Potential employees applying for jobs in Obama Barack's administration are being asked to provide access to their Facebook account and other social networking pages in a bid to uncover information or posts that could embarrass the President-elect.
According to the New York Times, applicants are also being asked to hand over copies of emails, text messages and even blog posts.
Obama saw firsthand how effective social networking can be in organising grassroots support for his presidential campaign as his supporters created 35,000 groups and organised 200,000 events using the My.BarackObama.com social network.
The campaign announced a week ago that the social network would continue operating even though it could be used to protest Obama policies. For example, 20,000 supporters used that social network during the campaign to organise an online protest of Obama's support of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
The White House is not the only employer scouring the Web 2.0 world for information about potential hires. More than one in five employers search social networking sites to screen job candidates, according to a survey of more than 31,000 employers by CareerBuilder.com in September. Of the hiring managers who use social networks, one-third said information found on such sites caused them to reject an applicant for a job.
Micah Sifry, a blogger at TechPresident, said that the effort to check on an applicant's internet use is a logical undertaking to minimise the potential for future embarrassment.
"In the internet age, the odds are close to zero that there isn't a picture somewhere online of you picking your nose, or chugging a beer, or doing something embarrassing," he added. "Let's hope that the Obama vetters focus on the important stuff, like financial or ethical misbehaviour and conflicts of interest. Let's not create a situation where people are afraid to express themselves online because someday someone might use their words or image to embarrass them or their boss."
He went on to predict that embarrassing Web 2.0 content will follow the same path as the past marijuana use of political candidates. "It will present a serious problem to the first few pioneers, but it will fade over time as relevant," Sifry said.
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