this creepy, invasive software can tell your boss if you’re looking for a new job

This is creepy as hell:

“A start-up that tracks an individual’s job search activity in their public social media accounts is quietly — and some would say creepily — calculating a score it says helps represent how likely each one is to be looking for a job.

The start-up, Joberate, scrapes publicly available data from millions of individuals’ online social media accounts, or buys it from other parties, to assign what it calls a “J-Score” that estimates their level of job search activity, likening it to a FICO score. If the person starts following company accounts on Twitter, clicks through to articles about résumé writing or career-related content in their Facebook feed, or begins making a bunch of professional connections on LinkedIn, their score goes up. Joberate then shares these scores with clients — typically to help employers keep tabs on talented outsiders or see how engaged their own workers are in their jobs.” — Washington Post

You can read the whole disturbing thing here.

{ 187 comments… read them below }

  1. Feo Takahari*

    All together now: do not use Facebook! (Though I’m a little alarmed that they’re also tracking Stack Overflow.)

    1. MashaKasha*

      Ah, you beat me to the comment about Stack Overflow. This makes no damn sense. Everyone in my field uses this site for their work pretty much daily.

      Though, the worse this software is at calculating realistic scores, the sooner it will become history. So the fact that it tracks legitimate work-related sites and uses that information to artificially inflate people’s scores is a good thing, I guess.

      1. Kyrielle*

        The fact that it apparently can access info about “apply through LinkedIn” buttons is disturbing, though. Talk about things you probably wouldn’t expect to be reporting on you….

        1. Lance*

          This caught me to. He says in a quote that it’s only tracking public info, but since when is applying to a job on a site like LinkedIn public? That doesn’t seem like something anyone but the person applying, the company being applied to, and anyone they explicitly tell would know.

      2. Slippy*

        It makes a lot of sense. Most of the people using Stack Overflow are the ones that are more/most expensive to replace. Besides, it is a great place to drop a tracking cookie into your browser.

        1. MashaKasha*

          It makes no sense whatsoever, because using Stack Overflow =/= looking to leave. By tracking that activity, the software is penalizing people for doing their job.

          1. Kyrielle*

            It depends. Is “using Stack Overflow” the red flag, or is “looking at certain parts of / things on Stack Overflow” the red flag?

          2. J*

            One assumes the algorithm is able to distinguish between heavy usage for job-hunting vs. information-sharing.

            1. acx0106*

              Btw, Dice’s Open Web does the same thing. Rates someone’s interest in leaving their company based on 30-40 social sites. That said, if you are super active on Stack, but not other sites, you will not rank high enough to be coded a “flight risk”.

      3. addlady*

        Stack overflow has a job search function. If you contribute a lot to answering questions, that helps your ranking, so that when you apply for positions there, you look far better.

        1. MashaKasha*

          If they penalize answering questions though, all of us users of that site are screwed.

          This software is a disaster on so many levels.

          1. Jaguar*

            It’s worth noting that this had to be adopted before it’s actually a threat. “There is an app for that” is not the beginning of the threat, people using the app is. See: Peeple.

          2. Izzy*

            Sure, but where’s your proof that answering questions on SO is viewed as proof that you’re job hunting? The people who are making this software are creepy, sure, but the likelihood that they view asking/answering questions on SO as a sign that someone is about to jump ship is pretty slim to me–no doubt most of the engineers used SO while building the app!

          3. Lanon*

            Indeed. I answer questions on there in my free time and use it at work to gather helpful information. I’m spending more then 4 hours a day easily on that site in one way or another. I don’t look to leave my current job either, so that app thinking that I will will be a detriment to me through no fault of my own.

    2. Jaguar*

      On the one hand, I’m always a little hesitant to start being sanctimonious about how people shouldn’t use Facebook (my initial reaction was the same as yours: people shouldn’t be using Facebook to begin with). It’s a basic tenant of people’s lives, it’s how people connect and stay connected with each other, etc. It’s like saying to someone in the 70s not to go to night clubs/discos.

      On the other hand, don’t use Facebook.

      1. Kore*

        Yeah, at this point I can’t not use Facebook. I mean, I COULD not use Facebook, theoretically, but it’s how I keep in contact with so many people that if I gave up Facebook I would not be in contact with as many friends. It’s a really useful tool for me. I kind of wish I was better at it – while I don’t share anything with an opinion I would be ashamed of (lots of feminist articles, stuff about movies, zero embarrassing photos), I kind of regret friending coworkers – I kind of wish I had kept my work separate from my social media.

        1. James*

          It’s useful for folks who have family and friends scattered across the country/continent/globe (I never know where some of my friends are–one week they’re in Norway, two weeks later it’s south of India!). But yeah, I don’t get people adding a bunch of work contacts. That just strikes me as inviting trouble.

          1. TL -*

            It’s also useful for keeping in touch with friends that are closer, organizing events, easy group chats, and putting up photos without making everyone sit through your zillions of baby pics while allowing people who want to see your zillions of baby pics to easy find them.

            1. Tara*

              Yea, this is the thing for me. SO many people use facebook to make plans with friends. I don’t use facebook just because I can’t be bothered to check something like that very often and generally forget it exists. My boyfriend informs me all the time of things we’ve been invited to (we basically only have mutual friends). If I didn’t have him, I’d either have to start using facebook more regularly, convince all my friends to both post their event on facebook AND message me individually through text or something, or otherwise never hang out with any of my friends.

          2. CrimsonCaller*

            I have a rule that even if we’re good work friends who plan to keep in touch I won’t friend you until we no longer work together. If we work together we can see each other or interact via company e-mail/IM on the regular. Once we actually need to keep in touch I’m down, and I’m pretty aggressive about putting people into limited categories. Limited folks get nothing I wouldn’t put in the newspaper or a Christmas card.

            1. Windchime*

              This is what I do, too. Other than a couple of exceptions, all of my work “friends” are in a different category from people who are truly friends. I think that, if I should change jobs in the future, I’ll not add people from work to my Facebook. It’s just not worth it.

      2. AliceBD*

        What if your job is social media marketing, and having a Facebook (and Twitter, and Tumblr, and LinkedIn, etc.) account and being very familiar with how it works and norms around use (which are pretty difficult to understand without actually using the social media platform) is literally a requirement of your job?

      3. Photoshop Til I Drop*

        I don’t use Facebook, and it’s gotten to the point that I missed two funerals in 2015 because that’s the only place they were announced. Friends I see only a few times a year would never think to call me when their parents pass on, because everyone they know (except me) stays in touch with Facebook. It’s ubiquitous.

    3. Tau*

      I wonder if they’re specifically tracking the jobs section? Because I agree, tracking Stack Overflow on its own makes no damn sense.

      1. CAA*

        More likely it’s tracking the answers and reputation points on Stack Overflow rather than applications via the careers site. If you answer questions and build up your reputation (both of which are publicly visible), then it makes you appear more desirable when you apply for a job through their careers page. If you were about to start applying for tech jobs, it might not be a bad idea to answer a bunch of questions. Some people do weigh community involvement like this and/or open source contributions in their hiring decisions.

        1. Tau*

          OK, that just makes no sense to me. :/ Building up a good reputation at Stack Overflow is a long and time-consuming process and its connection to hiring processes seems tenuous enough to me (not all hiring managers will care, some hiring managers might worry that you’re going to be reading SO instead of doing work) that I doubt it’s a particularly effective job-searching strategy. I’d assume most people who answer questions are drawn in by the site, the community, and the natural human instinct of wanting high numbers and shiny things next to your name[1]. And that’s not even getting into the fact that people who answer questions on Stack Overflow are likely to be later in their careers… Basing an algorithm around the idea that people who answer SO questions are job-searching just strikes me as nuts.

