Prospective employers checking you out on Facebook not ethical? Get over it.

November 8, 2009

Is it ethical for a company to use what you freely post on a social networking site as part of their decision making process?

I posed that question the other day to a group of students at Queen’s Business School in Kingston, Ontario.  The answers I got were interesting; they generally saw sites like Facebook as just that: a social networking tool. And they didn’t generally connect that a prospective employer has an ethical right to base their hiring decision on what a candidate posts online in their off hours.

But here’s the thing: Regardless of the ethical questions at play, what you post online will likely be found, in one form or another, by prospective employers. A recent study found that 45 percent of employers surveyed use social networks to screen job candidates.

So, here’s a question for all business students: At a time when unemployment is at a 26-year high, and competition for jobs is fiercer than ever, what are you currently doing with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to expand, find, or grow your career? Are you taking advantage of what’s free in a way that allows you to take those steps?


Students – It’s Time to Think of Facebook in a Different Light! Comments by Business Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher

February 16, 2009

Facebook – on of the fastest growing social networking sites can be awesome or can be a curse. Started by a young man who wanted to keep up with his friends, Facebook has become an outstanding tool. Likewise, like any tool, how you use it determines whether it will serve you or hurt you.

As a business ethics speaker I talk to college groups all around the country about effective uses of Facebook and other social networking sites. The creative application of Facebook could make the difference in whether you get that first job (the one you really want) or don’t. The question is – “Is Facebook a tool for business or a public garbage dump for how you feel at the moment?” facebook-logo

Here’s a garbage dump example:

A Calvin College student has been suspended for one year over a lewd Facebook message he allegedly posted about an ex-girlfriend.

According to an article in The Grand Rapids Press, a message about an ex was posted from Tony Harris’s account in November that “referred to the woman in two slang terms and referenced sexuality.” Calvin officials did not return calls from The Chronicle, but the newspaper reported that the college cited Mr. Harris, a sophomore, for violating technology and conduct codes at the institution, which refers to itself as “distinctively Christian.”

The acceptable-use policy on the college’s Web site prohibits “communication that degrades or harasses individuals or groups.”

Mr. Harris, who not respond to requests for comment from The Chronicle, has insisted that the ex-girlfriend, who he said knew his Facebook password, logged in to his account and sent the message herself, presumably to frame him, the newspaper reports. Calvin officials were apparently unconvinced.

In order to resume his studies at Calvin in a year, Mr. Harris will need to re-apply to the college and recant the Facebook message, according to report. —Steve Kolowich

Now, ethically speaking, Mr. Harris used Facebook as a public garbage dump for how he felt about his ex-girlfriend. Not only was that less than honorable, but it had repercussions far greater than Mr. Harris would have expected when he posted his thoughts or feelings.

Every choice has a consequence.

The Consequence: Kicked out of school! Not allowed to return without reapplying and who knows what other repercussions he is experiencing from his ex-girlfriend and parents. In fact, one might wonder how many girl would now want to be his girlfriend since he has demonstrated that he might not honor them when they part?

There’s a saying – “garbage in — garbage out.”

While Facebook may have been started as a social networking site, it is rapidly becoming a “product/person differentiation site”. In other words, with Facebook being public and searchable, people of all ages who use it should consider that it is nothing more than a personal web site. What you put on there is your advertisement of yourself. If you want to sell yourself, you need to consider what you say and how you position yourself.

Facebook is a powerful tool – use it to your advantage!

Read the rest of this entry »


Social Networking, Social Media, Social Web and Ethics – Are They Compatable? Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher Comments!

January 29, 2009

For a 51 year old former Sr. VP of Sales and Marketing, current business ethics speaker and fraud prevention consultant, I am finding web 2.0 and/or social media (or whatever title you give it) to be a vast open space for opportunity and/or disaster. And for those of us who are growing into this new frontier the pitfalls can be dramatic and costly.

One year ago I had no clue what web 2.0 was or meant. Frankly neither did most of my counterparts. Those of us in the Baby Boom generation just didn’t get it. As far as we were concerned sites like MySpace and Facebook were for kids. And, frankly, we didn’t have a clue what the fascination was all about. Just really seemed like a colossal waste of time. Either the “young” folks were texting – seemed like speed dial and a call was quicker – or they were writing in some unknown code that was designed to keep those of us with budding grey hair confused. And confused we were.

