Name Change ‘Can’t Erase An Online Past’

Posted on August 19, 2010


Google boss Eric Schmidt sparked controversy when he said he expected today’s children would seek a new identity when the time came to disown the rebellious activities of their teen years, as documented on social networks.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the chief executive of the technology giant said: “I don’t believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time.”

He added that one day youngsters would be entitled to change their names – and said it was an issue society must consider as firms such his own collect ever more information about their users.

But any attempt to wipe out an online trail would likely raise more doubts than it covered up.

As I argued on Sky News, in theory, changing your name could work, but it would also open you up to a huge gap in your career history, in much the same way as leaving a gap on your CV would – and that’s something that will always be investigated further at interview.

The question for candidates would be: ‘What kind of information are you hiding?’

If it’s simply pictures of you drunk on a night out, that’s information that recruiters would not typically factor into a hiring decision – they certainly shouldn’t be.

If, however, you are trying to cover up behaviour that would reasonably jeopardise your chances of getting the job, that will likely come out in the interview process, so there’s going to be little benefit as a candidate in doing that.

As things are, employers are so inundated with applications for entry-level roles that it is unreasonable (and uncommercial) to expect that they have the time or resources to consider candidates’ application forms and then do their own research on social networking sites.

Employers go to a lot of trouble to ensure that their application processes are fair and that they ask for all of the relevant information.  I’m sure some individual managers do rule candidates out based on information that isn’t directly relevant to the hiring decision, but it’s certainly not in their best interests to do that.

Posted in: Communications