          [1] Full disclosure: this is my primary motivation for wanting to answer questions on any of the stackexchange sites.

        2. AW*

          Reputation is just a matter of how much the site trusts you. You can get 1000 points just from editing, assuming you don’t reach 2000 points first. Less than 2% of SO users have 1K.

          I don’t know if activity in their jobs section is trackable but if they’re trying to tell employers whether an employee is likely to leave, tracking activity there would make more sense.

    4. Jennifer*

      Don’t use social media, period, because it stalks you and makes it very easy for everyone else to stalk and harass you.

      Unfortunately telling someone not to use it is like telling people not to use their phones and the Internet.

      1. Golden Lioness*

        But for people like me who have family, friends, school friends and cp-workers all over the world, it’s certainly helpful to keep in touch.

        I just don’t comments on politics religion, and keep my posts polite and my pictures not embarrassing.

      2. Allison*

        Yeah, social media is so deeply ingrained in our society it’s not reasonable to tell people they shouldn’t use it. Advocate for responsible use, encourage people to triple check their privacy settings, but you can’t tell people to just not use it at all if they don’t want to be stalked.

        1. Talvi*

          As someone who doesn’t use social media (or at least, social media that can be linked to my IRL name) by choice, it is hard to do sometimes! I’m deeply uncomfortable with people being able to find me online, and that is a choice I have made, but every once in awhile I think about how much easier certain things would be if I were to e.g. make a Facebook account.

    5. Greg*

      I’m a little tired of the “you should stop using facebook” reaction to anytime anything is mentioned about it.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        A more reasonable approach is to not connect your different online presences. So Facebook isn’t linked with Stack Overflow, isn’t linked with Twitter, isn’t linked with Linked In, isn’t linked with github, isn’t linked with forums you post on, and you only give your employer information about what they need. I use Facebook, but I refuse to use it to log into other stuff. Someone could still physically go in and look at the forums that are under your real name, but it would make automatic data scraping harder.

        1. Greg*

          that makes sense. if that what the people in this thread are saying when they are saying not to use facebook?

          I find anytime I mention having a had a discussion with someone on facebook there’s a bunch of people who treat facebook like it’s radioactive “this is why you shouldn’t use facebook” as though there is nothing but negative experiences on it instead of a way of staying in touch with my friends and family and gaming groups. It’s kind of tiring.

    6. Testy McTesterson*

      It isn’t that simple. If you don’t have a Facebook account, Facebook and other sites can still collect information about you. In Facebook land they’re known as shadow profiles.

    1. Ghost Town*

      Me, too!
      Career advising, producing a jobs list, and the like are a smallish part of my position. I’m regularly on here and other HR, career, management sites for that reason (and my own edification), as well as job-search specific sites. Weekly, if not daily. My score is high.

    2. CMT*

      You’d think an employer would be reasonable enough to understand a situation like this. But then again, if they’re using this software, they probably aren’t.

    3. College Career Counselor*

      I suspect my score would be through the roof, given how much time I spend on career-related sites.

    1. Sarianna*

      Right? AAM is such a lifeline for work sanity checks and self-improvement, but the sheer quantity of job-hunting information/questions in addition to the rest would probably make this site ping as a huge red flag in that system, with no level of subtlety.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Which is hilarious, because while AAM was super-helpful in the process of getting the job I’m now in, where AAM has been most valuable to me is in improving my interactions at work, improving my assessment of what is and isn’t a big deal and how much change to hope for, and generally helping me be a more professional, more content employee. Oh, and providing perspective.

        “Okay, $PreviousJobBoss sometimes swears, but no one has ever pooped in the plant, nor stolen bits of someone else’s lunch, nor threatened me with a magical curse, nor….”

      1. Josh S*

        That’s likely not true. You have a Facebook Share button at the bottom of each page. If anyone is logged into Facebook (or has a browser cookie that’s still on their computer, even if they’ve logged off but haven’t restarted their browser and/or cleared their cache), it’s likely that Facebook is able to track that UserA has accessed $Page.

        Facebook is everywhere, and captures much, much more than you expect it does.

        Really, the only thing that’s preventing them from doing more with all this data is that they’re not (yet) very good at telling companies/brands how to use that data to target the people they actually WANT to reach.

        And here’s a good explanation of how FB gets all that info on you:

        (The following is quoted/plagiarized from the first site linked above, but it’s worth clicking through)
        Here’s the full 98 personal data points used by Facebook to keep an eye on you, and match its advertisements –
        Education level
        Field of study
        Ethnic affinity
        Income and net worth
        Home ownership and type
        Home value
        Property size
        Square footage of home
        Year home was built
        Household composition
        Users who have an anniversary within 30 days
        Users who are away from family or hometown
        Users who are friends with someone who has an anniversary, is newly married or engaged, recently moved, or has an upcoming birthday
        Users in long-distance relationships
        Users in new relationships
        Users who have new jobs
        Users who are newly engaged
        Users who are newly married
        Users who have recently moved
        Users who have birthdays soon
        Expectant parents
        Mothers, divided by “type” (soccer, trendy, etc.)
        Users who are likely to engage in politics
        Conservatives and liberals
        Relationship status
        Job title
        Office type
        Users who own motorcycles
        Users who plan to buy a car (and what kind/brand of car, and how soon)
        Users who bought auto parts or accessories recently
        Users who are likely to need auto parts or services
        Style and brand of car you drive
        Year car was bought
        Age of car
        How much money user is likely to spend on next car
        Where user is likely to buy next car
        How many employees your company has
        Users who own small businesses
        Users who work in management or are executives
        Users who have donated to charity (divided by type)
        Operating system
        Users who play canvas games
        Users who own a gaming console
        Users who have created a Facebook event
        Users who have used Facebook Payments
        Users who have spent more than average on Facebook Payments
        Users who administer a Facebook page
        Users who have recently uploaded photos to Facebook
        Internet browser
        Email service
        Early/late adopters of technology
        Expats (divided by what country they are from originally)
        Users who belong to a credit union, national bank or regional bank
        Users who investor (divided by investment type)
        Number of credit lines
        Users who are active credit card users
        Credit card type
        Users who have a debit card
        Users who carry a balance on their credit card
        Users who listen to the radio
        Preference in TV shows
        Users who use a mobile device (divided by what brand they use)
        Internet connection type
        Users who recently acquired a smartphone or tablet
        Users who access the Internet through a smartphone or tablet
        Users who use coupons
        Types of clothing user’s household buys
        Time of year user’s household shops most
        Users who are “heavy” buyers of beer, wine or spirits
        Users who buy groceries (and what kinds)
        Users who buy beauty products
        Users who buy allergy medications, cough/cold medications, pain relief products, and over-the-counter meds
        Users who spend money on household products
        Users who spend money on products for kids or pets, and what kinds of pets
        Users whose household makes more purchases than is average
        Users who tend to shop online (or off)
        Types of restaurants user eats at
        Kinds of stores user shops at
        Users who are “receptive” to offers from companies offering online auto insurance, higher education or mortgages, and prepaid debit cards/satellite TV
        Length of time user has lived in house
        Users who are likely to move soon
        Users who are interested in the Olympics, fall football, cricket or Ramadan
        Users who travel frequently, for work or pleasure
        Users who commute to work
        Types of vacations user tends to go on
        Users who recently returned from a trip
        Users who recently used a travel app
        Users who participate in a timeshare

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          You have a Facebook Share button at the bottom of each page. If anyone is logged into Facebook (or has a browser cookie that’s still on their computer, even if they’ve logged off but haven’t restarted their browser and/or cleared their cache), it’s likely that Facebook is able to track that UserA has accessed $Page.

