The Federal Trade Commission now allows companies who run background checks and to compile seven years worth of publicly-available files and data from social networks and websites of the like. If you haven't yet privatized the information on your online accounts, you should.
According to Kashmir Hill over at Forbes, Social Intelligence is one of the first companies to offer this sort of background check to employers. They check sites like Facebook, Myspace, Flickr, Craigslist and others in search of dirt.
The company limits its searches to what's publicly available, mining data from, in Andrews's words, "social networking websites (i.e., Facebook and others), professional networking websites (i.e., Linked In and others), blogs, wikis, video and picture sharing websites, etc.)." And a job applicant must acknowledge and approve the use of a social media background screen, just as they would a criminal and credit background check.
For the time being, it sounds like there aren't files on most of us. And if employers don't hire you for reasons related to the background check, they have to let you know .
But like Forbes says once you're screened, that info remains in the file for any potential employers who use the same service. That means even if you change any damning evidence after the fact, that old stuff wont just go away. And who knows when they'll start building bots that scrape mass amounts of accounts. So please, if you think you'll ever want to apply for a job where people care about this shit, just be smart and make your more unsavory photos and opinions accessible to a select few.
Update: Actually it doesn't store any data. It just checks seven years worth of your information for each report. And because it runs a new and distinct check every time, upon request you can purge your dirty little secrets. But still the advice above is solid. Lock down your profiles, peoples.
Image via Shutterstock/Camilo Torres