When Google can read your mind and your boss knows what you had for lunch.

It’s official, we live in a world where thousands of tweets, status updates, images, videos, and comments are posted every minute. Given this fact, it might seem fairly obvious what it means to live in public. The internet has become so intertwined with daily life that it has become second nature for people to post an image of their favorite sushi roll or let the world know what’s on thier mind. It’s obvious that this “public” way of living is eliminating many aspects of privacy, but it also presents a great deal of positive advantages.

Think about it this way, as a race we have gone from strictly engaging in face to face connection to communicating and connecting with a network of millions. When internet service became common in American homes we were limited to slow dial-up connection (some of us are still haunted by it’s connection sound) and simple user profiles. Fast-forward ten years and millions of people have interactive and multimedia-rich facebook pages. Facebook alone has evolved from a modest database of college students to an empire that hosts millions of profiles around the world.

People have gone from keeping a private journal to vlogging, blogging, and tweeting every aspect of their lives. Although this can be detrimental in certain cases, (i.e. 10 People Who Lost Jobs Over Social Media Mistakes) it also connects people to each other on a broad and mass scale. This makes it easier to collaborate and unite for worthy purposes and ideas such as charities, crisis recovery, business startups, and political issues just to name a few.

Also, another factor of “living publically” deals with online advertising. In reading Chris Anderson’s essay “The Long Tail” this week I realized the power of targeted advertising. We’ve all noticed that after searching for certain products or including something in our “interests”, advertisements “magically” adjust to reflect what we posted or searched. This raises the question of whether or not companies should be allowed to gear their ad’s based on our profiles and searches. (Check out this relevant Time Magazine article)

It’s undeniable that many people today lead very public lives. In some ways everyone is a “public figure” but how is this new way of communicating and sharing information affecting us?

I’ll end this blog here with a couple of questions…

1. Since we make our interests public and search the web using google, do you think its fair for companies to sell and use our information?

2. Do you think employers should consider Facebook and Twitter accounts when hiring and firing?

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18 thoughts on “When Google can read your mind and your boss knows what you had for lunch.

  1. As much as people will try and say that it is no one’s business what they post on the internet on sites such as Twitter or Facebook, they have to realize that these are public forums. When you put something on these sites it is the assumption that you want the world to see it unless you have set the account up in a way that protects it from strangers. In this way I think that if you have a public Facebook account that it is totally legitimate for a company to look at it while making a hiring decision. What most people do not think of is the fact that your would be association with the hiring company could affect the image that they have built.
    If you want to post things on these accounts that are not appropriate for the work place or the professional world you need to take the few steps to make the account private. I personally, do not accept Facebook friend request from people that I work with, (unless I know that you share a common mind with me) just because of the risk of posting something that could be seen as offensive. You have to think about what you are posting before you do so, do not make negative statements about your employer in a public forum, that is what will cost you your job. If you look at “10 People Who Lost Jobs Over Social Media Mistakes”(http://mashable.com/2011/06/16/weinergate-social-media-job-loss/) you will see almost all of the employees did something inappropriate on a public forum. The one case I think that this point is not true is Ashley Payne. But she obviously did not think about who she was adding to her friends list when it came to work friends. Overall any image of yourself that you portray publicly is fair game in the business world. If you do not like that your social media could be used against you take the steps to solve the problem.

    1. Make your accounts private.
    2. Think about who you add as friends.
    3. NEVER post a negative comment about your workplace or the people you work with.
    4. Think about the social ramifications that any post you make could have. (I feel this will make you delete a lot of those comments you think about making.)

  2. Very interesting point you make, especially about how everyone is really becoming a “public figure” in certain ways. As to your question about whether or not companies should consider social media sites when hiring/firing, I don’t think it should be a big factor.

    If you think back to the days before social media was popular, employers had no way of knowing what you did outside the workplace unless you talked about it. However, nowadays, employers (and basically everyone else) have access to everything you put on your profile. Most of the time your personal life doesn’t affect your workplace habits, so I don’t think it’s necessary for employers to go searching through your profile and pictures.

    Of course, employees or potential employees need to be smart about it as well. If you’re going to bash your work or boss or post pictures of yourself doing things that probably won’t make you look to good; set it to private. You can put whatever you want out there, but if you don’t want it to impact certain aspects of your life, like your job, make it private or block certain users from seeing it. If you don’t want it to affect anything like that (especially since it is ultimately the company’s decision to either check or not check your profile), take the precautions that are necessary and maintain your privacy. Also, if you’re going to complain about your boss/co-workers, either don’t friend them on Facebook or keep your opinions to yourself.

