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HOLES FOUND IN ONLINE JOB SEARCH PRIVACY

Source: eWeek

Posted on November 12, 2003

      Some career Web sites, recruitment services and automated job-application kiosks offer flimsy privacy protections and might even violate employment and credit laws, a report released Tuesday asserts.

      Many job sites still let too much information from resumes posted online get into the hands of third parties through online "cookies" that monitor Web surfing, according to the report, led by Pam Dixon, formerly of the University of Denver's Privacy Foundation and now head of her own group, the World Privacy Forum.

      The report also faults self-service job application computers commonly used by chain stores. It says they almost always demand social security numbers and perform background checks on applicants without clearly stating who will see the information.

      Dixon is urging job seekers to demand more stringent privacy protections. She also wants the Federal Trade Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to look more closely at how job sites and recruitment services handle information.

      "Technology is in such a place right now where it really is at odds with Title 7," the employment-discrimination section of the Civil Rights Act, Dixon said. "I don't want to see that eroded at all."

      Other prominent Internet watchdogs also participated in the investigation, including members of the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

      The report says that even people who don't hunt for jobs online should be aware that many resumes, no matter how they are submitted, are processed through vast databases.

      For example, Eliyon Technologies Corp., a private company in Cambridge, Mass., has a file of 16 million executives that it sells to headhunters, employers and companies seeking leads for sales pitches. Eliyon's Web site says its customers include IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Time Warner Inc.

      Eliyon's advanced software mines information about people from Web sites, press releases, Securities and Exchange Commission filings and other public sources. Dixon said she was surprised at the level of detail in an Eliyon search about her sister. Though the sister is not a public figure, the names of her children and husband were listed.

      Dixon alleged that Eliyon has no clear method for people to correct or remove erroneous data. That makes it "an end-run around the Fair Credit Reporting Act," which requires that consumers be able to examine adverse information maintained about them in commercial files, she said.

      Eliyon executives told The Associated Press that Dixon's report was misleading because they will remove anyone from the database who asks, and they say far more people ask to be added.

      They said Eliyon will soon add a feature that will let people modify or delete their database entries themselves. However, Jeremy Rothman-Shore, Eliyon's vice president of development, would not reveal how the new feature would ensure that entries could be modified only by their subjects.

      Dixon's report also questions the policies of FastWeb.com, a popular scholarship search service owned by Monster.com Inc., a leading job site. To help hone their searches, FastWeb asks users such optional personal questions as their race, sexual orientation and whether they have HIV.

      FastWeb can give employers and recruiters its users' personal information only if they proactively "opt-in" and agree to its privacy policy. But Dixon said FastWeb should do more to make certain that employers cannot see anyone's religious or medical information.

      Steve Pogorzelski, president of Monster North America, said employers aren't interested in that kind of information. He called Dixon's allegations overblown.

      "Our businesses depend on the trust of consumers and we're not going to do anything to violate that," he said. "Like Pam Dixon, we share a passion for the protection and the privacy of the consumer."




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