Then, for reasons I still don’t fathom, I began – like many others of my generation – to find some attraction to just what the fuss was all about. Viola…Baby Boomers connect and the world for us changes.

AMAZING FACTS:

According to site analytics reported on in compete.com for December 2008 the following amazing statistics are available:istock_000007298729small

Number of Unique Visitors:

Facebook 59,675,502

MySpace 59,544,152

LinkedIn 9,349,996

In all three cased the number of people visiting these sites increased for the month of December 2008 and increased for the year for both Facebook and LinkedIn.

IMPACT FOR ADULT SOCIAL MEDIA CONNECTIONS:

While the number of uses for MySpace (mostly high school and college aged users) has remained flat, the more adult related sites has skyrocketed. The number of unique visitors to LinkedIn over 2008 has increased 153.9% and unique visitors to Facebook has increased 85.7%. While there may be those who disagree, I submit that the great majority of the increased visitorship to these sites is coming from adult users that are beginning to learn how to tap into the value of social media connections.

The growth is incredible as I am seeing daily (yes daily) the number of people in the Baby Boom group who are beginning to figure out that they will be left behind if they don’t join the social media revolution. The message that one might share is instantaneous and the access to data is vast. The power for branding, marketing and media messaging is limited only by the narrowness of ones mind.

INTERCONNECTED – FOR BETTER OR WORSE:

First, let me say, you do have control over when and how you use these tools. That said, the reality is you are interconnected. For example I am working with a social media site called twitter. Now for those who twitter it makes perfect sense (I guess). For me, well…I’m trying to figure it out. But one thing I do know is that since my twitter postings are linked to my facebook account, every time I make a post to twitter my facebook is updated.

That interconnection can be a great benefit. But, it has to be one that is managed. As a baby boomer and professional speaker and consultant I quickly got the value of these social media site from a marketing and branding perspective. And, I promise for those who really get it, I’m no where close to truly maximizing the value that can be gained there.

Here’s an example of the power of social media at work. As I began writing this blog I posted a comment on twitter (which like Facebook and LinkedIn is growing exponentially). I stated that I was writing this article and would be open to suggestions. The request was posted on twitter – which linked to my facebook page. Just a moment ago I looked on my facebook page and has two responses, both of which were very helpful.

Here are their comments with some minor edits:

A professor from Texas writes: “Who owns my data?” Guess what – Facebook owns what you put on your profile. Not you. Take your page down? Doesn’t matter, they still have, and own, that information.

A professional speaker from Florida writes: I am amzaed how social media has taken off the way it has…. I do not like it when people think it is the perfect place to push their MLM or any other products or services.

Don’t get me wrong I think that MLMs are a great business to get into. But please first read the secret behind “Permission Marketing” as taught by Seth Godin. If you use this (read More Strategy )it does work. I know I have people who write me and call me and I don’t really know them but they feel like I am there best friend. This is all done by “Permission Marketing” not by pushing yourself upon your friends list.

Also becareful what you post on someone’s “Wall” where everyone can read it. I will sometimes post something on their Wall and then follow-up with a direct private message to further explain the details or the private information. There are somethings you don’t want everyone to know without the permission of the other parties involved.

ETHICS, CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES:

Every choice has a consequence. Every time you call someone or write a note, you make a choice that has a consequence. Perhaps your call or note is received with joy and the consequence is deemed positive. Likewise, many in turbulent economic times are receiving calls or notes that result in the loss of jobs and – the consequence is much different.

The same applies to every entry or contact in a social media environment. I, for example, write about ethics and fraud – white collar crime mostly. I am aware that with the touch of the keyboard, I publish data that some find helpful and refreshing and others find offensive. Believe me I have heard from those who do find my work distasteful. In any event, I understand that the way we interact on the web is much different and substantially more powerful than what we have previously been accustomed.

So here are some questions (feel free to comment below – who knows where the dialogue will take us):

  • If you use social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter for business promotion, are you concerned more about your privacy or the promotion of your business?
  • If you had to choose between LinkedIn or Facebook – which site would you select and what motivates that selection?
  • If you use Facebook, do you feel that it is ethical to look at the friends of your friends and request a connection to them?
  • Would you rather expand your network of “friend” or “connections” or maintain your privacy?
  • How do you feel social media networking is different than networking – say through a chamber of commerce event?

