Social media and background checks

1 July 2019 Security Services & Risk Management

The evolving digital world and resultant online presence of the population is no doubt changing the way people engage and how business is conducted - but also what information can be sourced online, prior to such engagement taking place. While available online information may give previously unknown insights, is it enough to truly know who you are forming alliances or associations with and who you are entrusting, especially when it comes to your business information? Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE) takes a deeper look.

A recent research report highlighted that 54% of the South African population has access to the internet and with this, 40% of these users had active social media accounts. This same report also noted that local internet users spend more time online than many other countries.

Michelle Baron-Williamson
Michelle Baron-Williamson

Says Michelle Baron-Williamson, CEO of Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE); “With such a strong number of the local population making use of some form of social media, certainly the ability to source information about an individual, or even a company, online, is much easier than it was 15 years or so ago. While there is value to be had in conducting social media information checks, there are certain considerations that should never be negated.”

Increasingly tougher economic and market conditions, and rife competition, coupled with the benefits the digital world offers, is seeing many businesses relook many of their traditional internal processes and strategies. Modernising processes to take full advantage of digital mechanisms has become a key component to streamlining spend. And it is no different within the human resources and procurement space.

Continues Baron-Williamson; “The new and modern digital world we find ourselves operating in, that is making this wealth of information easily accessible today, is no doubt tempting some businesses to relook their current background screening processes in relation to hiring and procurement. This can include undertaking ‘self-check’ online searches of potential candidates, for example – as it is, after all, perceived to be a ‘cheaper’ option and therefore rather attractive. However, negating thorough background screening or conducting such online searches outside the right ethical parameters could in fact end up costing a business much more in the longer term”.

Social media screening and online checks can provide many benefits to a hiring employer; however, such screening should not be carried out in isolation. It should be accompanied with a full and comprehensive background screening approach. Businesses should look to partner with companies that hold the expertise within this field to not only ensure these checks are conducted in compliance with the latest legislation and guidelines linked to the protection of personal information, but that they are non-biased and provide fair and comprehensive assessments.

“Self-checks online alone are not sufficient to obtain an objective and well-rounded view of a potential candidate or supplier. Additionally, this practice could open a business up to regulation negligence, as well as the possibility of making an ill-informed hiring or association decision, based on information taken purely at face value. Self-check online searches and the data derived from these carries privacy restrictions that businesses must understand and comply with, to avoid facing possible discrimination or data protection rights,” adds Baron-Williamson.

“While the digital world offers ample opportunity and the ability to know more simply through reviewing information publicly available, it doesn’t allow for comprehensive screening – a risk mitigation tool that every business should invest in. No short cuts should be taken if it is your business’s reputation and continued success on the line,” concludes Baron-Williamson.

For more information contact Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE), +27 12 644 4000, [email protected],


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