2003 Job Search Privacy Study: Privacy Issues at Specific Job Sites

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In the course of research some online sites or businesses raised new or important privacy questions. Each site is discussed in more detail below..

A. USAJOBS.gov and StudentJobs.gov

The federal government’s official job site is USAJOBS (www.usajobs.opm.gov) . Its companion site for students is StudentJobs.gov (www.studentjobs.gov).

The USAJOBS site, due to its size and position as the primary gateway for access to federal employment opportunities, is of vital public interest. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) oversees the operation of the two sites.

When researchers analyzed these sites, they realized that the sites were being outsourced in their entirety to Monster.com.

In order to find out more about the operations of these sites, on October 22, 2003 the

Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to OPM’s FOIA Officer by Fax and mail. The FOIA letter requests copies of all documents, electronic and otherwise, pertaining to USAJOBS and the Recruitment One- Stop project, including copies of all contracts regarding USAJOBS.

B. FastWeb.com

FastWeb’s use of EEO-related data was discussed earlier in this report under the heading “Use of EEO and ADA Information Online.”

Research additionally found that FastWeb has a generous opt-in/data -sharing policy in its privacy policy. The policy states that upon user opt-in, FastWeb has the ability to share consumer data with third parties, including with potential employers. This is fairly straightforward.

“If you give your permission to allow third parties to contact you, personal information about you (such as your contact information and other information collected during your visit to FastWeb) may be shared with colleges, universities, potential employers, recruiters/headhunters, data aggregators, marketers (possibly in the form of list rental), and other organizations. Regardless of your decision regarding the sharing of your personal information, we may share broad aggregate demographic data and related usage information with our business partners.” [26]

If a student opts in to the data sharing, then the student has agreed to the terms above,

among the others located in the full policy.

On the “Student Activities” page part of the FastWeb questionnaire, students were asked to “select all that apply” regarding student disability/illnesses. Disabilities/illnesses students could select if applicable included:

  • HIV-related
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Emotional
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing

Under “Student Activities, Skills, and Other” students were again instructed to select all that apply. Choices included everything from “Cheerleader” to “Gay/Lesbian” to “Fraternity Member.”

If the terms of the privacy policy were strictly adhered to, FastWeb could conceivably share this data with just about anyone. Given the terms of the privacy policy, FastWeb’s inclusion of such highly sensitive personal data raises the question: is data regarding student medical condition and/or sexual preference shared, per the privacy policy?

C. Eliyon

Eliyon is a technology company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It has built a database of more than 16 million executives . [27] This database is accessible to and searchable by anyone with a Web connection. [28] The database contains detailed profiles on individuals based on information the company garners from the Internet, among other sources. It sells these profiles to marketing companies and to recruiters. Monster.com resells access to the Eliyon database.

When queried about the database, Eliyon responded by writing to researchers the following:

Thank you for contacting us. Eliyon is as concerned about privacy as you and others are.

The information in Eliyon is compiled from public sources that are available to everyone on the Internet. Our system collects only information that was likely put in the public domain as a direct result of an action by the person or the person’s representatives. Such action may include a press release about a nomination or a promotion, a bio posted on a “management team” page of a company web site, the person being quoted in an article, mentioned as a speaker in a conference, or other such publicized sources.

Eliyon specifically does not collect “public domain” information that likely was put in the public domain without the person’s consent and that might include private personal information such as: court documents, driver license registration, real estate records, criminal records, news groups, postings to private listings, etc. Eliyon’s crawlers comply with robots.txt standards, avoids crawling private, password protected, web sites, and does not extract any personal information such as marital status, income, hobbies, criminal records, and such.

Researchers found that the database contained many errors and revealed personal, non- work -related information. For example, it revealed childrens’ names in one profile of a parent, along with that person’s marital information.

Eliyon does not have a privacy policy or an opt-out mechanism for those profiled. It does not allow people to correct their own profiles if inaccurate information is discovered. Meanwhile, the information is being widely used for recruiting and hiring purposes.

Currently, anyone with a Web connection can log on to Eliyon and search the database by company name. However, a new service is being beta-tested that allows searches by an individual’s name. [29]

Eliyon is urged to post a robust privacy policy that allows users to correct and delete information in their profiles.

 

 

 

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Endnotes

[26] See FastWeb’s privacy policy page at <http://www.fastweb.com/fastweb/content/aboutus/privacy.ptml?SP=/sp/privacy>.“If you give your permission to allow third parties to contact you, personal information about you (such as your contact information and other information collected during your visit to FastWeb) may be shared with colleges, universities, potential employers, recruiters/headhunters, data aggregators, marketers (possibly in the form of list rental), and other organizations. Regardless of your decision regarding the sharing of your personal information, we may share broad aggregate demographic data and related usage information with our business partners.”

[27] See < http://www.eliyon.com/PublicSite/public/default.asp> . 28 See: < http://networking5.eliyon.com/networking/ >.

[29] See: < http://directory.eliyon.com >.

 

 

Roadmap: 2003 Job Search Privacy Study - Job Searching in the Networked Environment: Consumer Privacy Benchmarks: V. Privacy Issues at Specific Job Sites

 

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