If you’ve seen Minority Report, the Steven Spielberg flick, then you will know that it’s about a certain type of police belonging to a pre-crime unit that arrest people for crimes that they might end up committing in the future. It is science fiction of course, and it most likely isn’t going to end up happening in our lifetimes.
However, it’s not as far-fetched as you might think, and the idea of pre-crime is very soon coming to the world of employee management and human resources.
A start-up in Santa Barbara, California, called Social Intelligence mines social networks for data, so that they can decide whether they want to take you on or not. While things like background checks and credit checks have become more commonplace, Social Intelligence is a pioneering company that trolls social networks for evidence of sub-par character.
Using automation software, the company trolls through the likes of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs, and hundreds of other sources available to get a picture of the ‘real you’ – not the you that you have crafted in your resume. It’s called ‘social intelligence hiring’, and the company promises that they have a 48 hour turnaround.
It is currently illegal to consider sexual orientation, age, religion, or race when hiring somebody, so the company doesn’t include this type of information on their reports. Once the automated process is complete, humans will look at the reports to make sure that there aren’t any false positives. And, the business only uses data that has been publicly shared already, which means that it doesn’t befriend people to access their private posts.
The reports include a visual snapshot of what type of person you are, evaluating you in different categories like ‘gangs’, ‘drugs and drug language’, ‘poor judgment’, and ‘demonstrating potentially poor behaviour’. The business mines for rice nuggets of gold in the form of explicit photos and derogatory commentary.
They also offer a separate service for their clients where they will watch the personal activity of any existing employees in the future. The service has been marketed in a way that implies they can enforce company social media policies, but it’s not clear whether it’s actually possible to monitor people’s personal activity.
The company provides its clients with real-time notifications, which means that as soon as you post on your Facebook, your boss gets notified.
There are two things to make note of here. The first is that the company emphasise liability. This means that if someone that you hire comes in and starts freaking out and threatening their colleagues, then you could be held responsible, because you probably saw signs of their erratic behaviour online, and you chose to ignore it. This is why the company is encouraging its clients to scan every prospective hire and continue running these scans on any exiting employees.
They are making the case that now that people use social networks, companies ‘should’ be expected to monitor these services, in order to protect the business from lawsuits, and damage to reputation. Second the company provides information in their reports that emphasises character. It is less about what the employee did in the past, and more about what kind of person they are. The goal here isn’t to be punished for past behaviour, but to protect the company from future potential behaviour.
Predicting the Future, in the Future
Predicting people’s future behaviour is definitely a growing business. Another company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, called Recorded Future which is backed by the CIA and Google, claims that it uses an analytics engine to predict activities and events by individual people and companies.
Similar to Social Intelligence, Recorded Future uses software to go through all different types of public domains online, then uses some secret that we don’t know about to find logical linkages that result in likely outcomes. If you enter your search criteria, you might be surprised to find accurate predictions of future behaviour.
Recorded Future is only one of many companies that are taking an innovative approach to predictive analytics, that are expected to be seen more and more over the next couple of years. The ability to gather data and crunch the numbers to predict possible future outcomes is going to be used to estimate public unrest, traffic, and the performance of stocks. However, it’s also going to be used to predict employee behaviour.
Google let out last year that it is currently in the process of developing a search algorithm that can predict which of its employees are most likely to resign in the future. This is based on things like salary history and employee reviews. All we can say is, watch this space.