaries, you should not have to live outside your house thinking everything you're going to do is going to jeopardize your job. That is thoroughly unreasonable. I have to disagree with Audix, BGC or whoever, but no, you do NOT represent your company outside of work.

We're not talking about a potential cop getting fired, or a teacher getting blackmailed. Those aren't typical jobs and the circumstances surrounding those (guns and sex) are hot anyway. That is reasonable considering those circumstances. The problem is, those in favor of this practice, are pretending that all occupational circumstances are the same.

There's a term for people who represent the company every minute of every day as long as they live. They're called CEOs. Apart from that, representing that decorum is not only unreasonable, it almost a workers' rights issue because its asking me to be on clock all week while only paying me for 40 hours.

With our current economy, growing unemployment, growing social networking, this presents a possible growing problem where interviews become interrogations, Staples Managers think they're psycho-analysts and police investigators at the same time, and people have to rewrite the laws of time to be able to get a fucking job in North America.

I'm sorry, Zircon, but you are flat out wrong. Being denied a job for pictures on Myspace isn't "taking responsibility for your actions." Its "paying for something that was only probably a mistake several years ago well after any relevance to the modern world is lost that also has no indicating factor as to how I perform on the job which I have documented evidence saying I was really good." I mean, yeah, if we're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars, thats one thing, but these are just regular jobs that people, normal or not, need to survive in this country.

So here are the lines:

A. Where do you draw the line between your personal and professional behaviors?

B. When can you stop paying for something trivial you did in the past?

C. What is reasonable information for an employer to see and obtain that has any relevance to the job I apply for?

D. When do you truly get to be apart from the company?

E. What is personal and what is not on the internet?

You couldn't say its my own fault my apartment got broken into because I have a window instead of 2'x2' of brick wall, why would you say its my own fault an employer decided to go to lengths to find dirt on me because he doesn't trust anyone anyways and wasted 2 hours of company time and found something on me, years old, that is questionable only inside its own context?

This clearly crosses the line between reasonable employer behavior and nobody is doing shit about it. Thats why, if you very extroverted, you need to get off Myspace and Facebook immediately.

Your life could depend on it.

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Excellent post, Meteor Xavier. However, I discussed further about the issue of the teacher because I think that's not only prejudice, it's hypocrisy. I mean, many straight males have seen a playboy magazine in their lives (thus financing the magazine anyway), but then they criticize a good coach just because she was a playboy bunny? She's not even selling her body. She's obviously not a prostitute. She's selling her nude image. What's the problem with that?

The same way gays don't make straight men turn gay, a playboy bunny won't make these students become bunnies either, or have wild sex with her male students. Damn it, she doesn't have to justify herself.

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Being denied a job for pictures on Myspace isn't "taking responsibility for your actions." Its "paying for something that was only probably a mistake several years ago well after any relevance to the modern world is lost that also has no indicating factor as to how I perform on the job which I have documented evidence saying I was really good."

yeah because if a few years ago some guy was arrested for taking a shit in the middle of a shopping mall I'm totally not going to care about that even though it probably has nothing to do with whatever I'm supposed to hire him for

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Excellent post, Meteor Xavier. However, I discussed further about the issue of the teacher because I think that's not only prejudice, it's hypocrisy. I mean, many straight males have seen a playboy magazine in their lives (thus financing the magazine anyway), but then they criticize a good coach just because she was a playboy bunny? She's not even selling her body. She's obviously not a prostitute. She's selling her nude image. What's the problem with that?

The same way gays don't make straight men turn gay, a playboy bunny won't make these students become bunnies either, or have wild sex with her male students. Damn it, she doesn't have to justify herself.

Well, to Zircon or whoever's credit, that is not the same thing. Sex and Teachers is a HUGE, HUGE HUGE HGE HUGE HUGE fucking issue and anything even resembling it logically follows that she's even lucky she got a teaching job in the first place.

A teaching job is not a regular job because the ability to project a good example for hundreds of young minds to follow is more important than textbook teaching. You can't do that anywhere else. If she used to peddle pornography, in any way, such a short time ago, its against her job to produce the wholesome subliminal image that teachers are supposed to project. It does conflict with her job, therefore she cannot work it any further.

Edit: My name is Meteo. Not Meteor.

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If she used to peddle pornography, in any way, such a short time ago, its against her job to produce the wholesome subliminal image that teachers are supposed to project.

because clearly the subliminal conditioning of children is way more important than actually teaching them things

if, for my kids, I had to choose between a teacher who can barely even read and a teacher who used to be a porn star but is actually a good teacher then I will go for the latter each and every time no matter what terrible thing you try to replace porn star with

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Well, to Zircon or whoever's credit, that is not the same thing. Sex and Teachers is a HUGE, HUGE HUGE HGE HUGE HUGE fucking issue and anything even resembling it logically follows that she's even lucky she got a teaching job in the first place.

