By Brandon Carter, Thomson Reuters
Generally, “the-world-is-on-fire-and-it’s-social-media’s-fault” types of reports affect me only slightly more than Justin Bieber’s eating habits. However, this particular article caught my attention. In short, public agencies are requesting that job applicants provide their Facebook passwords during the interview process.
Aside from being invasive, giving out my private passwords just seems like a bad idea; however, times are hard so why open my inbox to a complete stranger? On a practical level, what can a stranger REALLY determine from having my Facebook password?
In my line of work, there are a lot of assessments made on limited information, much of it being from user generated content sources like social media. Using aggregated sources of people data, like CLEAR, makes things a little easier; however, user generated content is a different animal all together. In an attempt to eliminate some false-positives, which vary wildly with each assignment, information and data points are evaluated and corroborated using various structured analytic techniques.
Regardless of the effort put forth to account for false information, we oftentimes experience the same analytic roadblocks that will undoubtedly be encountered by the hiring managers who are perusing images of spring break parties that would make Tommy Lee jealous: Who is controlling the facts? When someone wants to hide something specific, it’s pretty simple to exclude it from their social networking profile. Simply put, when a user controls the information in an exchange, the user controls the facts.
As analysts, we are charged with finding meaningful and valuable conclusions within significant amounts of important data. The trick for us is to be creative and realize that every bit of data is a piece of something larger and your answers will invariably be found across a variety of data sources. In the end, analysts must realize that Facebook and social media serve as indicators for other avenues of information collection and analysis.
So, “What can a stranger REALLY determine from having my Facebook password?” I think the quick answer is simple: It’s up to me. They may be able to do some digging to get to the juicy stuff, but I have the ability to make it a difficult process.