    As for your other question, I don’t think it’s right for companies to go around selling our information to make a profit for themselves. To me, that is breaking the trust we are giving to the company when we purchase their products or anything else. If I’m interested and purchase something from website “Z”, that doesn’t mean I’m going to want anything from website “Y.” You are trusting that company with your information and then they sell it as a profit for themselves. I understand it’s all for their betterment, but the customer deserves respect and I don’t think selling their personal information for a profit is respect.

  3. I do think it’s fair. Like you said, we live in a technological world, and there’s no way of escaping it. Like users of the internet, we search for the new trends, what music is popular, the best places to visit, etc. So why is it unfair if businesses are using our information to sell so they can also keep themselves and other companies updated on what is popular. It’s a marketing thing for them. They also are providing us with what we want, so I see nothing wrong with it.

    After reading the article “10 People Who Lost Jobs Over Social Media Mistakes”, I don’t believe employers should consider employees social media accounts. If they are doing the job you hired them to do, and they are a good employee, then leave them be. Unless it pertains to something bigger than just a tweet about how their job is boring, leave their social media sites out of the hiring and firing process.

  4. In terms of companies using our information, I don’t have any problem with them using what we browse on the internet, and then giving us an ad that relates to what we look at. Advertising companies need to make money just like the rest of us, and they are just using helpful information to give us an ad that we might be intrigued by.

    I don’t think that employers should ask prospective employees or their employees for their facebook or twitter log-in information because their private life shouldn’t affect their business life. Unless what they are writing is directly hurting the company, then I don’t think any action should take place. If they work hard and help the company, then why should they give the employer their facebook or twitter information? They are there to work and help the company and facebook or twitter shouldn’t affect that.

  5. Well, in regards to people using our information that we post on the web I think that they should contact us, or somehow let us know that they would like to use our information. I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to take someone else’s work and call it their own. So to answer your question, yes I do have a problem with that.

    Answering your second question, I personally wouldn’t have a problem with companies checking facebook or twitter for me simply because I don’t have them. I made a twitter for this class, and it will most likely be deleted once this class is over. Even if I did have them, I wouldn’t have anything worth hiding displayed on them which is what I think everyone should do. The less personal information you share about yourself to the public, the better.

  6. I do think that it is fair that companies use and sell our information. We are the ones making that information public in the first place. If you don’t want companies to use and see that information then we shouldn’t make it public to begin with.

    I do think that employers should consider Facebook and Twitter accounts when hiring and firing. Whatever people post on their social network pages they are sharing with the world. People shouldn’t be ashamed of anything they post, and if they are then they probably shouldn’t have posted it to begin with. I think Facebook and Twitter give employers a better idea of who each person is, and with the way technology is evolving it only makes sense for employers to consider Facebook and Twitter when hiring and firing.

  7. Employers should not consider looking at Facebook and Twitter when it comes to hiring and firing. There should be a clear differentiation between work life and life outside of work. Should people stop doing things outside of work, just because Facebook and Twitter are around to publicize it? People would still be doing these things even if Facebook and Twitter did not exist.
    Just because companies have easy access to their employee’s pubic life doesn’t mean it is right to snoop around. Would it be right for the company to listen in on their employee’s phone calls. Also, many times information read on twitter and Facebook can be misleading and read out of context.

  8. For years employers have been considering information obtained from third parties, to base their hiring and firing decisions on. In fact, employers have relied heavily on different types of background checks for potential new employees. It’s not uncommon for employers to perform drug tests, FBI background checks, or obtain credit scores to base their decision on. (For one potential employer I even had to submit to a lie detector test). Several jobs even require existing employees to submit to ongoing tests, such as drug testing and periodic background checks. So it’s not surprising that they have turned to social media to obtain information for their hiring and firing decisions. Facebook and Twitter has become another tool in the human resource department’s handbook and isn’t it less invasive to have a hiring manager view a Facebook page or Twitter account, than to have someone stare at you while you pee in a cup?

