Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Electronic snooping by HR departments

This post on Bruce Schneier’s blog led me to this rather disturbing article.  I don’t know about anyone else but I find it rather creepy that what you said years ago, or an embarrassing picture, possibly put up by someone else, could be used to determine whether or not you get (or keep!) a job.  The use of fear to sell it is also insidious, suggesting that if companies don’t do it, they may be held liable.

Although I’m not on Facebook, Twitter or any of the other popular social networking sites, I do keep a public blog and I appreciate that I have to be careful what I write on it.  I avoid talking about my employer, except in the most general terms and these days I don’t write anything that I wouldn’t be able to defend.  But I’ve had this blog for a long time, and I can’t guarantee that I was always so circumspect.  And I’m certainly not adverse to putting political opinions here either.  If something like this became widespread, and I was in the job market, I’d give serious consideration to going through and removing possibly damaging posts (i.e. anything vaguely contentious) or even taking the blog down entirely and moving it behind a friend-wall.  In this way, the public sphere is weakened, and (self-)censorship gains another victory.

Another example: when IoWiki was first established, there was a debate about how we handle entries for members, something that led to a policy stating that inclusion is opt-in, and the whole wiki blocked to spiders to make it harder for companies like the one mentioned in the article to collect this sort of information.  I originally thought that some of the precautions we took were somewhat OTT, but with technology and companies like this emerging, I’m glad that some people back then had the foresight to insist that we did take those precautions.


Raj says:

From Abita on the LJ feed:

Didn’t Rhys have exactly that problem a while ago? He mentioned M***** in one of his posts and it got back to head office somehow and there was a whole load of hassle about why he wasn’t happy with his job etc.

Like you, I try not to mention my work too often, and any time I do, it’s usually to say how wonderful it is 🙂

Abita says:

Trust you to have an awkward blog 🙂

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