          I don’t think that’s true. I could be wrong, but I would be very, very surprised if that were the case (and I might remove that button if it’s true). Do you have any source on that?

          1. The RO-Cat*

            Quote from the first link (Express UK): “Facebook is alerted every time you load a webpage with one of its Like or Share buttons embedded. Any websites that use advertisements sourced from Atlas network will also track your movements.

            So yes, it does.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Right, but I think that’s referring to sites that embed Facebook functionality — not to ones like this one that don’t. I have buttons to like on Facebook, but they’re provided by Facebook — they just link to the right place on Facebook.

              1. The RO-Cat*

                Well, being provided by FB is being embedded. Each time I visit, for example, this page on askamanger . org, my browser calls on my screen all its elements – which are spread on several servers. Your content comes to me from your server, but the ads come from various specialized servers, not yours. And the FB “Like” button comes to me from the FB servers. They know exactly, due to my calling their button (since you told me “this button here will come from FB servers, please help yourself”), where from, at what time, how long and so on. And each “Like” button they serve all over the globe has an unique identifyier, AFAIK, so a different page on your site, say the dunce caps original post, cannot be mistaken for this one.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But it doesn’t come from the FB server, because I’m using a third party plugin and my own image hosting, not FB’s. FB is not serving anything here.

                2. The RO-Cat*

                  Alison, you’re right. I don’t know about the third-party plugin, but the images you put here are, indeed, on your server. So we’re sheltered from FB’s prying eyes, at least from this POV.

              2. animaniactoo*

                Nope. I just researched it for US FB, The RO-Cat is right. Here’s the relevant section:


                “Information from websites and apps that use our Services.
                We collect information when you visit or use third-party websites and apps that use our Services (like when they offer our Like button or Facebook Log In or use our measurement and advertising services). This includes information about the websites and apps you visit, your use of our Services on those websites and apps, as well as information the developer or publisher of the app or website provides to you or us.”

                1. animaniactoo*

                  Ah, I see – you’re linking to your webpage on FB, it’s not a direct “Like” button for this particular page of your site. Got it.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But I think they’re talking about the embedded buttons Facebook provides, not the ones that websites can create on their own or via third-party plugins.

              1. Kyrielle*

                Agreed! I assumed you were tracked by FB because you had a FB button, but inspecting it, the image is hosted on your site. It’s only if it’s hosted by them that they’d be alerted.

                That said, as a user, I would see that and assume it was provided by FB, embedded from FB, and they’d be alerted. Without you saying something, as here, I wouldn’t go inspect the image to realize it was locally hosted. So some people may assume they’d be tracked, just because they see that, as we did here. :)

              2. animaniactoo*

                btw, when the link makes it out moderation, see 2 below that section to see how the data is shared.

                It is entirely possible that Joberate can get the info about which pages have been visited here from FB, depending on what level of FB partnership they themselves are participating in as an app/developer.

                1. Kyrielle*

                  I think she’s right that FB doesn’t know unless you click through to FB, though. The FB image she has is hosted on this site, not on FB.

        2. Dynamic Beige*

          I don’t talk about my autoimmune condition on Facebook, because there’s no point. I don’t belong to a group for it on FB or anything. But I was talking about it on the weekend open thread that just passed, in conjunction with an audiobook. Today, there was a sponsored ad in my feed about a brand new product for my specific condition. After reading this, I’m thinking this might not be a coincidence.

          It is not only really scary how much information there is out there about everyone, just floating around, but how eager companies are to capture and use it. I’ve heard some things at meetings that if it was an individual doing it, it would be considered stalking.

          1. Mike C.*

            About a week or two before my wedding, all the ads for diamond rings were replaced for ads for divorce lawyers and joining the priesthood.

          2. Windchime*

            I looked for shoes on Zappo’s a few days ago and now I see those same shoes on every website ad on every page I visit. I also see the swimsuit I recently bought for vacation. I understand that; what I don’t understand is why I am seeing ads trying to sell me men’s bikini underwear!!

        3. Candi*

          I read all kinds of history, and companies have been know to pay fortunes to gather a fraction of this kind of demographic data to focus things like marketing, and so much more. Facebook doesn’t have to tell companies what to do with this kind of data; they already know! The only hard part would be dealing with so much available data.

    2. Kore*

      I wonder if my employer would think that too? I love reading AAM in part because it makes my office feel so SANE. I might be annoyed about something at work and then read the article about the company making its low performers wear dunce caps (wtf is that!) and feel grateful for my situation.

  2. The Cosmic Avenger*

    Too bad they didn’t also program it to increase employee retention! Oh, wait, that’s MANAGEMENT’S job!

  3. Panda Bandit*

    The quote from the co-founder makes me wonder about the quality of his work environments. Yes, people are going to leave for different jobs, there’s no need to clutch your pearls about it.

    1. Pineapple Incident*

      I love your comment- that line rubbed me wrong too. It’s natural that people will leave most positions for other jobs eventually; it’s also natural that they should want to keep that transition PRIVATE.

  4. tink*

    Never put anything on social media you wouldn’t want your bosses or potential employers to know, right?

    1. JMegan*

      This seems to go beyond just posting, though. If it’s tracking Follows and Likes, that’s really problematic. Ugh.

      1. Kyrielle*

        It’s tracking *click through*. Friend shares article about available job, or resumes, you click, it can track….

        Follows, likes, click throughs, probably opens of any page that uses FB tools that lets FB track when it’s opened, apparently they can even track when you apply to a job through LinkedIn from what the article says?


        1. Sharon*

          Right. If a page has a FB Like button on it, FB gets notified when the page is displayed on your screen (technically, when your browser retrieves it). Very sneaky.

          1. blackcat*

            This is why I sequester facebook in a different browser from my other internet use. If I want to read a link, I right click to copy the link and paste it in a private window in another browser.

            Google, on the other hand, knows everything about me. Everything. I have given up on that front.

            1. Chriama*

              If you saw the link on your Facebook feed it’s likely already been customized to your user id and opening it in an incognito browser does nothing. That’s why stuff like this is so disturbing – it’s value is that it tracks stuff a human would find difficult or impossible to, but that’s why it’s a lot harder to opt out of said tracking.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        Yeah, this isn’t “don’t post about your job search on Facebook,” it’s “don’t search for things anywhere your Facebook (or LinkedIn or Twitter or whatever) cookie is following you around.” And those cookies are notoriously sticky; unless you take some fairly specific precautions that I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect most average users to know about, Facebook knows an astonishing amount about your online activity even if it’s not on Facebook itself.

          1. Knitchic*

            I went into my ad preferences on facebook and Google and unclicked everything. I haven’t gotten any targeted ads lately so that’s been nice. I also removed the ability of Google to bring up my Facebook in a Google search of my name and locked down facebook so no one can just tag me or send a friend request. All tags go into moderation until I approve them and I don’t get friend requests from random people who don’t know me at all, I think we have to have at least one friend in common.
            It took forever to unclick everything and lock my security settings down, but I think it’s worth it.

      3. tink*

        Oh yeah, it’s definitely creepy and cringeworthy and disgustingly invasive. I follow a lot of career related things just because I’m curious to see what’s out there, and I casually look for my partner when I’m looking for myself.

