Shocked surprised man looking at laptop computerThat’s the question Seattle-based startup Persona poses—and for job seekers, it’s a very good one to ask.

Persona helps job seekers “clean up” their social profiles by constantly monitoring one’s social network accounts for “inappropriate” content.

The company monitors Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts and deletes text posts, comments, links, hashtags, and likes—all for free. And for just $20/year the company will also monitor, scan and delete inappropriate images from social media.

Persona says it scans for five red flags:

  • Profanity (foul language/inappropriate slang)
  • Adult content (sexual content/inappropriate images)
  • Drugs/Alcohol (slang terms, paraphernalia and images)
  • Racism/Sexism (hate speech, racial slurs, misogyny)
  • Violence (violent posts, threats, images)

With 86 percent of recruiters looking at social networking profiles (Persona says), it’s no wonder the company setup to clean house. And based off the five areas of “inappropriateness” that it looks for, I know quite a few people whose social networking profiles could use this service.

As I read about Persona’s services, I wondered how it defines what is and is not appropriate. Profanity is pretty obvious, but who’s to say my version of slang is inappropriate? Or maybe an image I post is harmless to me but deemed inappropriate by others.

This seemingly gray area led me to think about how employers may define inappropriate content when looking at workers’ social profiles and the repercussions that come along with this.

For example:

  • Two employees at Famous Dave’s in Bismarck were fired after posting a photo to Facebook complaining about tips during the United Tribes International Powwow.The photo depicted one employee holding a cardboard sign that read, “Help I’m a server at Famous Dave’s on Pow Wow weekend! Anything helps! 5 cents 25 cents! It’s more than my tips.”The employee pictured was in the restaurant and wearing her uniform in the photo. She and the employee who took the photo were both fired.

This list of employees fired for social media posts goes on and on.

I was talking with a relative recently about this subject and she felt it was unfair for employers to punish their workers for activity on their personal social media accounts. As she explained, the content is on a personal social network that is totally unrelated to work. It’s an extracurricular type of activity and employees shouldn’t be penalized for the private things they do off the clock.

As I listened to her argument, I had to pose this question: “Is it really private?”

As much as we’d like to believe those “privacy” settings me something or because it’s outside of work so it shouldn’t affect work, this just simply isn’t true. Social media is not private…sorry folks.

Each time a person uploads a picture, posts on someone’s wall, or tweets it’s going on the world wide web. I’ll repeat that: the world-wide web, meaning that content has now become public.

Employees represent their organizations, on and off the clock. And as social media continues to remain the new “it” thing to do, one’s online “image” can also affect his/her employer’s.

It doesn’t sound fair, but that’s life for you huh?

What do you think? Should employers be allowed to punish workers for social media activity?


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