Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Kristen Fife's Blog

The Dark Side of Being Connected and Visible

2009-03-27 11:25:32

I am in shock about a situation that I found out about yesterday. Tuesday I was over visiting some friends. He had just been laid off from MSFT, and we were talking about his online profiles. He has a lot of business interests beyond technology, and has many of them listed on his LinkedIn profile and some of them are very confusing to potential recruiters/employers. My suggestion was to create a separate profile for his non-tech/employment interests.

So, he did so. Updated his MSFT profile to reflect his last day of employment (which was Monday), and then shut down his non-tech business info.

The result? Almost immediately he got a call from American Express (Amex) asking him what his income was?

I was stunned when I spoke to his wife about this and suggested that he contact Amex directly make sure it wasn't a scam.

They did so, and not only was it a legit call, *Amex confirmed they have people monitoring LinkedIn and other networking sites for employment verification purposes.*

The implications are staggering, especially from an HR perspective, and legally. Employment verification is a key component in the hiring process.

In addition to the obvious question about the ethicality of using something like LinkedIn for the aforementioned purpose, I also question the use of resources in this respect.

I applaud them for keeping their employees "busy", but I wonder what sort of message this sends from a corporate culture standpoint? What sort of training and mentality is this breeding in their employees?

Much to ponder in this Big Brother scenario; makes me glad I don't use Amex.

Understanding Google To Get Your Resume Noticed
What Outsourcing Your Corporate Blog Says To Me

Lise Quinn: Re: - The Dark Side of Being Connected and Visible
2009-03-27 12:12:02

Amazing. They also do credit checks when you buy auto insurance. Well, this is good to know - both about Amex, but also about disclosing your employment status on the web.

Debby Afraimi: Re: - The Dark Side of Being Connected and Visible
2009-03-27 12:35:17

I honestly feel that if you put something out in the public domain, you can and should expect that it will be used in ways beyond what you imagined.

I don't feel like there's anything wrong with someone using content that you generate about yourself! We're not talking about inflammatory content generated by a third party. That would be an entirely different situation.

The internet is an information gathering tool. I don't see a problem with using it. As a recruiter, I have several colleagues that check FaceBook and MySpace do gather information on potential candidates. I personally don't look at social networking sites. I always Google and check LinkedIn. We all have out own ethical lines, and they're all a little bit different. I don't understand why anyone would be offended by someone using content that you have chosen to make public.

Parker Dawson: Re: - The Dark Side of Being Connected and Visible
2009-03-28 11:33:19

Are you for real? In the recruting business and just heard about using social networking sites? And amazed that organizations would be searching them? And this it is an ethical problem?
Any good company will find out everything it can to get the best person for the job. Any company not doing so is negligent to its employees and stockholders. If you want to post things on line.
But really, nothing should amaze me now. I see posters on your hr site with SPHR and other initials after their name, with advance degrees, asking questions which just blow me away. More critical, spouting off information on laws and practices which are just wrong. Sad, sad, sad

Jon: Re: - The Dark Side of Being Connected and Visible
2009-03-29 10:29:31


You completely miss the key point of Kristen's blog post:

American Express is searching LinkedIn to gather information about its CARDHOLDERS--not about JOB APPLICANTS. They are looking for profile updates stating that a current cardholder has terminated employment, and then calling to verify. I'm sure this has to do with them seeking any possible way to limit additional credit exposure.

In future, ensure you read for detail prior to making disparaging remarks about an entire professional group.

Susan Cook: Re: - The Dark Side of Being Connected and Visible
2009-04-05 21:22:50

I believe that the emphasis here should be on SOCIAL networking. If a site you have chosen to divulge personal details about your employment history is a site devoted to job seeking, that's one thing. Social networking sites are for the purpose of social networking and should be reserved for that purpose. Having said that, I realize...and we should all recognize the fact that,at this point in time, everything on the Internet is accessible and fair game and will be treated as such by people who think they have a legitimate reason to access that information. So...buyer beware...if you don't want information used against you...don't divulge it. Whether you and I like it or not, that's the way the world currently operates. (And incidentally, I think it sucks!)

William: Re: The Dark Side of Being Connected and Visible
2009-11-09 09:23:46

MSFT uses American Express for their corporate credit card program. You need one for business travel and other business expenses and most employees I know have one. Once it's set up, it stays open in your name for as long as you are employed. I imagine that when you leave the company that account gets closed. If your name is sent to Amex at that time (particularly if it is in a batch of records of everyone else leaving the company), that could be an indicator that your income level is about to change! I'm sure there are other private triggers like this (as compared to a public profile page on LinkedIn), but once one of them gets pulled in their system it seems reasonable that they would Bing you, check for stuff like LinkedIn public profile, and see if they get any confirmation there. If so it seems like it would be a lot more efficient to have a call center employee citing the public data source as an explanation for the call.

On the "bright side," if public information sources like LinkedIn allow borrower and lender to establish a more honest relationship with each other that leads to fewer defaults and more financial integrity - one person at a time - maybe we can extend the new culture of Web 2.0 information sharing to a macro economic level. Maybe there will be more exposure of radical bailout politicians and their concept of who should be subjugated into the role of "lender of last resort," less destructive harmonic resonance in the financial markets and oversteering because of the possibility of earlier decision making, and more of a chance that voters will pressure Congress into legalizing financial instruments that would allow individual citizens to hedge their own private savings against the type of inflationary currency destruction that wayward Congressional spending and unmonitored Federal Reserve actions can cause.

"Some may say that I'm a saver, but I'm not the only one." :)

Comment on this blog
Your name:

Your email (will not be displayed):



Enter the text above to help us filter spam:

This article also appears on
Human Resources