  5. Bend & Snap*

    I wonder if this will blow up like that yelp for people app (Peeple?), because the public was so disgusted by it.

  6. Tavie*

    Inaccurate too, I’m always helping my friends look for jobs in my downtime. I’ve always sanctioned this with my boss, too (“Hey heads up, if you walk past my desk while I’m on a break and see me on a job board, don’t worry, just helping my boyfriend look for a job”) because I’m not completely stupid. Not completely.

    1. Anon Millennial*

      You could use that when you’re ready to start job hunting for yourself and your boss would be none the wiser.

  7. Jake*

    While I agree that on an individual level, this is creepy, the vast majority of employers using/inquiring about the software are looking at it from an aggregate point of view. The goal is to have this replace employee satisfaction surveys and the inherent inaccuracies with that system.

    That being said, I’d be very uncomfortable if my company used this unless the final release of the software didn’t give identifying information.

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      Well, we’re told in the article by the app creators that that’s what’s happening, but we don’t have transparent data to back it up.

    2. Kyrielle*

      Yep. Although what’s not-identifying at one company may be identifying at another. Who reports to X? Well, if X has 10 direct reports, or 44 people in her department, or whatever…that’s not very identifying. If she has only one or two, though – it’s pretty clear now.

      Aggregate info in sufficiently large groups can be interesting, but let it get too detailed and it’s instantly creepy.

      Also, people sometimes lie on employee satisfaction surveys. They do this _for a reason_. Sometimes those are used against individuals or groups. So having something that can “steal” answers from you – possibly more-accurate answers than you would ever willingly give – without getting your consent or even notifying you it’s happening?

      Yeah, that’s kind of gross. Also, I had no idea my click-throughs were *public* data. I can’t be the only one. I guess I should just stop clicking through.

      1. JMegan*

        Even at 10 people, or 44, it could still be uncomfortably close to identifying. For example, if your office was in San Francisco and one of your staff had family in Chicago, and the results indicate lots of activity for jobs in the Chicago area, you’d be able to make a pretty good guess. Or if one of your 44 staff has a particular interest in the niche area of spout design, and there is a lot of activity on the job board of the Professional Association of Spout Designers…you get the idea.

        If the information is being collected, it can be used. Just because it’s not currently being used, doesn’t mean it never will be – lots and lots of orgs collect information on a “just in case we need it later” basis. It’s terrible privacy policy, but it does happen.

        And finally, if the information is being collected, it can also be hacked – just ask Ashley Madison. This whole thing is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Oh agreed! But the sub-discussion was about if “non-identifying” information was supplied, and I was noting that it’s ambiguous what’s non-identifying. “There’s a very high job-searching score among people reporting to Fergus” is a fairly non-identifying data point if Fergus has, say, 44 people reporting to him. It’s not if he has 1-2.

          But yes, if you go into *details* about what they are looking at, it’s going to become identifying pretty quickly in far more cases.

          1. J*

            I believe Harvard Business Review had an article out earlier this year about a data scientist who could reliably identify someone using ~5 pieces of anonymized credit card purchase data. “Non-identifying” doesn’t mean what we think it means.

            If you’re going to operate on the internet and/or use a credit card, it’s probably safe to assume someone can track what you do. Social media is not your problem. That’s not tinfoil-hat talk. It’s just reality.

    3. OhNo*

      But why would this ever replace satisfaction surveys? Looking for a new job =/= being unsatisfied in your current one (at least, not always). Besides which, what good does data that general do for an employer? They can say, “our staff are all planning to leave us”, but if they don’t know why, they can’t really do anything about it.

      1. MashaKasha*

        Right. You can be satisfied with your job in five categories, meh in five others, and dissatisfied about ten others. The company then uses the results to keep doing what they’re doing for the first two, and make changes in the third. E.g, if everyone complains that there’s no on-the-job training, the employer hopefully takes this as a sign to organize some on-the-job training. At least, in my experience.

        This software does nothing to help break the feedback down in this way.

        Technically, the employer can fire and replace all the staff that’s planning to leave them; which I guess is the simplistic approach that the creators of this product are taking. But, like you say, that’s not going to do any good in the long term, because the new staff is going to leave too, for the same (unknown to the employer) reasons.

      2. Jessica*

        That’s like saying, “This employee got fired, but since she didn’t know why, there’s nothing she can do about it.” And yet, fired employees tend to adjust their behavior or work harder to reduce their chances of being fired again if they wouldn’t be able to support themselves otherwise, whether or not employers actually tell them what they did wrong. It’s like magic.

        And let me tell you, there is a strong correlation between job satisfaction and looking for a new job.

        1. Candi*

          With a fired employee, they have only themselves and what they do to look at. Their behavior, habits, goals, education, experience.

          With a company, you have multiple moving parts, from two or three to hundreds of thousands. Good people fix problems as they come to their attention; bad people shove the mess left, right, and under the rug, and never admit why their department has turned over the cast of GoT and LotR in the past three years.

    4. Jadelyn*

      If it were *only* used in the aggregate – as in, like health data from wellness screening programs, the employer only *sees* aggregate data and does not even receive or have access to any individual scores at all – I could see it being useful for highlighting trouble spots with a particular location, department, or manager’s staff or something. But it sounds like, for right now at least, the company gives employers individual data AND aggregate data, and we only have the employer’s word that they’re looking at the aggregate and not using the individual info.

      Besides, for a small company, even aggregate data is still pretty trackable. I work on a small team that used to be geographically distributed across three locations, so if they saw a high job search score for the teapots design team at the Oakland office, they’d have a whole three people to pick from as far as who’s driving the score up. From there, it’s not too hard to figure out whose score is whose.

      I just feel like there’s got to be a better way to keep an eye out for trouble spots in employee engagement without this kind of stalkery crap.

      1. The Kurgan*

        Agreed. There ought to be a better way. Maybe try actually talking to people? (radical idea, no? )

  8. Evan*

    I mean, I get that there are probably positive, pro-employee ways this could be used. However, I’m finding it hard to think of many circumstances where the tool provides information that couldn’t be obtained with better managers, more productive reviewing procedures, more salary transparency, etc. Here’s one of the pros from the article:

    “Another firm has looked at the average job search activity scores of the people who work for different supervisors, Beygelman says, to identify potential problems with managers, rather than employees. In doing so, they found a trouble spot where a recent office move had led to dissatisfaction about long commutes.”

    If your company needs this software to figure out that employees are going to be unhappy about an office move that leads to longer commutes, someone is doing a really poor job. And these are the best case scenarios, without even thinking about all the creepy/retaliatory/threatening ways this could be used!

    1. ChrysantheMumsTheWord*

      THIS! “If your company needs this software to figure out that employees are going to be unhappy about an office move that leads to longer commutes, someone is doing a really poor job.”

      You took the words out of my mouth. If a manager is not in-tune enough about how their employees are feeling about their job then something is wrong.

      I can just see some of my former bosses sitting there reading into everyone’s score, treating employees worse because of their score but never actually talking to them about their dissatisfaction or the intrinsic problems of the organization.

      1. Golden Lioness*

        Agreed. Or any sneaky method for that matter. If you do not foster open honest communication, no software will help you.

    2. Kyrielle*

      To be fair, we had an office move where our owners were surprised by how much it negatively impacted our reactions. They moved the office a whopping 15 miles – they thought it should be no big deal. Local managers tried to explain that it was, but by then they’d committed to the space and they were not listening.

