I read today in a Forbes article (Creepy Start-up Or Sign of the Times by Nathan Vardi – http://blogs.forbes.com/nathanvardi/2010/09/28/creepy-start-up-or-sign-of-the-times/) that a Santa Barbara based company, Social Intelligence Corp., is launching a social media screening and monitoring service which acts much like the traditional background check, but is focused on a person’s activities on the internet and social networks.

SIC’s software searches various social media and social networking sites on behalf of their clients to gather information about potential employees. They then categorize that information and calculate the potential “risk” that employee might impose on the company if hired.

Now, being a social media junkie, I am not sure how I feel about this. I have serious issues with a person’s private life being scrutinized by the company that they work for. What you do on your time is your business, or should be. But that is another post for another day.

I do understand that you would not want to hire a school bus driver that has photos posted of her doing keg stands at last night’s homecoming football game, and that it might be better to be aware of that potential risk upfront, rather than after a bus loaded with “Little Timmys” goes careening off a bridge somewhere. But what about the simple Jr. Accountant that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and was photographed by her college friends while she was face down in a trashcan full of “suicide punch”? Does she really pose a threat to the company as a whole because she can’t hold her liquor? Personally, I think not. But again, this is a bunny trail we will follow at a different time.

Since day one of the interwebs, I have been preaching that if you are using social media and social networking sites to share your life, be careful what you post and know that it can, and will, come back to haunt you. Use common sense people!

As I said, I am a social media crack addict, and I live a lot of my life out in the open online. Either in blog posts, on Twitter or Facebook, LinkedIN, Youtube, etc. I make no apologies for that. But everything I post has to pass the screening question of; “If this is still on line a hundred years from now, which it will be, will I care or be embarrassed by it, or will any of my family members?” If the answer is no, I click submit, otherwise I let the urge to post pass. Sometimes that last part about the family members doesn’t come into question because they all know that I am not wired up right. They totally expect to see me on the news someday swinging from the St. Louis Arch wearing nothing but a strategically ripped Dixie flag. But they all know that I have enough common sense, and good judgment, to keep from embarrassing them too much.

I, as I have come to find out, am the exception not the rule. There are many folks out there that post anything and everything that comes to mind, thinking that it will stay between them and their Facebook friends. This can be true if you have remembered to tighten up your privacy settings on your favorite social site, but alas many users go with the default setting. Believing that the operators of their favorite social network has their privacy interests at heart and would never allow their photos or posts to leak out into the internet at large. WRONG! It is up to you to take responsibility for your own privacy.

This brings me back to common sense, the ultimate privacy setting. If you don’t want to be judged, either correctly or incorrectly, by your actions, don’t post stupid shit online. Period. If however you don’t care what people think of you, feel free to send those half naked photos to me, care of Speaking for Americans dot com. Use your heads and THINK BEFORE YOU POST. (Hey, I think I smell a bumper sticker in there somewhere.)

But common sense in the digital age goes both ways. If you happen to be an employer and are using the internet to “dig up dirt” on current or potential employees, use some common sense before jumping to conclusions. Put what you find into the proper context. Ask questions. That photo of John holding a gun and striking an “aggressive pose” may just be a modeling shot or publicity photo for a play that he is starring in. Not a direct attack on you, or a threat to the safety of John’s co-workers.

Kelly is a Social Media Producer and Owner of [Exit, Produced by a Bear].