A teaching job is not a regular job because the ability to project a good example for hundreds of young minds to follow is more important than textbook teaching. You can't do that anywhere else. If she used to peddle pornography, in any way, such a short time ago, its against her job to produce the wholesome subliminal image that teachers are supposed to project. It does conflict with her job, therefore she cannot work it any further.

Edit: My name is Meteo. Not Meteor.

Sorry about your name, Meteo.

Anyway, teaching bears a great resposability, but what's wrong with pornography? You talk as if it was so much of a big deal, but it isn't. She's not even endorsing it in school anyway.

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I know better, so I'm not answering your questions about my personal life.

rofl. You are a riot.

My point was that I'm guessing you're either young or unemployeed. Don't want to acknowledge either, I take it?

Or maybe by saying something like "I'm 19 and I'm unemployeed" would, you know, be disclosing sensitive information on a public network, and clearly, you are much too smart to fall for that.

As JJT told me, I'm wasting my time at this point.

I concede, you win! Your logic is superior and I'm just being unfair and ridiculous.

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First of all, its only been said a couple times, first by me IIRC, that looking for dirt on people online is potentially illegal because it circumvents laws that forbid asking age, sexual preference, religion, family information, etc. If the employer is not allowed to ask those questions during the interview, why is he/she allowed to dig up dirt on you on Myspace where, more than likely, you have that printed?

Because you've published it on the Internet. You've created a dossier with all of your details and published it for the public to read. Once you publish that information, anyone can read it, and it's not illegal to read that.

Secondly, who's talking about poor judgement? If we're going to such fine lengths to arbitrarily prove poor character based on information that is vague and without context, what kind of judgment is management showing by trusting pictures on the internet over an 8-year excellent work record, references, decent interview - pretty much mandated company policy and state laws to a point. What kind of good judgment is that?

It's, like I already said, a character judgement. Employers don't just look at your resume; they talk to you, try to get a feel for what kind of soft-skills you have. Can you work in teams? How do you work with other people? Are you more of a lone-wolf type? Do you have leadership qualities? This kind of stuff doesn't always come out on a resume or even in an interview.

This clearly crosses the line between reasonable employer behavior and nobody is doing shit about it.

It's not unreasonable at all. If I was going to hire someone for a full-time position and sink a load of money into salary/benefits and integrate them into my workforce, I want to know that I'm getting my money's worth.

Thats why, if you very extroverted, you need to get off Myspace and Facebook immediately.

Your life could depend on it.

Or you do the smart thing and use social networking profiles to your advantage and advertise yourself.

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rofl. You are a riot.

My point was that I'm guessing you're either young or unemployeed. Don't want to acknowledge either, I take it?

Or maybe by saying something like "I'm 19 and I'm unemployeed" would, you know, be disclosing sensitive information on a public network, and clearly, you are much too smart to fall for that.

As JJT told me, I'm wasting my time at this point.

I concede, you win! Your logic is superior and I'm just being unfair and ridiculous.

Argumentum ad hominem.

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Because you've published it on the Internet. You've created a dossier with all of your details and published it for the public to read. Once you publish that information, anyone can read it, and it's not illegal to read that.

It's, like I already said, a character judgement. Employers don't just look at your resume; they talk to you, try to get a feel for what kind of soft-skills you have. Can you work in teams? How do you work with other people? Are you more of a lone-wolf type? Do you have leadership qualities? This kind of stuff doesn't always come out on a resume or even in an interview.

It's not unreasonable at all. If I was going to hire someone for a full-time position and sink a load of money into salary/benefits and integrate them into my workforce, I want to know that I'm getting my money's worth.

Or you do the smart thing and use social networking profiles to your advantage and advertise yourself.

Meteo has a point. I didn't know that in the US, there were laws about these personal questions in an interview. If this is true, then an employer trying to collect personal information on personal sites to find out what he didn't in an interview might yes, be interpreted as illegal. Otherwise, the laws regarding questions about religion, age and so on are simply pointless.

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Darke pretty much covered what my response to Meteo would have been. So far, no one has put out anything that can defeat the primary points, which are that (a) if you post information publicly, everyone has the right to read it, and (B) businesses that are going to spend lots of money on hiring people have the right to use criteria of their choosing to determine the best candidates, provided those criteria rest within the control of the prospective employee.

First of all, its only been said a couple times, first by me IIRC, that looking for dirt on people online is potentially illegal because it circumvents laws that forbid asking age, sexual preference, religion, family information, etc. If the employer is not allowed to ask those questions during the interview, why is he/she allowed to dig up dirt on you on Myspace where, more than likely, you have that printed?

If you VOLUNTEER that information - which you do, by posting it publicly online - then you forfeit your right to the privacy of that information. It would be equivalent to you walking into your employer's office and simply stating that information without even being asked. Exactly equivalent.

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Because you've published it on the Internet. You've created a dossier with all of your details and published it for the public to read. Once you publish that information, anyone can read it, and it's not illegal to read that.