      1) There is no good public transportation infrastructure here that connects place 1 to place 2 directly. Not that there was good public transportation at place 1 at *all*, so that’s not really a net loss. I think they thought the public transportation reaching place 2 would be a positive, however, most of us lived near place 1 and thus couldn’t usefully access it (and in any case it was a bus route, not right next to the light rail).

      2) That 15 miles involved three freeways, one of which is only 7 miles end-to-end – the entire thing is in that 15 miles of course – and is notorious for backing up horribly.

      I had a 15-minute commute one way previously. The last 5 minutes of it were from the freeway to place 1, and thus I didn’t have to travel them at all. My new commute to place 2 was 45 minutes. (Normally, and in the morning; the reverse in the afternoon was usually 1-1.5 hours.) Other people were similarly impacted – only one or two employees lived ‘between’ place 1 and 2, the rest of us had to drive most of the way to place 1 and then continue on to place 2 from the point where the routes split (less than 4 miles from place 1).

      …yep, we were not pleased. And nope, management – located in a different state, and seeing ‘only’ 15 miles – didn’t see it coming.

      1. Evan*

        Well, I think that still fits with my point. Upper management even had local management tell them employees would be unhappy and presumably might look for new jobs. If they paid for this tool, they could have found out many people were unhappy and searching…exactly the same information they were given by the local management. Maybe it’d be the wakeup call, or maybe it’s just a large waste of resources that only confirms information that can be easily learned anyway.

        I guess in the best case scenario this software functions well as a tax on oblivious/poor managers, who need the hard data to see turnover coming instead of just being aware enough. Maybe I’m being idealistic, but I really believe there isn’t that much here that a good manager wouldn’t be able to see themselves.

      2. AnonEMoose*

        That reminds me of a company I used to work for. Where I live, there are two major cities next to each other, each with its own downtown, some miles apart. The company was in the downtown area of City A, which was a reasonable commute via public transit for me (about 20-30 minutes on the bus each way).

        Then they call a meeting. Company is moving to downtown for City B! Isn’t this fantastic?! They’re giving the company all this great stuff! Oh, and it will be so much easier for people to drive, and isn’t that great?!

        Except…not everyone drove. And not everyone who didn’t took public transit by choice. My husband and I only had one car at the time, and he absolutely had to drive to work due to lack of public transit that went to his workplace. We had neither the money nor the desire to buy and maintain a second car. I sat in that meeting, fuming, and desperately wanting to smack the CEO – preferably with something heavy.

        Technically, I could have gotten to City B via the bus. But my commute would have more than doubled, and would have gone from one bus to needing to transfer to 1-2 other buses (I forget the exact details). And if the weather was bad…forget it…I’d have been stuck for HOURS (not hyperbole – if the weather gets sufficiently bad – traffic can be tied up for 4+ hours).

        Then City B started pulling back on several of their great! concessions! So the moving ended up not happening, after all. I ended up leaving that job for other reasons, but would have had to do so sooner if the move plan had gone through. I do think my direct boss would have understood, and likely would have given me time off to interview and such, so there was that, at least.

        1. Kore*

          This makes me so nervous, as someone that doesn’t drive. I live near my office, but even if I didn’t I’m great with public transit. The problem is that while public transit is pretty OK inside the city, if they decided to move out to an office park outside of the city there’s a chance that the bus lines wouldn’t even go that far out. Even if I did have a driver’s license, I’m not going to buy a car – a parking space at my apartment building is an extra couple hundred dollars a month, in addition to the cost of the car. I can’t forsee my company making that choice, but it does make me a little nervous.

      3. MashaKasha*

        I’ve only been through one office move. People were unhappy when it was first announced, because we were moving from “easily accessible place in the near suburbs” to “way out in the sticks”; but figured it was still okay since the entire drive (20ish miles from the old office to the new) was against the rush-hour traffic.

        Then we moved. The company owner had the new office custom built. His wife, an interior designed, did the, well, interior design. Then the new policies started. Always preceded by “aren’t you lucky to be working in this brand new, sparkling, custom designed office, now let’s all help take good care of it”.

        The owner split us all into four cleaning teams, and put a mid-level manager in charge of each. We were all put on rotation for cleaning duty. During our cleaning-duty week, at the end of each work day, we were supposed to sweep the floors, wipe the tables and counters in the breakroom and the bathrooms, replace the paper products in the breakroom/bathrooms, take the garbage outside. At least there was no toilet scrubbing involved. An actual cleaning team came in once or twice a week and did that.

        Of course, there was no eating or snacking at our desks, because these desks are new and custom-made and blah blah blah.

        The place had a high turnover rate anyway, so I guess the owner didn’t mind if it went up a notch as a result of this madness. I left within a year, don’t know how they fared after that.

      4. Golden Lioness*

        Also to be fair, there’s never going to be one solution that everybody is going to love. Any change will make things worse for some people and better for others.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Agreed. What was interesting about this was that it was almost universally disliked, and the people who didn’t dislike it didn’t like it either; they sighed and said, “Well, at least I’m renting, so I can start renting over there.”

          Now, people we hired later lived in the new area and did like the location, and some of the people who had moved from near the previous location to near the new one came to like it in time. It wasn’t as good an office space as we’d previously had, but it wasn’t terrible and it had more food options nearby. There were some positives.

          But they were not easy to find, and I don’t think they ever offset the commute impact for anyone who continued to experience it. We lost people over it – not surprisingly.

      5. Lynn Whitehat*

        I took a leadership class once where we had to think of how to get our imaginary subordinates excited about (or at least accepting of) moving the office 15 miles west. We all went “ha ha ha ha, no”. The instructor changed it to 5 miles.

    3. James*

      The thing is, there are already positive, employee-friendly ways to get this information. For example, regular one-on-one meetings with your staff. Look at the sick days/vacation days–do you see that there’s a sudden uptick or downtick in them? Why? Look at quality–are there suddenly QA/QC issues? If so, why? Employees upset enough to be looking for new jobs (as opposed to those looking for reasons unrelated to the work environment, such as spouse relocation) give themselves away in numerous ways we can already track.

      I can’t see a single thing this software does to improve employee’s lives that isn’t also something that should already be happening.

  9. Anonymous Educator*

    This is creepy but can be fairly easily thwarted by job seekers, based on what’s in the article.

    A start-up that tracks an individual’s job search activity in public social media accounts

    If you have private accounts, it can’t track what you do there. If you have public accounts, well, what you’re doing is public.

    But if you use an Apply with LinkedIn button on a job posting, comment on a story about job searches that uses Facebook to collect comments, or use some niche industry sites, such as Stack Overflow, that combine aspects of social media and job boards

    I don’t think they’re saying if you post to Stack Overflow to help someone. Stack Overflow has its own job board, and that’s what they’re tracking.

    The calculation takes into account an individual’s typical social media use and job responsibilities to create a baseline score, and adjusts its calculations accordingly.

    So the lesson here is to constantly follow new companies on Twitter and constantly make connections on LinkedIn so that your baseline score is already pretty high, so there’s no way your score will go up.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Also, how do they know your Twitter account is your Twitter account? If your name is Susan Brownmiller and your Twitter handle is @susanfeminist101, how will they know @susanfeminist101 is you?

      1. JMegan*

        By your email address. If all your social email accounts link back to the same email address, there’s your identification key. Lots of people do use different emails for different accounts, but obviously enough people use the same or similar addresses to make an app like this workable.

    2. Mike C.*

      Cloaking activity is fine in the short term, but we shouldn’t be happy with this as a complete solution.

