When your web posts come back to haunt you

Views expressed online can land you in trouble at work. Take the case of CNN Producer Chez Pazienza. While recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumour the size of a pinball in 2006, Pazienza decided to start a blog to record his thoughts, brush up on his writing skills and generally pass the time during his recovery.

Focusing on pop culture, politics and the media, Pazienza's blog at www.deusexmalcontent.com quickly became a hit with a growing readership. He never divulged anything to link him to his employer, but someone back at CNN discovered his blog, knew who he was and became increasingly unhappy. Pazienza continued writing his blog after returning to work, until one day his boss called.

Pazienza was told that certain opinions had surfaced online with his name attached. This much he was happy to admit, as he writes at The Huffington Post.

A day later, Pazienza was fired. Human Resources pointed him to a line in the company handbook that said any writing for a "non-CNN outlet" had to be run through their Standards and Practices Department. This vague statement, it turned out, applied to blogging as much as other forms of publishing.

While checking that employees aren't embarrassing their employers is one thing, many companies are using Google to see what job candidates get up to in their spare time. If they find something they don't like, it can directly lead to the rejection of the candidate. This practice has spawned a new buzzword in recruitment circles: the 'NetRep' or network reputation.

Job hiring decisions

According to the results of a survey released by business networking site Viadeo, it's becoming vitally important for employees to maintain a good NetRep.

The survey of over 600 employers and 2,000 job seekers revealed that one in five companies have deliberately searched for personal information about job candidates on the web. Of those, 59 per cent said the findings influenced their recruitment decision. The survey also discovered that a positive online reputation will actually enhance someone's chances of landing a job.

Of those respondents seeking jobs, just under half of those aged between 18 and 24 had posted personal information on social websites. 54 per cent of the same age group also admitted that someone else had posted pictures of them online with or without their permission.

"These results should act as a wake-up call to anyone who has ever posted personal information online," says Peter Cunningham, Viadeo's UK Country Manager. "When people who are not the original intended audience – such as potential employers – find this information, it can have a major impact on their decision making process."

The survey said that 13 per cent of companies had found positive information about candidates online that had affected hiring decisions, such as discovering that candidates had more to offer than they thought. Some, however, gave reasons for not hiring people ranging from a MySpace page boasting of excessive alcohol use to finding the candidate on the local police wanted list. "People must manage their NetReps closely," advises Cunningham. "Online information must be tailored to work to their advantage."
"If you're chasing a job you really want, it's important to be aware of how you've portrayed yourself online," confirms HR consultant Gary Simpson. "It's perfectly legal to run a background check on you without your permission if all the data is in the public domain."

Information placed online isn't just affecting people's employment opportunities. For the budding fraudster orburglar, what seems like a trivial titbit of information could be very interesting indeed.
Burglary threats

Recently, an increasing number of families are getting online with their own web domains, with each family member having their own page to post achievements and coming plans. This all sounds perfectly innocent until you consider that the announcement of a family holiday also tells the world that your property will be unoccupied during a certain period.