As times passes, like with anything, we will all learn and grow. Meanwhile, the issues of what, how and where to use social media and what is fondly called web 2.0 are unfolding.

One last comment before this entry is closed out… As I speak often to university students I find that they too have an amazement at this whole social media issue. This comment just came through on my facebook page. It is accurate and demonstrates just how we need to think about the balance between social, marketing and privacy. Here’s the comment:

Fascinating. I find the balance of being public and yet wanting privacy control a tight balance. Companies are using FB as an HR research/background tool.

Your comments are welcome…


MySpace Hoax Results in Indictment! Lori Drew Faces 20 Years In Prison

May 15, 2008

Two years after Megan Meier committed suicide Lori Drew, age 49, was indicted for her alleged role in Meier’s death.

In an earlier blog I wrote:

In 2006 a Missouri teenager hanged herself after being rejected by a 16 year old boy she met on MySpace. Well, at least that’s what she thought. The reality was the “16 year old boy” was really the mother of one of the girls former friends.

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The motive? It seems the mother was allegedly trying to exact revenge on Meier, who had allegedly dissed her daughter. This sick, twisted and childish choice took and emotional toll on a young person who was emotionally vulnerable and cost her – her life!

The earlier blog is presented in full here.

According to a CNN report –

Drew faces up to 20 years in prison on charges of conspiracy and accessing protected computers to obtain information to inflict emotional distress.

The indictment, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, accuses Drew and others of registering on MySpace as “Josh Evans” and using the account to lure Meier into an an online romance.

Authorities have previously said that Drew set up the account to find out what Meier, who lived in her neighborhood, was saying about her daughter.

Lori Drew of O’Fallon, Missouri, was named in a four-count indictment returned this morning by a federal grand jury. The indictment charges one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress on the girl who,
because of juvenile privacy rules, is referred to in the indictment only as M.T.M.

After approximately four weeks of flirtatious communications between “Josh Evans” and M.T.M., Drew and her co-conspirators broke off the relationship. Within an hour, M.T.M. had hanged herself in her room. She died the next day. “This adult woman allegedly used the Internet to target a young teenage girl, with horrendous ramifications,” said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “After a thorough investigation, we have charged Ms. Drew with criminally accessing MySpace and violating rules established to protect young, vulnerable people. Any adult who uses the Internet or a social gathering website to bully or harass another person, particularly a young teenage girl, needs to realize that their actions can have serious consequences.”

MYSPACE RULES: It seems that to become a member of MySpace, individuals are required to submit registration information – including name and date of birth – and have to agree to certain TOS that regulate their use of the website. Among other things, the MySpace TOS require prospective members to provide truthful and accurate registration information; to refrain from using any information obtained from MySpace services to harass, abuse, or harm other people; to refrain from soliciting personal information from anyone under 18; to refrain from promoting information that they know is false or misleading; and to refrain from posting photographs of other people without their consent. The indictment alleges that Drew and her coconspirators violated all of those provisions.

The indictment, while not a conviction, alleges that the defendant – Drew – did commit a crime. Characterized as “cyber-bullying” the actions that have not been disputed show a pattern of abuse and a clear violation of the terms of MySpace.

Ron Meier, Megan’s father, watched television newscasts announcing the indictment and was overcome with emotion

“It’s a a good day,” he said. “It’s an awesome feeling.”

He said now he expects the Drews to feel some of the pain and suffering “that I’m going to feel for the rest of my life, not having Megan here.”

COMMENTS:

Ron Meier’s comments are understandable. However, every choice has a consequence and healing can’t truly take place until the negative emotions are dealt with. Revenge, hatred, anger – whatever is felt may be justifiable on one hand. Yet, emotions that have a negative base will not move one forward. They are not the foundation for positive results.

As a speaker to youth and parents alike about social networking – mostly MySpace and Facebook, etc. – I have the opportunity to help folks understand how to effectively us the tools without becoming a victim of them.

The Meier’s have suffered a terrible loss – a senseless loss – yet, across the board there were more people involved in what took place than just Megan or Drew. As parents, if we want to protect our children, we must understand the playing field of social networking and help to monitor what is taking place and bring understanding and order to MySpace and other forms of internet communication. It is too easy to take on a role that can have a terrible consequence.