  10. Bekx*

    Wouldn’t an extension like Ghostery or UBlock prevent this from tracking you? I know you’d need to have it installed on your computer, but I would assume that would help prevent this.

    1. Mander*

      This is what I’m wondering. Howhow much of the tracking still happens if you obsessively use ad blockers and so on? I’m not that worried about privacy as a rule, but I have an irrational hatred of advertising and I avoid it as much as possible (sorry, Alison!). As a result I have some kind of ad blocking on every device I use. Does that actually prevent any tracking or just stop me seeing the results?

      And how effective is ghostery? I have it on my computer but obviously I can’t install it on my iPad, so although I have a jailbroken (?) device with an adblocker on it, I don’t think it does anything about cookies.

        1. Mander*

          Not on an ancient one, at least not the kind that blocks ads in apps too (I have an iPad 2). Unless something has changed recently. AFAIK it’s too old to run the new adblockers because you need a dual core processor which this model doesn’t have.

  11. Jessica*

    After seeing this post and the dunce cap post beneath it, I am only more convinced that employees nowadays need to save up as much money as they can and drop bad jobs as soon as the costs exceed the benefits, whether or not they have another job lined up. This increases the turnover rate (and therefore operating costs) of bad companies, and in doing so creates an economic disincentive for companies to look the other way when they see their work environments turning toxic. Money talks more than laws ever will.

    1. Jadelyn*

      Saving up money is easier said than done though. It’s a huge luxury to be able to just quit without another job lined up, tbh.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Well, I’m a millennial going back to school for my degree, and trust me, I’ve been trying for almost 10 years now, so I can say for sure that “if I can do it, so can you” doesn’t hold up. But it must be nice to be psychic and know exactly what everyone else’s situation is and know for a certainty that they have resources (financial, social, health-wise) at least equal to yours! How does it feel, being the grand arbiter of everyone’s financial situation?

          Sarcasm aside, that’s an incredibly simplistic, naive, and rude response. Be proud of your ability to quit without a job lined up, absolutely, that’s a great thing to be able to do. But snarking about other people who are flat out saying “I couldn’t do that” is not okay.

  12. JoniKat*

    Besides how eerily invasive this is, I also fear that many people who aren’t even looking for jobs could be targeted.

    When I was looking for employment, I wanted to keep all of my research in one place and found Pinterest to be the best option. Some people followed the board, so I thought it’d be a great idea to keep adding recommended links to it to help others out after I got my job. I added a description to the board saying that I was happy where I worked, but wanted to continue to update the board with information for other job seekers but would be very worried an app wouldn’t make that distinction.

    Thankfully, I’m in an organization where I don’t see them using this at all, but I know it could be harmful to other people if it’s not used to help with retainment strategies (and even if it was used for that…it’s still too invasive).

  13. neverjaunty*

    Are any employers actually using this system in a meaningful way and finding it gives good results? Or is this just another “hey, please buy our nifty idea so we can retire” gold-rush startup?

    1. Natalie*

      It sounds an awful lot like the latter. From what they’ve described they’re not aggregating that large of a swatch of the online-job-search world, and if you set your accounts to private they can’t seen you. Seems like 95% snake oil to me.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        Or, it could be the first step in a longer scheme. Once they have been bought out, what’s the next thing to do? Start up another company that will provide the service of blocking your usage from being tracked this way.

  14. designbot*

    I click on a fair amount of job ads even though I just switched jobs recently and am not currently looking. Mostly this is because I’m curious to track the relationship between job duties, years of experience, and salary. I like to see what the expectations are out there, and yes I’m comparing myself to this but I’m also storing it away for times that I have to advertise for a junior employee. Also, LinkedIn keeps thrusting the ad for my old job at me, so I usually click through to see 1) how recently they reposted this, 2) whether they’ve altered the description at all. I’m just a curious critter, that doesn’t mean I’m actually looking.

  15. Chriama*

    I’m wondering if employees would have any legal protection here. If an employer can this information to terminate you, won’t that make people more hesitant to apply for new jobs? And won’t that create a chilling effect on wages and/or unfairly limit a person’s competitiveness? In the aggregate, this could be really negative for job seekers.

    At the very least, if this is limited to social media and people go back to searching Monster and Indeed for jobs, LinkedIn (and probably StackOverflow, FB and Twitter but I’m specifying LI because they’re positioned as a job-related social network) would be super p***ed. If no one feels safe applying to jobs via LinkedIn anymore, that kills a significant portion of their business model!

    1. AnonEMoose*

      I was wondering if this company could find themselves named as a party in one or more lawsuits, with employees claiming retaliation, wrongful termination, or the like, because companies used this information to get rid of people. Not sure anything would come of it, as I don’t even pretend to be a lawyer. But it could get expensive, or be enough of a nuisance, to scare some employers off from using this.

    2. Evergreen*

      But I don’t really see the logic in this from the employers side: Jane is job searching, oh no I might lose her better get rid of her before that happens? Like dumping someone before they dump you? That’ll show them?

      1. Gaara*

        Jane isn’t loyal, so I don’t want her. Or, Jane is leaving, I’ll start looking for her replacement now.

  16. Jaguar*

    So, the thing that pops out to me is the Stack Overflow thing. A lot of good programming jobs get posted to Stack Overflow (especially remote ones).

    So what happens if this takes off? Programming companies are notorious for trying to poach programmers from other companies. Posting a job on a site that’s tracked by Joberate is going to dramatically reduce the number of qualified applicants you receive. If this takes off, who is going to apply to a company through LinkedIn or SO? I’m going to bypass those systems and apply to the company directly.

    This seems to have a built-in flaw.

    1. Chriama*

      Yup! And I just commented about how LinkedIn makes money off of people applying via LinkedIn. If no one wants to apply that way, recruiters aren’t going to pay them to place job ads. Also, if people are afraid to make connections via LinkedIn, how will recruiters be able to contact them. This could totally gut their business model.

      1. MashaKasha*

        So, LinkedIn’s legal team will give these guys a crown that the world will tremble to behold.

        That’s good, that’s very good.

  17. James*

    Not only is it creepy, invasive, unethical, and possibly boarder-line illegal (sure, it’s pubic information–but stalkers do the same thing), it’s not going to be effective.

    I’d probably have a pretty high J-score. I look up info on resumes, careers, other companies, and frequently add contacts in LinkedIn and similar websites–because I’m in a transitional period in my job where I’m starting to REVIEW resumes, where I’m looking for supplemental material to augment my understanding of concepts I’m being introduced to, and where I’m expanding my network in a new direction. Does that mean I’m looking for a new job? No; it means that I’m taking my new responsibilities seriously. You’d hope an employer would understand such things–but then, you’d hope an employer wouldn’t consider outright stalking to be appropriate business behavior.

    Plus, this sends a worrying message about how management is developing in the modern world. Retention is a big thing, yes; however, doing so by punishing those who look at other options is downright vile behavior. The company employs me, it doesn’t own me, and the implication that it does is mildly terrifying.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      They establish a baseline J Score based on your normal behavior and then see if the behavior changes, so you’re probably fine. In fact, you’re doing what I recommend above, which is to just constantly add LinkedIn contacts even when you aren’t looking for a job, so when you are looking it won’t be conspicuous.

      The calculation takes into account an individual’s typical social media use and job responsibilities to create a baseline score, and adjusts its calculations accordingly.

