The Federal Trade Commission has decided to stop investigating the practices of Social Intelligence, which offers employers a service that does social media-related background checking. In other words, its methods have been approved. That doesn't mean said methods won't be controversial.
It builds files of people, and keeps content for 7 years. You may want to check your privacy settings. It does only compile publicly available data, and when you apply for a job, you have to give consent for the employer to do a background check.
“We store records for up to 7 years as long as those records haven’t been disputed,” Social Intelligence COO Geoffrey Andrews is quoted as saying. “If a record is disputed and changed then we delete the disputed record and store the new record when appropriate.”
According to a report from Forbes, the FTC has determined the company was in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. At least employers have to inform you if they're utilizing such a service.
On Social Intelligence's site, it says:
Using social media for pre-employment background screening is a double-edged sword, a benefit that can also be a liability. Social Intelligence Hiring effectively removes the liability, leaving just the benefit for both employers and job candidates.
Social Intelligence Hiring ignores information that is not allowable in the hiring process, such as the “protected class” characteristics defined by federal anti-discrimination law (race, religion, national origin, age, sex, familial status, sexual orientation, disability status, and other qualities that are not allowed to be used as decision points). Therefore, job candidates are protected from discrimination based on these characteristics and, in turn, employers are protected from charges of discrimination.
While it's no doubt wise to consider the kinds of things you are posting on the Internet, I also have to wonder if whether companies will become a little more lenient on what they consider to be questionable behavior online, as the younger generations grow up playing their whole lives out through social media. Mistakes will be made. What may seem like a social faux pas from a kid may not be so damning when such behavior is commonplace among job candidates. Still, I'd advise: don't do anything stupid.