As part of their business process, many companies perform an internet background check and a social media investigation. They want to do their due diligence before making any decisions.
The objective is to get a picture of the online reputation and general web presence of their prospects. The online check often is in addition to personal and professional background checks.
There are companies now specializing in combing through the social media landscape. The focus is on digging up any potentially damaging or unfavorable information on the person being researched.
Most companies provide a general review of your online presence: locating your social media accounts, blogs, online profiles and email addresses you use.
But upon request, some companies go beyond the basics and can provide a more custom, in-depth social media investigation and deep research of your presence on the internet.
Why do companies spend time and money retrieving this information? But more importantly, what does it mean for you?
Why Do They Want To Know?
Certainly, background checks are nothing new. They’ve been utilized for many years in areas as diverse as:
- Traditional pre-employment screening
- Rental applications
- Mortgage and Loan industry
- Military background checks and reviews
- Professional licensing
- Hospital and insurance credentialing
- Background check on politicians
- Legal review for custody cases, divorces, lawsuits, or business partnerships
When these companies start an online investigation, they use a variety of search tools… with Google being the starting place.
Next is social media.
Through compiling a profile of your social media presence, they can provide a lot of data about you, including:
- who you connect with online
- your social affiliations
- your hobbies and interests
- your political views
- your family status
- your buying behaviors
- what you have done professionally in the past
- what you have done privately in the past
Since companies are looking for a competitive edge, today many include social media investigations to their arsenal of background checks.
However, there are some questions about the validity and effectiveness of social media investigations.
Arguments against the practice include:
- social media searches are prone to false positives
- they can be discriminatory
- they can be irrelevant
- they may be a violation of terms and conditions of many social media sites
While the debate around social media investigation continues, some states have passed legislation to make social media investigations illegal. However, most states don’t prohibit the practice at this time.
What Does It Mean To You?
Personally, I find the idea of being snooped on, someone eavesdropping on my interactions with friends and colleagues a bit disturbing.
But at the same time, it brings home the fact that any online interaction is anything but private.
Far from it!
Once you understand your online footprint and realize the potential implications, perhaps you want to change your online behavior.
Perhaps you’ll want to be more careful about what you post and share online. Or maybe, you’ll decide you want to limit you social media participation to certain topics or channels.
At the very least, you’ll have a better understanding of how online information can be tracked and that it might be used at a later time.
How To Check Your Online Information
Even though you may not be applying for a mortgage or a job today, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the online information about you.
You want to know if something damaging is being said about you or if someone is using your identity; because unless you’re aware of it, you can’t do anything about it.
Here are a couple of simple steps to get you started.
Start with a basic Google search. Enter your name in the search box and see what shows up in the results.
If you’re searching for information about yourself, you want to do multiple searches. Each time use a variation of your name you have used in the past.
You might be surprised to see what comes up with your search. Chances are most of the information is about you. However, some of the data may not have anything to do with you at all.
It might be easy for someone to confuse you with another person. This is particularly true if you have a more popular name you share with many other people.
Use Reverse Image Search
More search tools from Google.
With the help of Google’s reverse image search, you can find any instance when a particular image (yours…) has been published on the net.
The tool allows you to find the exact matching or very similar images posted on blogs, Facebook, Instagram, or anywhere else across the internet.
To use the tool, go to images.google.com:
- Choose to search by image (click on the camera icon).
- Next, enter the address of the image you want to search for. To get the address of an image, cursor over the image, right click and choose copy image address.
- Once you’re back at the page “images.google.com”, paste the address into the search bar and click on “search by image.”
- Google will show you all instances where it found the image across the web.
So, if you’re trying to track where your images or pictures show up, this is a quick and easy tool to use.
As long as you have the URL of the image (cursor over the image, right click and choose “copy image address”) you can track where your pictures are across the web.
You might be surprised where you and some of your images show up…
That’s it for today.
Time to get busy and do some snooping yourself!
Don’t forget to tell us what you uncover…
By Johanna Hofmann, MBA; regular contributor to the NPBusiness blog and author of “Smart Business Planning for Clinicians.”