      1. JMegan*

        Right, but I don’t want this app collecting my information at all, not even to establish a baseline. If I’m clicking through from FB to the Washington Post (as I did earlier today), I assume that both FB and WaPo are aware of that. But there is no indication that this information is being collected by a third party, which is not only not related to either FB or WaPo, but to my employer. There is absolutely no way that most people would consent to share that information if they knew it was happening.

        I do this for a living, so I’m a bit more careful (and probably a lot more annoyed!) about it than the average bear. But that’s exactly why this is important – because lots of people don’t practice good privacy hygiene, and don’t necessarily think to de-link their social media accounts by email address, and don’t necessarily know who is collecting their information and for what purpose.

      2. James*

        Okay, that’s fine for me–but what about the next person who does this? My point wasn’t “Will this affect me?” but rather was “I’m a case-study in one way this will backfire”–people move from one level to another within companies, or into different departments, or otherwise change roles, and they will act in ways that will raise their score in this system. And an employer stupid enough to want to use stalking software to track employees may not be smart enough to realize what’s going on, and will react inappropriately.

      3. Anonymous Educator*

        I’m not defending the app, and I fully acknowledge it’s creepy. I’m just saying it’s easily thwarted as well and wouldn’t really apply in your scenario. It also accesses only publicly-available social media information, so if your LinkedIn connections aren’t public and your Twitter isn’t public, it doesn’t really know what you’re doing there. Same with Facebook.

        Still creepy. Just not omniscient.

      4. Golden Lioness*

        But even that can be wrong, though! When I go to a profession conference or a training/networking event I add a lot of people at one time. It would definitely show a spike as I do not do this often enough to make it “regular behavior”

        1. James*

          Exactly. If my boss says “You need to read up on this business concept” it could cause a spike. If I start following a subcontractor or client on Twitter, Facebook, or other media–I’m in consulting, looking for opportunities to solve clients’ problems is how I pay the bills–it’ll jump. And I work with new subs all the time, often in batches (big projects are not a constant). There are so many ways that innocent activity could spike this that it’s ridiculous.

          Also, bear in mind that how this thing operates is almost certainly going to be proprietary. We don’t know how much it’s going to pull from, or precisely how it’s going to do it. These are just the obvious concerns.

          The show “Burn Notice” played on this sort of thing all the time: the instant you start looking for reasons to be paranoid, you find them everywhere. If you’re super security conscious, someone can easily make you think you have a problem–because you’re already primed to think you have one. If you’re watching your employees to see if they’re thinking about jumping ship, you’re going to find all the evidence you need that they’re thinking about jumping ship.

  18. AndersonDarling*

    1. If a company invests in software like this, it is because they already have a turnover problem
    2. If a company has that bad of a turnover problem, they should be investing in employment satisfaction consultants, not in software to tell them what they already know

    1. James*

      1) This assumes employers are universally good. Paranoia occurs. Plus, once tools like this become widely used even managers otherwise hesitant to do so will start using it, either because they don’t think to NOT use it (industry standard and the like) or because their bosses say “Thou shalt use this”. Products fairly frequently invent problems to solve in order to increase sales.

      2) I wouldn’t agree with this. I’d say Step 1 would be “Take a hard look at yourself and your organization and figure out if you’re doing something stupid or illegal”. Half the managers discussed in this site over the past few weeks could benefit tremendously from that.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Yes, James, but

        1) Employers who are paranoid may THINK they’re great. It’s not paranoia, it’s protecting company resources. That’s it, that’s the ticket, resources…
        2) Something stupid? Illegal? HORSE***T! Managements are perfect and not to be questioned!

  19. Kore*

    Wondering how this would treat freelancing opportunities. I’m not looking for a new job right now but I AM looking into freelance writing opportunities. This most likely wouldn’t affect my job at all – I just like writing but I’m not looking into freelance full-time. I wonder if it would consider that likelihood I would leave, even if that’s not my intent at all.

  20. Meg Murry*

    Not to mention the number of false positives this could come up with. All the employee’s scores just increased because they added a bunch of LinkedIn connections! Oh no! They must all be job searching …

    Or, you know, they just got back from the annual Chocolate Teapot conference that you sent them to and are connecting to all the prospective leads you told them to go find …

    This could lead to an awful lot of panic over nothing.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Not just panic, Meg.


      Many years ago I worked for a company that tried to snoop into my personal life. I challenged them “why don’t you just hire one of your two-bit gumshoes, like Fearless Fosdick out of the funny papers, and have him follow me and my wife around? Bring it on!”

      You can take advantage of it – knowing that you can mislead them into making lousy decisions by keeping people guessing. At one time I managed to confuse management pretty badly on things (too long to detail here, but truly funny).

      This company also used a “stool pigeon” system in the office. The best way to handle those – is to ensure they get incorrect information.

      1. Knitchic*

        Ok now you have to share! Your old company sounds like it was staffed by old silent movie villains! ;)

  21. Employment Lawyer*

    [Shrug] It’s just a transfer of knowledge.

    Lots of folks think that employers should be more up front about telling people their long term business plans. Lots of folks realize that employer decisions (layoff, firings, etc) can cost folks money and mess with their planning. This works in reverse, too. Everyone wants data.

    For those already-employed people who are job surfing in their spare time, they’d be more likely to get fired. But then again, the unemployed people who are job hunting are more likely to get hired, and those existing workers who aren’t hunting are more likely to get promoted.

    So if it works, in the end, it would benefit the job hunters and happy workers, over the unhappy workers.

  22. Combinatorialist*

    “but just wait a few years and this will all seem totally normal — it’s not creepy, it’s just new.”

  23. crazy8s*

    oh my goodness, my J-score would be off the charts! I happen to be in HR and I look at that stuff all the time! :)

  24. animaniactoo*

    Lovely. So as I pull up stuff to send to my sons who are entering the world of jobsearching (or jobsearching better), it will be assumed that I am jobhunting because I happened to click on pages related to jobsearching. Hmmm… I guess I should *really publicly* talk about the fact that my sons are working on jobsearching…

  25. Augusta Sugarbean*

    Ha! Joke’s on them. Our garbage managers already know virtually everyone in my department is job hunting and don’t give a damn.

  26. Mike C.*

    I might be way off here but as disgusting as this pitch is, I’m willing to bet that it’s little more than bullshit aimed at gaining VC money and eventually being bought out. A few thoughts come to mind.

    1. Much of the big deal being made of “Big Data” simply hasn’t materialized. Many data sets aren’t large enough, many companies don’t have the skills or priority to analyze date properly, etc.

    2. Good luck trying to find accurate data that properly correlates a desire to leave work. How are they going to even track job status in the first place? How will they gain enough access to get all the little data points they think will point to a proper correlation?

    3. Lets say I’m totally wrong about 1 and 2. Look at the very first comment in this thread – Don’t Use Facebook. How do you think Facebook, Linkedin and other sites are going to react to their members cutting down usage or abandoning their accounts wholesale so that they cannot be tracked? They want active users who aren’t afraid to post content, make connections and so on.

    4. There’s always advocacy towards laws and regulations to ban this sort of activity. I would look to the preemptive ban on the use of genetic tests, long before they became common, to discriminate against others. (This was either with insurance or the work place, I cannot remember). We’re already seeing a backlash against using credit scores in hiring, and there could possibly be liability issues here as well.

    So yes, this is absolutely disgusting and everyone reading this should be outraged that some selfish, short-sighted jerks are trying to take away our ability to improve our jobs without losing our current ones. I’m certainly livid at this bullshit. If this goes farther we should be having serious discussions with our various representatives. But at the same time, I really don’t believe that this is going anywhere.

