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Technology in Focus

Technology in Focus | Social media scoring could become prominent tool for hiring

Published:Wednesday | March 20, 2019 | 12:00 AM

A few years ago, credit scores were foreign to Jamaica, until 2010 when the Credit Reporting Act was passed and its regulations a year later. This legislation allowed licensed credit bureaus, to compile and disclose ‘credit information’ about persons who file their data.

The credit score informs prospective lenders about one’s creditworthiness; and indicates the ability of that individual to pay his or her debts. Today, a credit score is even being requested by employers when hiring, especially at financial institutions.

Dr Leahcim Semaj, psychologist and chief ideator of Above and Beyond, maintains that Jamaica is heading in a similar direction with respect to social media scoring, where it will become a common tool used by prospective employers to assess an applicant to be hired.

“What social media does is to give you another measurement. First, all of the things that you put on social media are part of you; and part of what employers’ hire for their culture fit. Every organisation has a culture, some cultures are very conservative, while others are fun-loving and informal,” he pointed out.

Kathryn Chin See, business development and research analyst at MC Systems, in explaining social media scoring, said,

“It is the rating of a person’s level of influence in the digital space, by evaluating his or her social media activity, including followers, friends, and postings on platforms such as social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

“This evaluation is posted in the form of an ‘online score’. It is important to note that social scoring is subjective and imperfect; there is a qualitative element to the evaluation that pays attention to actual content of the activity to make an assessment of personality and character,” said Chin See.

Further explaining credit scoring, Dr Sean Thorpe, president of the Jamaica Computer Society and head of the School of Computing and Information Technology, University of Technology, Jamaica, said that arguably the consideration to use social media identity scoring is quite similar to that of a traditional digital credit scoring system, to process loans as adopted through a credit bureau.

“Social media identity scores can be assigned to job applicants. The approach suggests that applicants today have a social media profile as part of the standard hiring practice. With that said, an applicant comes with an outstanding industry and academic record as a basis for hire, including a good interview outcome, but has a low social media identity score, say, based on the obscenity of the person’s personal life in social media spaces, this could sway the decision of the hire to one which is negative,” he noted.

Questioning use of scores

However, Tyrone Grandison, vice-president of data for the U Group, and board president for the Data-Driven Institute, questions the use of these scores to determine hiring; and whether it is a violation of the individual’s privacy.

“The fundamental belief here is that a federated identity score on social media can be used collectively and cooperatively by employers and hiring agencies to determine an individual’s character and fit, as it relates to their current and future employment,” he said.

“This is analogous to the use of credit scores for financial transactions, such as loan applications. As a thoughtful society, we need to ask ourselves: ‘Is this a step in the right direction towards Internet regulation and control, or is it a violation of personal privacy?’”

Semaj countered that once information is placed on social media, it becomes public.

“It is no longer private, it is public, because you put it out there,” he pointed out. “Even if you put it there and your assumption is that it is private, once somebody sees it, it is part of who you are. Employers do not hire part of a person, they hire a whole person. If you didn’t want something to be part of your public persona, then you should keep it to yourself,” said Semaj.

He highlighted that a person’s social media score is a form of branding; and that it depends on the type of job for which you are applying. He further explained that,for a marketing person, it would be suitable if they had a high social media score, as the employer would want to know that he or she is hiring an employee who is a social media influencer.

Thorpe added that many social media and Internet-based organisations in the Silicon Valley, for example, as early as 2009 and 2010, were already adopting those practices. The concept is akin to what is described as ‘social scoring’, where your social score, or influence, is used to rank your financial and social reputation.

“Your social score unlocks services and encourages behaviour that is deemed socially acceptable. The act of rating a person’s level of influence is based on evaluating one’s followers, friends, and postings on social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook. Companies now have the capability to score millions, eventually billions, of persons based on their level of influence. Many ranking services, such as ‘Kred’ and ‘Skorr,’ have been catalysts in that space,” said Thorpe.

Grandison, however, had some thought provoking questions:

1. How do you validate the correctness of these identity scores, if they become a future practice for the local Jamaican or Caribbean workplace?

2. Who will be responsible for regulating these social media identity scores, the Government or decentralised identity bureaus? And finally, how do we secure against manipulation of these systems by bad or elevated actors?

How Social Media Scores are Calculated

All scores range from zero per cent (low) to 100 per cent (high). If a score is calculated to be below this range, it is displayed as 0; similarly, if a score is calculated to be above this range, it is displayed as 100. The overall score indicates how well a social media channel, country or region is doing. The overall score combines the total score of the following three key performance indicators; reach, engagement and quality.