Could Sharing Your Location Impact Your Employment? - InformationWeek

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Commentary
2/18/2010
09:32 AM
Allen Stern
Allen Stern
Commentary
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Could Sharing Your Location Impact Your Employment?

Lately we've read reports about people losing their job or not receiving a job offer because of what they write about on their blog or post on one of the social networks. But what about the new location tools like Foursquare and Gowalla? Could using one of these services be the quickest ticket to a pink slip or a non-offer?

Lately we've read reports about people losing their job or not receiving a job offer because of what they write about on their blog or post on one of the social networks. But what about the new location tools like Foursquare and Gowalla? Could using one of these services be the quickest ticket to a pink slip or a non-offer?About eight years ago I applied for a job at one of the largest insurance companies. After a few phone interviews and some testing, I made it to the in-person interview. I showed up in my suit and tie, the portfolio had copes of my resume printed on nice bond, and I met with several executives. After the team interview was over, I met with the HR person. She said that the team liked what I had to say and my vision and she said that the only things left were the drug test and the "Google test". She then rotated her chair towards her computer, loaded Google into her browser and typed in my name. For the next 10 minutes she browsed links that had my name associated with them and she explained that they like to look into the background of the people they hire.

If you aren't familiar with the newest location-sharing tools Gowalla and Foursquare, here's how the services work. You load their mobile applications on your phone and then "report in" at the locations you go to. It's supposed to be like a fun game - Foursquare issues "badges" and Gowalla issues "pins" and "stamps" each time you reach a certain milestone. The more badges, pins and stamps you receive the more fun the "game" apparently is. You can receive badges including the Bender badge which shows that you are out more than 4 nights in a row.

I spent a few minutes looking at various users of Foursquare and some users show hundreds of nights out and thousands of "check-ins". Cute now, a serious employability issue later?

Jenna Wortham at the NY Times posted the results of a HR study last summer which included lots of information about how employers are using social networks to run online background checks. Included was the following, "the study, which questioned 2,667 managers and human resource workers, found that 35 percent of employers decided not to offer a job to a candidate based on the content uncovered on a social networking site." Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn were the most popular sites used by employers. Additionally, "44 percent of employers pinpointed references to drinking and drug use as red flags."

The new location-based services make it so easy for an employer to see where a user goes and their patterns. An employer could easily see that a candidate has been to the same bar every night or multiple bars or parties. Or an employer could see that you have eaten at McDonalds for every meal this week.

Additional food for thought...let's assume the new credit card publishing service Blippy also hits the mainstream. Could Blippy be the next tool for employers to use to perform online background checks. It would be super easy for an employer to see where you are going and how you spend your time outside of the office.

It would be interesting to conduct a study that looks into whether users think about the effects a service might have on their profile before using the service.

What's your take: will employers begin to extend their online background checks to include the new location-based services?

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