  9. I find it very creepy how much sites like Google track what you do online, and generate ads based off of it. From a business point of view the idea is excellent, but it makes me feel very “watched” in so many words. As for incorporating social media into the hiring and firing process, I believe it should be left up to the employer. If they really want to know if their potential employee is the right kind of person they have every right to visit their Facebook and Twitter pages etc. If comments are truly inappropriate, I don’t see any problems with terminating the worker. Here’s a good article about the creepy ad targeting by google.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2012/08/the_uncanny_valley_of_internet_advertising_why_do_creepy_targeted_ads_follow_me_everywhere_i_go_on_the_web_.html

  10. I say no to both questions, though, I guess if one were applying for a job as a CIA spook one’s potential employer might be justified in checking to see if one has been posting shirtless ‘selfies’ everyday. But really, I don’t think it’s fair yet I feel one gets what one gets when one decides to post every detail of their life on the internet when nobody was asking for said details. I think social media sites like facebook and twitter can be used for great things (see various revolutions) yet let’s face it, we aren’t required to use them to get laid or create some kind of perverse forum for casual cruelty. I still get creeped out when Netflix recommends movies to me. “If you liked the Magnificent Ambersons, you’ll love the Hunger Games,” says a friendly machine.

  11. For the most part I don’t have much of a problem with the information age we seem to live in today. I understand that the culture nowadays revolves around social media. Even though I did not have a Twitter account prior to this class I knew about it from simply watching sports center. I do however search on Google very often and I notice most of the ads I see are tailored to my interests. I understand that some websites I access will have ways to track my search information which to be honest seems fair enough. As it stands now I believe information sharing is fair game and beneficial as long as it is used to provide better and more options for the customer. If I search for horror movies on Google there is a good chance that I will also click on some of the suggested films as well. Whether or not I watch the movie matters not; the option to have recommendations is better than not having it. The notion that someone or something is tracking what we search for on the web can be scary but the pros outweigh the cons in my opinion.

    I don’t really like how some employers will look on peoples Facebook and Twitter accounts just to find something bad but I can see why they do it: its free information. There are always ways around this like making your Facebook private or altering you name. On the other hand people do need to be mindful of what they put on Facebook and Twitter so that these things don’t happen. At the end of the day we are all human and Facebook isn’t a perfect reflection of someone life. I don’t think someone should be hired or fired based on their Facebook page especially if they don’t bring any baggage into the workplace and can perform the job well. There are however certain extremes like jeopardizing the company’s reputation etc. but lifestyle outside of work should generally be left out of consideration.

  12. I feel companies have been using social sites and personal information for longer than most people would think. As stated, the minute you post something, advertisements and your searches change depending on what you posted. Even Facebook uses our information. Even our little interactive video, http://www.takethislollipop.com/, took our information and in seconds, created a video showing our information. This was literally done in SECONDS. Imagine what million dollar companies could do with a week. They could learn every little thing about you and know before they even met you, whether or no t to hire you. I’ve had experiences where companies will actually check your social media sites before hiring someone. I have also known friends who have posted some rather choice material on their pages, and have gotten fired from their jobs. On a personal level, it may have not caused any problems, but my family recently purchased a newer TV. It has internet access and the whole nine yards. But it also has the capability of taking photos and video from our phones and displaying it on the screen. So again, if a household TV can do this, what can people do with a system designed specifically to do something similar?

  13. I never really noticed the targeted advertising until kind of recently. It’s weird how if you Google even something simple like “how to open a book” all of the sudden the ads on the side of amazon.com and other websites all begin to pound you with advertisements that have to do with books. If we think about Google really isn’t letting us use their service for free, they are charging us with information to which in turn they sell to companies who use that to sell their products. Google’s stock isn’t at $908.53 because they are nice and let us use their site for free. But who can blame them? I’m sure most people would rather do that then be charged with real cash every time they hit that search button. Is it fair? I don’t think it is, but that’s just the world we live in today.
    http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/GOOG:US here’s a link to Google’s successes and bolstering profit numbers.
    Do I think employers should consider Facebook and twitter account when hiring and firing people? I think it’s okay if they do. People post stuff on there so that everyone else can see it, are people trying to run a successful company wrong for seeing what everyone else on the web has already witnessed? They are not, and if people don’t want to be exposed or made vulnerable to companies hiring and firing then they should think twice before posting anything that they themselves would think could get them fired or not hired. The internet is your public personality mold it as if you were out in public yourself (because that’s what it is)

  14. My place of employment just recently got wi-fi for the customers, and I see so many employees (including myself I’ll admit it!), using said wi-fi at work on their phones. Now I know they have to track what people look at and what not so it makes me really think about using it at work! I never really thought about it before this week.

