Stop Whining About Your Online Privacy. There is None.

I’m reading more and more articles about “privacy” online.  I suppose I have a tainted view, I think once you step into the internet fish bowl, you’ve agreed to surrender some of your privacy.  I also firmly believe, and I do mean firmly, that the internet is rife with user generated content.  And I’m not the only one….this writer refers to online privacy as a “romantic illusion”.

User generated.  Meaning the user generated it.  From a sourcing perspective, that means you can give me your requirements, and I can creatively search to find the talent you need, because of the information put online by users.  I search within the public domain.  I do not hack.  Everything I find has been indexed by a search engine.  Does any of this mean I’ll find absolutely everyone? No, because it’s user generated. But quite often, if I don’t find the golden candidate I’ll find the lead I need to get to them. Sourcing is a component of the recruiting process and within that “internet research” is a facet.  Just as cold-calling, face-to-face networking, job fairs, job boards, employee referral programs, etc. are additional facets.

So now, let’s consider your privacy and your user generated content.  If you’ve made the decision to have a presence online, cool.  If you have decided to live your entire life online, bully for you.  If you have not at least considered the ramifications of friending people on Facebook whom you don’t really know and not editing the 12 different functions they can view on your page, I encourage you to do so.  You’ll find the option to edit your privacy under account settings.  Otherwise, if you’re living your life on Facebook, they’ve got a complete view.  What do I have to hide? I protect my kids online.  I’m pretty darn authentic, but I need to know you’re “good people” before I let you into that part of my world.  And frankly, when you don’t edit these settings, you let your friends, their friends and everyone else see your content.  If you’re okay with that, rock on.  Again, it’s your user generated content. Your choice.

Birthdays are another thing that hang me up.  Why do you need to put that online? To get birthday wishes? Wouldn’t your friends do that without a reminder? And in particular, if you are even blithely aware that Linkedin is used by HR professionals to find people and network, why would you submit your birthday to Linkedin?  Why does Linkedin, a professional network, need to know your birthday? They don’t, and your prospective employers don’t really need that either.  And then I start to go down the path of identity theft. Which if we talk about all these declarations of “I’m at Cosi on 14th in Downtown D.C.” we get into the whole, well at least I know you’re not home.  Which leads us into a completely different type of theft.

As a sourcer, I’ve functioned in a land of requirements.  I scan profile information online to see if the person is a CPA, attended a 4 year college and has 5 years of tax experience at a big 4 firm.  I have never been handed a requirement that asked for someone to be of a certain age or background.  I have serious concerns that there are HR professionals out there researching candidates online looking for information that does not pertain to the legal interviewing process.  I understand you can do it, and it’s like a pandora’s box, but you are not supposed to. How can you be sure you are looking at the right person’s information? Or that it’s not misinformation?  Decisions are to be made from the interviewing process, references, criminal background checks, and in some cases financial background checks.  I appreciate that there are recruiters out there like Shannon Smedstad of Geico that include this text on their Facebook recruiting profile:


If you are concerned about your privacy, I strongly encourage you to run yourself through Google, but better yet, through Pipl. will give you detailed, and more importantly up-to-date, information on your online presence across the web.  Then if you feel you’re too revealed, you can take the list of sites you need to edit and clean ’em.  And if you want to blast away your identity? You’ve just had enough? Of course, someone has invented an app that.

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Kelly Dingee
Kelly Dingee is a Senior Manager, Global Talent Acquisition for Marriott International. She has extensive sourcing experience having worked for Staffing Advisors (retained search), AIRS (training!) and Thales Communications, Inc., (cleared/telecom) and got her start in the profession while a full life cycle recruiter at Acterna (now known as Viavi). Lucky for Kelly, she had a boss who could see the potential of sourcing candidates from the web, and in 1998, she stepped into a newly created sourcing role. No truth to the rumor that she has a side business to help you push your resume to the top of Google search results…


  1. Kelly, I get asked about privacy issues and social media constantly. I agree you aren’t “supposed” to use social media for sourcing candidates in any way that is not considered legal BUT like you said, it’s a Pandora’s box. I know people who were not considered because someone viewed their pictures on Facebook and the viewer thought there were some that were highly inappropriate. If it is out there an free to access people will look. If people are not smart enough to protect themselves, even just a little bit, by using privacy controls in social media I think it is their own fault. Have you seen any company policies that actually forbid employers from using social media in this manner? It is one thing for Geico to say that they do not use social media for screening and an entirely different scenario if they actually uphold that. Great post!

  2. Kelly Dingee says:

    Thanks Stephen –
    I have yet to see a company policy that formally states "we do not troll social media to track your every move and misstep".  (I would love to if anyone reading has one!)  I personally had to become quite comfortable to the idea that everyone, including my boss, her boss, our CEO and a whole bunch of clients can see what I'm doing on a daily basis because I've followed or friended them.  I suppose in some sense that will certainly put some pressure on those types of policies. What will Joe HR do in that case? Not be friends with anyone in order to plead the social media 5th?  I'm not sure.  Very new ground.
    Most of the policies I've seen in researching best practices have focused on encouraging employees to use good judgement, common sense and if all else fails, "what would mom say?"  But it definitely sounds like companies need a corporate policy too.

  3. k9left09 says:

    Your larger point about people posting personal information online without regard to the consequences is well put. If you’re concerned about privacy, be private: share with only your friends and colleagues. However, I think you overlook the fact that even protected speech becomes risky on the internet. I’m less willing to express my views about contentious issues for fear it would end up on google and affect my employment or a job search. That kind of self censorship is dangerous for democracy. I still haven’t seen any studies which show a relationship between facebook use and job performance. Recruiters would do well to focus on verifying data on resumes and stay off facebook altogether.

  4. Shennee Rutt says:

    Kelly-Excellent post! This is a buyer-beware type story. You are 100% correct, There is no such thing as online privacy. The END. And to really think before you post something.

  5. Agreed to a degree. Understand the limitations of privacy when you’re on a social networking site or what-have-you but are we not entitled to some sort of privacy when we’re simply surfing the web – aren’t we entitled for our IP not to be logged for some underhanded purpose. Aren’t we entitled to some type of privacy when we order something online (note that it may not be the actual seller infringing your privacy). I do believe we are.

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  7. Puma Outlet says:

    Does it not depend on the method by which the $100/$120 is paid? Someone who values their time is more likely to settle for $100 instantly rather than go out of their way in 3 days’ time to pick up an extra $20… once the subject has to go away and come back to pick up money, it makes little difference how long they have to wait so they opt for more. So they’re willing to give up $20 to avoid wasting time in the future – would that make sense?

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