Every choice has a consequence. Lori Drew and others will soon be finding out the consequences of their actions. No – there is nothing that can be done to bring Megan back. However, the choices that are made now can bring meaning and value to her death.

For now, teen ethics speaker – Chuck Gallagher – signing off…

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Sexual Predators Aren’t Always Found On The Internet – South Carolina Teacher Gets 6 Years In Prison for Sex with Teens!

February 19, 2008

Talk about choices and consequences – not far from where I used to live (Greenville, SC) in Laurens, South Carolina a teacher was sentenced to 6 years in prison for having sex with under aged teens. As a teen ethics speaker (www.chuckgallagher.com) I often make presentations to parents about the new jungle for sexual predators – the internet. Whether it’s MySpace or Facebook, many parents aren’t familiar with the territory for predators these days. What most would never suspect is that someone – a teacher – would inflict harm on those close to him or (in this case) her by betraying their trust.

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Allenna Ward, age 24, did that – she was convicted of having sex with 14 and 15 year old boys at the school where she taught. According to a report from CNN, “Police began investigating last year after school officials found a note believed to have been written by Ward to one of the boys. Some of the victims were students at Bell Street Middle School in Clinton, where Ward taught. She was fired about a year ago.”

Every choice has a consequence. So many times people assume that they can avoid the consequences if nothing happens immediately following their choice. Again, according to CNN forensic psychiatrist Donna Schwartz-Watts said Ward is not a pedophile, but rather a childlike victim suffering from personality disorders and a repressed childhood. Schwartz-Watts said the minister’s daughter lived a sheltered life but really was a “free spirit” who never got a chance to break away from her family.

I can’t begin to explain why Ward made the choices she did, but reality is – for the rest of her life she will be marked – not only from her experience in prison, but marked as a sexual predator – which in many ways is far worse than the mark of convicted felon.

According to an AP article, there is a steady drumbeat of sexual misconduct cases involving teachers, at least 15 states are now considering stronger oversight and tougher punishment for educators who take advantage of their students.

A nationwide Associated Press investigation published in October found 2,570 educators whose teaching credentials were revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned from 2001 through 2005 following allegations of sexual misconduct. Experts who track sexual abuse say those cases are representative of a much deeper problem because of underreporting.

The states referenced in the article that are considering significant changes are: California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

No doubt the issue raising national attention today will fuel the fire in South Carolina. In fact, South Carolina has created a new committee of parents, teachers, social workers and prosecutors to study the problem and come back with new ideas.

Though small statistically, the number of abusive teachers is too high, South Carolina Education Superintendent Jim Rex wrote after reading the AP report.

“I am nonetheless outraged by any incident in which an adult entrusted with the care of one of South Carolina’s students violates that student. The ramifications for that student, his or her family, and the community as a whole are painful and long lasting,” he wrote.

As parents, adults and voters we have an obligation to help protect our children from those who would harm them. I educate adults about the new playground where predators abound – the internet – social networking – MySpace and Facebook, but other places for abuse exist. Children have been abused in their church and their school. Neither should happen, but they do. The question is what will we do to protect them.

As always your comments are welcome.

If you live in the Laurens, South Carolina area especially and would like to comment – please do so.


Facebook, Social Networking and Bill Gates – Is it Worth It? Gates Says ‘No’!

February 12, 2008

In the business technology section of the Wall Street Journal blog, Ben Worthen posted a blog about Bill Gates – Microsoft’s Chairman – stopping his use of his Facebook account. The question is – what message does that send? The WSJ Blog is linked here.

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Review: Beyond the obvious issue, receiving a lot of press, related to teens – children and predators – the larger question is adult usage and consequences that might follow. Computerworld posted a great article on The Pitfalls of Social Networking.

