George Orwell would love this: HR can sack you for something you haven’t yet done

by Lee Hopkins on October 14, 2010 · 1 comment

in ethics,tools


Disturbing news comes via a good friend of mine, Grant Hosking, who pointed me to an article about ‘Pre-Crime’.

Those with memories better than mine will remember the movie Minority Report. In the movie, a police unit called ‘Pre-crime’ arrested people for crimes they would do in the future.

Now comes news that there is both software and services being used to not only analyse your behaviour before becoming an employee, but also your predicted behaviour once you become one.

Shafted before you start work

A start-up company called Social Intelligence offers a service whereby they scour the internet – social networks in particular – for data about you. If you have been mentioned by someone else in Facebook, for example, or talked about on Twitter, it will come up in their software scans. Forty eight hours later, after a real human being has double checked the data and removed any race, colour, religion, sexual preferences and other discriminatory material, a report is handed to the commissioning HR department.

Even if you have been very attentive to what information you put up on your own Facebook profile, for example, you could still be passed over for hiring because of a photo on Flickr posted by a friend showing you drunk and disorderly.

In an of itself this service is nothing new – it is something that those of us in the social networking industry have been warning people about for ages. But instead of the searches being conducted manually, Social Intelligence uses software to do it, and promises a forty-eight hour turnaround from commissioning of them to handing/sending over a report. Your life in the hands of an anonymous person, possibly a college student earning a few dollars an hour.

Then comes the really scary stuff – what happens when you are lucky enough to be employed, or already have a job.

Shafted while at work

Google and the CIA have combined resources to fund a company called Recorded Future, which uses algorithms that will go through your personnel records and predict, some say with startling accuracy, how likely you are to quit, steal, lie or perform some other miscreant activity.

The essence of which is that you could be passed over for a promotion based on nothing more than what you might do, according to a piece of software.


Read Mike Elgan’s in-depth analysis of HR Pre-Crime over on’s site.

  • Andrew Bu׀׀

    Do you seriously think I’m going to comment on this story?

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