It's, like I already said, a character judgement. Employers don't just look at your resume; they talk to you, try to get a feel for what kind of soft-skills you have. Can you work in teams? How do you work with other people? Are you more of a lone-wolf type? Do you have leadership qualities? This kind of stuff doesn't always come out on a resume or even in an interview.

I don't actually remember seeing you posting here before, but ok.

The difference here that I'm seeing in your example is that I'm entering their world so they can probe me. I'm cool with that because that is all on the record in the professional environment. The problem I'm having is that that professional environment is trying to extend itself out into my other business far beyond its means and necessity.

My big question is why this information is different on the internet than it is in real life. If you cannot legally ask me to my face, why is it ok to fish online for it? What makes that different than showing up at my house at 6:00 AM, interviewing me further, peering and pushing inside? What makes tracking my conversations online different than doing it in real life? Because its easier, its ok? Thats a lot to ask for for a job paying between $8-$14 an hour.

The only thing that I'm seeing that seperates this information is convenience. The internet does not exist for professional purposes alone (or so I thought), people are allowed to be themselves and say what they want at some point, right? Or at least thats what we are lead to believe. How does that work then?

It's not unreasonable at all. If I was going to hire someone for a full-time position and sink a load of money into salary/benefits and integrate them into my workforce, I want to know that I'm getting my money's worth.

But where do you draw the line? At some point it GETS unreasonable; where is that point? You cannot figure out how a person works until long after they've worked there for a while. You are not a psycho-analyst, you are not a police investigator, you are a manager. You should be working on budgets and schedules and getting us ready for our next assignments, not wasting company time stalking us online.

Thats all I'm saying. At some point, it gets unreasonable and if employer-stalking isn't illegal, than its at least highly inefficient and ineffective. You want to get your money's worth? Stop wasting company hours online looking for teenage boys in thongs.

Or you do the smart thing and use social networking profiles to your advantage and advertise yourself.

I get the feeling if that a manager doesn't trust a physical version of a dossier, he won't trust an online version either.

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interpreted as illegal =/ illegal

You're missing the point. It basically means that, should I decide sue an employer that did this research, if it this happened in the US I actually have chances of winning the case. After all, if asking these questions on an interview is illegal, why would going to myspace to find out about it would be legal?

Granted, under any other case going to myspace to find out about it would certainly be legal. But then, under any other case, so would be legal asking someone their religion or age and so forth.

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My big question is why this information is different on the internet than it is in real life. If you cannot legally ask me to my face, why is it ok to fish online for it? What makes that different than showing up at my house at 6:00 AM, interviewing me further, peering and pushing inside? What makes tracking my conversations online different than doing it in real life? Because its easier, its ok? Thats a lot to ask for for a job paying between $8-$14 an hour.

Because, again, you stated the information publicly. THAT'S why it's OK. If you publicly post things about yourself then of course the company can read what you posted. There's nothing illegal or unreasonable about that whatsoever.

You're missing the point. It basically means that, should I decide sue an employer that did this research, if it this happened in the US I actually have chances of winning the case. After all, if asking these questions on an interview is illegal, why would going to myspace to find out about it would be legal?

Because you volunteered the information on MySpace for everyone to see. The word PUBLIC is absolute. You can't exclude people from "public", that includes prospective employers. If you don't want people to know that information, then you shouldn't post it. On the other hand, if you DON'T give it out, an employer can't compel you to tell them certain facts. These are very different things.

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After all, if asking these questions on an interview is illegal, why would going to myspace to find out about it would be legal?

it is illegal to ask if you are gay in an interview , yes

but it probably does not matter if you walk into the interview wearing a sandwich board that says you are gay

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If you VOLUNTEER that information - which you do, by posting it publicly online - then you forfeit your right to the privacy of that information. It would be equivalent to you walking into your employer's office and simply stating that information without even being asked. Exactly equivalent.

If I printed out my myspace page and gave it to him, it would be the exact equivalent. Otherwise, that manager is fishing for information to get around illegality. It bothers me the only thing seperating its ethicality is whether or not the dude asks me to my face.

Anyway, I'm going to lose out in the end here and anything else I post is going to be redundant, so I'm probably going to bow out here. I'm just seeing a lot of potential problems building up down the road and I think it starts here.

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Because, again, you stated the information publicly. THAT'S why it's OK. If you publicly post things about yourself then of course the company can read what you posted. There's nothing illegal or unreasonable about that whatsoever.

Because you volunteered the information on MySpace for everyone to see. The word PUBLIC is absolute. You can't exclude people from "public", that includes prospective employers. If you don't want people to know that information, then you shouldn't post it. On the other hand, if you DON'T give it out, an employer can't compel you to tell them certain facts. These are very different things.

Just as me and Meteo said, under normal circunstances, it's totally legal to go to someone's myspace, and even spending a day pushing your "refresh" button. But so is asking whatever questions you want to. But if asking these on an interview isn't legal, that certainly has a purpose - preventing an employer to decide wether to hire or not would be one of them. If this employer is allowed to do his / her "research" on myspace, that defeats the purposes of these specific laws.

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