The summary is listed below:

  • Too much Bandwidth usage. Downloading and storing these files can cripple your infrastructure and make capacity planning virtually impossible.
  • Potential Legal Liability. Should employees use corporate IT resources for purposes of posting dissatisfaction with others, the company could be held responsible in any ensuing litigation.
  • Exposure to Malware. These networks are potential vehicles for introducing viruses, worms and spyware.
  • Decreased Employee Productivity. Even when networking is used for business purposes, corporations may want to limit the number of networks employees use. Monitoring many networks can become incredibly time-consuming. Moreover, interfaces among current networks don’t support robust information-sharing.
  • Disclosure of Personal Information. Companies regularly search MySpace, Classmates.com, LinkedIn and other social networking sites to glean information about potential hires and competitors.
  • Risk of Leaking Corporate Secrets. Companies often sanction social networking for the purpose of exchanging professional information. But take great care to protect corporate secrets. Definitions of secret may vary or be misunderstood, and critical information may inadvertently be revealed.
  • Limited Executive Use. Executive use of social networking is not widespread, however. Many executives already have substantial personal networks and rely less on new technological platforms for interaction.

According the WSJ blog – “Workers who created profiles on Facebook are horrified to find out they can’t be erased, the New York Times reports. Even if you deactivate your account, Facebook still keeps a copy of all the information you ever posted. And, the Times reports, it’s still possible to contact people through deleted Facebook pages.”

So What’s the Bill Gates Angle? According an article in The Sun:

The computer mogul got so hooked on the social networking site that he splashed out £120million on a 1.6 per cent stake in it last year.

Bill, 52, spent 30 minutes daily catching up with pals.

But he signed off after getting more than 8,000 friend requests a DAY, and spotted weird fan sites about him.

A colleague said: “Sadly the attention does mean Bill has had to close the account which got him so hooked in the first place.”

As a business ethics and teen ethics speaker, (www.chuckgallagher.com), I routinely talk with parents about the pitfalls and dangers of social networking through MySpace – Facebook, etc. While I think social networking is the way of the future, especially among young people, it is important for parents to understand the dynamic change when it comes to child – teen safety. Likewise, it is critical for business people to better understand the issues that come with security and corporate ethics and responsibility.

Have you had an experience with social networking that you’d want to share?

Should parents know more about MySpace and Facebook?

What pitfalls do you see for employees involved in Facebook or MySpace?

Comments are welcome!


Project Safe Childhood – Protecting Children for Sexual Predators – Comments by Teen Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher

February 4, 2008

A program in North Carolina is active in protecting children from sexual predators. Robert Martin Kutzer, age 32 from Leicester, North Carolina, was convicted of online enticement of a minor to engage in an unlawful sex act.

The jury found that Kutzer engaged in several online chat conversations with an undercover detective from the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office in a Yahoo! chat room. Evidence also showed that the defendant believed the detective to be a 14-year-old girl from Buncombe County. The jury heard evidence that Kutzer steered the online conversation to the topic of sex and that the defendant was responsible for injecting explicit and sexually graphic content into the online chat and that the defendant then arranged to meet this person whom he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. Robert Martin Kutzer was taken into custody by United States Marshals following the pronouncement of the verdict on Friday, January 25, 2007.

This federal prosecution was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims.

The online enticement charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of ten years in prison and a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison. In July of 2006 the mandatory minimum penalty for this crime was increased from five to ten years via The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. There is no possibility of parole in the federal system.

There are many concerns in our environment today about social networking – something that adults don’t feel comfortable with in general. Sites such as MySpace and Facebook make it easy for teens to post and share personal information, pictures, and video, which change the environment for the predators to function.

Years back, for most adults with teenage children, we advised our kids to avoid talking to strangers. Frankly, the place(s) where predators sought their prey was limited to physical gathering spots for children and teens. Today, however, the pond is much different. Today, the predator is not limited to the physical location of the kids, they, instead, prey in the much larger pond of the internet. Unfortunately, adults don’t know how to monitor that environment and the kids feel safe at home with their social networking sites – assuming that most people are honest. Reality is that most kids are unsuspecting and vulnerable. Teenage girls are particularly at risk of online sexual exploitation. A recent study by University of New Hampshire researchers for National Center for Missing and Exploited Children found that of the approximately one in seven youth who received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet, 70 percent were girls.

Chuck Gallagher, Ethics Speaker

As a teen ethics speaker (www.chuckgallagher.com) I address teens and young adults about the effects of the choices that they make. Every choice has a consequence. More importantly, however, I have recently begun a series of programs aimed at educating parents about social networking, the internet and how to help keep kids safe. For information contact me at www.chuckgallagher.com.

Project Safe Childhood Press Releases for January 2008:

Comments or questions are welcome!