    1. Chriama*

      I fall somewhere in between your stance and “but what *if*?” I agree that enough big players don’t like this that this specific incarnation won’t take off. But I’m really uneasy about the way things like click streams and purchase activity *can* be tracked if someone is so inclined, and in my moments of insomnia I imagine, with vague dread, a world where this kind of information is already compiled and easily accessible. My only comfort is that other, smarter people care about privacy much more than I do so as that happens there will likely be other techniques to keep things in balance.

    2. Jaguar*

      It is early to get scared of it, but it’s not too early to get outraged by it. The Peeple app is a nice comparison (it was, and is, an app you use to rate other people – originally, other people didn’t have to sign up for it to receive ratings, nothing was verified, etc). After they initially announced the app, the backlash was huge, and they scaled back what they were doing tremendously. In the end, there was no adoption, and it’s likely there won’t be any adoption of this one. But being outraged by something outrageous serves a purpose: you really can halt a bad thing in its tracks.

      1. Mike C.*

        Was that also the one where you could own/trade people like baseball cards or am I thinking of something else?

    3. Mazzy*

      I agree with you. I saw this this week and thought – great, someone is sacrificing the comfort/privacy of other people and perhaps forever changing the employer/employee dynamic just because they want to make some money with a tech startup and can’t think of a better idea.

      I agree with your stance on big data, only from my experience though. I keep seeing various ideas about what to do with data being thrown around, and I feel like my current and past employer was always using their data half-way.

      Most companies don’t have a software program to do most of the “big data” stuff, many software programs don’t even allow you to download certain fields in a way that would make them useful, most jobs I’ve had were chronically understaffed so no one had time for this stuff anyway, and most of the time bosses were too busy or distant to even care if you did.

      And that last point is what made me angry this week. At least at my job, they don’t do reviews and no one really seems to care how I’m doing, if I’m overworked or stressed or not or have too much on my plate, and they definitely aren’t concerned about what I think about my salary or benefits. So I’d be really tiffed if they circumvented simply asking me how I felt and went to a software program. Not to mention paying for it instead of putting it into raises.

  27. Wrench Turner*

    I don’t owe my employer anything but the work they pay me for. If they find out I’m looking, they’re welcomed to ask why. If it improves our relationship, so much the better.

  28. Milton Waddams*

    I think it’s important not to confuse the companies with the software — you can use a baby monitor to tell if a baby is crying, or you can use it to spy on your spouse. What makes it rotten is the person using it, not the tool itself.

    On an individual level, one of the most precious things a manager can have and one of the hardest to regain after it is gone is employee goodwill. When someone first starts out at a company, they want to succeed at their job, and they believe in the company’s motives — if they didn’t, they never would have accepted the job. That goodwill must be protected at all costs, as the damage caused by it being gone is often far greater than any individual employee’s salary. Anything that sound the alarm that erosion is happening is incredibly valuable, if used responsibly.

    The problem is that many companies are not run honorably, either because the owners have lost control of middle management, or have been replaced by people who are only interested in share price. In their hands, a tool like this can easily be abused.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      The non-rotten use of a baby monitor is to tell if a baby is crying. What’s the non-rotten use for this creepy software?

      1. Milton Waddams*

        Two possibilities I can think of:

        If the aggregate J-scores of the employees in any particular department starts rising, that can be a sign to responsible senior management that the middle-managers in charge of that department are doing something that is alienating employees. They can then take steps to correct it that would be unavailable to the employees themselves.

        If a particular role tends to create employees with high J-scores, it can be identified as a candidate for role restructuring, to make it less toxic.

  29. Annie Moose*

    When it comes to stuff like this, I feel that you really only have three options:

    1. Stop using social media. Yes, this app is creepy and invasive–but it’s also using 100% public data. Anyone could access the same data and draw the same conclusions, just these guys made an app out of it. So the only way to be sure to avoid it is to stop using social media (and, bluntly, the Internet as a whole).

    2. Advocate to large companies (Google, Facebook, etc.) or your country’s government for better privacy protection and greater transparency about who has access to your data. Protesting against this specific app will not change that the data it uses is already publicly out there.

    3. Accept that this is the price of social media and just live with it.

    These are your only three options; pick which one you prefer. But if you’re not willing to stop using Facebook (which is reasonable–it has many positive uses!) and you’re not willing to put in the considerable effort to try to get laws passed or protest against this kind of stuff… well… you don’t have much choice other than to put up with it. But Facebook is not going to decide on their own to stop this kind of stuff.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Those actually aren’t the only three options. As you mentioned in #1, the creepy app is using only publicly available data. If you change the privacy settings on your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, they won’t have access to it.

  30. Fafaflunkie*

    There is one way to get around this tracking, and that’s to use a tracking blocker extension such as Ghostery. This will block all those Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/LinkedIn/Instagram etc. buttons (which will by virtue of them being served by such sites, send info back identifying you, regardless if you were logged into any of them.) That, and my favourite adblocker, uBlock Origin. That should keep most of this at bay, at least if you’re on a desktop/laptop. On a mobile device, this becomes tricky, as for instance Chrome won’t let you use those extensions on their mobile version. There are 3rd party browsers that can be obtained from both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store that can block ads, but they’re based on older, not-as-secure versions of Firefox, Opera and Chrome. Furthermore, you really don’t know what those third party browsers are doing in the background, either. Your only hope is to stay the hell offline if you don’t want your internet lurkings tracked.

  31. MT*

    So, I’m currently in a professional grad degree program, and although I won’t be leaving my current job for several years, obviously I’m looking at circulating job postings to get an idea of the skills I should focus on in my program.

    I’ve also done resume help for friends and family and looked up related tips then. I’ve also been a freelance writer looking up a *number* of details about so many industries for the sake of my work.

    There are soooo many reasons an individual could be incorrectly flagged for “seeking other work” when in fact they just (gasp) have lives an interests that don’t always align with their primary office.

  32. Nanani*

    How does this work if you are a freelancer with multiple ongoing contracts?
    Sounds like a GREAT way to violate my client confidentiality if one client putting my name in that thing can find out about everyone else I work with, including the ones with NDAs.

    I’m glad I’m not on FB.

  33. j________*

    Dumped my Facebook for personal issues not related to work. A few months prior to me closing the page down, I noticed one of my supervisor’s names popping up constantly as “people you may know” on Facebook. I thought it was a little creepy, and I assumed she was spying on my page. Ironically, she was laid off from her position shortly after.
    With all the hoopla about employers and discrimination, we are almost *inviting* them to discriminate against us by having all of our information on various social media sites. Potential or current employers can instantly know what we look like, our race, age, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, medical issues, family size, family problems, marital status and then decide not to interview us or promote us based on what they see–
    I have no doubts employers discriminate based on what they find on Facebook, even for reasons that are not legal or valid, and there’s no way to avoid it unless one’s social media accounts are very restrictive or anonymous.

  34. Al who is that Al*

    It does indeed sound creepy and invasive, but I wouldn’t let it stop me looking for another job. In fact it could throw up a interesting discussion with your boss. If they are taking note of all the social media/Linked In stuff you are doing – good ! It shows you are not happy and they need to do something about it.
    After all I’m assuming everyone on here is good at their jobs, else you wouldn’t be on here, so if you are unhappy you will have used the many excellent suggestions here first anyway. So they need to take notice and that’s a good stealth way of doing it.
    It did work as a “Stealth warning” at one job – there was a very unpleasant “review” I had, so I spent the next week continuously logged into Job Sites and sending applications. There was a visit from HR very soon after.

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