    I’m not sure how I feel about a job judging you on your presence on the internet. On one hand, everyone knowingly posts in these public forums, and knows their posts are public. They can be accessed at anytime so that in a way makes them fair game. On the other hand, I do think there should be a little wiggle room for mistakes. Not everyone is perfect, and I don’t think people fully understand the ramifications for posting until it is too late. That’s not to say you aren’t responsible for posting things like “smoke weed everyday.” People need to use their brains before posting.

    It’s so creepy how Facebook advertisements will post things that I’ve looked at on Etsy weeks later! Targeted advertisement is somewhat creepy, but I don’t think it’s wrong. Honestly, I’ve never purchased anything that was targeted at me in that way, but sometimes it’s peaked my interest.

  15. I do not think it is fair for companies to use and sell the information from google searches. Although searches are completely public, I still do think it is a minor invasion of privacy to collect the data in order to effectively track your internet activities. Even though the entire entity of the internet is still very tough to monitor, the very thought of tracking search inquiries does not comfort an individual like myself that cherishes privacy.

    The second question poses a dilemma for many. and to be honest I do not know if there is a concrete answer as to whether employers should check a prospective employees facebook or twitter account. I think it depends on what the company is looking for when it comes to their employees. An individual facebook or twitter profile can tell you a lot about someone but on the other hand, very little. The main question this poses is what is unacceptable behavior by an individual on a social network? I know most places require a certain amount of professionalism but what would be considered too far and unprofessional when it comes to networking? Of course illegal activity and things of that nature, but would an employer not hire someone for expressing themselves in a relaxed or a very opinionated fashion? There are many questions to ask within this topic. But overall, I think it is very easy to be monitored, and if an individual would find something hard to explain or to be controversial to an employer it is best to not leave any room for error when it comes to social networking.

  16. The questions you ask have me torn, because as much as I value my own privacy, I cannot say that I have been completely private in the way I portray myself on the internet. All of my social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr) are not private – and some I update daily, such as Instagram and Twitter. It is actually Facebook that I use least, and for some reason I have discovered that that is the social networking site I have managed to keep private.

    It is like this because I have realized that I enjoy interaction with strangers. I enjoy the fact that I can hashtag something here, and a stranger across the world can see what I have posted, view the rest of my posts, and follow me if he finds me interesting. I have many more followers on instagram than I am following, and that is because I post pictures of healthy food or fashion, and hashtag it. This leads to people around the world following me who are trying to be healthy or fashionable!

    You asked if we think employers should be able to use Twitter/Facebook to before deciding on someone. Truthfully, I want to say yes, why not? The information is out there, why would we not utilize it? I don’t think I’ve got much to hide on my personal networks – besides that I am not always 100% professional, and I suppose I wouldn’t want a future employer to necessarily see that.

    Again, I am torn. Great blog post!

  17. While the internet has by all accounts created a platform from which people can share and express their thoughts, asymmetrically stay abreast of other’s activities and instantaneously interact with friends, family and strangers; has it correspondingly improved our lives and made us any happier? It seems that our society is quick to anoint new technologies as revolutionary and transformative without first studying the impact those technologies have on our overall level of happiness and fulfillment; which seemingly should be key measures by which to gage the overall impact of innovation on society. Have we truly taken the time to understand the negative impacts of this disruptive technology?
    – Dramatically impacting a user’s ability to “live in the moment”. How many of us are guilty of being more interested in ADDBoy95’s lunch plans than in the in-person conversation we were having with a loved one?
    – Exponentially increasing the content available for consumption. Aren’t some of us overwhelmed by the volume of meanings postings we receive every day? What else could we have done with that time?
    – Placing inappropriate priority of virtual friends over our flesh and blood familiars. eFriends can’t pick us up when our cars breakdown, go with us to a ball game or share a cup of coffee. I know many expatriates who do little else than work and communicate with their network back home. Why leave in the first place then? Take advantage of the situation and experience a different culture first hand. Make an effort!
    While I do believe that the “internets” can assist in our life’s journey for personal enlightenment, I believe that, like everything, it should be used in moderation, for you can have too much of a good thing.

  18. It’s funny, I did actually notice ads popping up that related to thinks I searched. I guess it doesn’t really bother me too much, probably because I expect it. The web is a limitless society, and that includes security. Nobody is really forced to use the internet, and what one puts on it is really up to that person, nobody else. Once this information becomes available, it really is open to all. But for an employer to check facebook and twitter for personal information, which is exactly what they want to begin with, it seems completely fair. This information is information that you’re willing to expose to anybody, including potential employers. Of course anything you’re willing to post can be taken seriously. It is fair to use social networking info in consideration for employment.

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