Electronic Design

Job Seekers Finding It's Tougher To Keep Private Data Private

Unemployed EEs continue to use job Web sites to post their resumes, despite mounting concerns of growing identity theft resulting from the posting of personal information on these sites. Targeted data often includes Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, and health and welfare identifiers.

"On some of the Web sites, headhunters are posting jobs that may not exist," says Jay Foley, executive director of the Identity Theft Resource Center. "They're doing this to collect information and put you into their pool of possible candidates for jobs, so that when they find something that matches your skills, they will know where to find you."

Some job sites walk a fine line, says Mary Inman, chief technical officer of EPCglobal, an international recruitment and staffing firm focusing on engineering and construction industries. It's illegal, for example, for recruiters to post a job listing in which they specifically state that they are recruiting for a particular company and a particular job if a company has not approved that position. Headhunters may, however, simply post a requisition stating, "I'm looking for a design engineer."

In May, Internet job board Monster.com acknowledged that it had sent e-mails to its Web site users, warning them that ID thieves post false job advertisements to illegally collect users' personal information. It appeared to be the first time that one of the big job sites directly addressed job hunters about the potential for this type of activity.

"Regrettably," Monster said at the time, "from time to time, false job postings are listed online and used to illegally collect personal information from unsuspecting job seekers." HotJobs followed up the Monster disclosure, which made the Associated Press newswire, with a cover story in its newsletter on false job postings used to collect such information.

Most online job sites contain links to other Web sites over which they have no control. These other sites may ask for information that isn't actually necessary to find a job. Monster, for one, says that it requests or may request (in addition to names, addresses, and other contact information) credit-card and Social Security numbers. Monster may also ask for information about your computer hardware and software. The job site could share your personal information with anyone it employs to perform such tasks as analyzing data, hosting its Web servers, and processing credit-card payments. However, these companies or individuals may not share this information with any other third party.

CareerBuilder.com says it does not sell the personal information of users who indicate that they want to keep that information private. But it warns in its privacy statement that voluntarily displaying personal data, such as an e-mail address or resume, enables others to collect and use that information.

EPCglobal doesn't let everyone access its Web site (EPCjobs.com) for job seekers and hiring managers. "We control who comes to the Web site," says Brandon Gallagher, technical product manager. "It's necessary to set up your account through our client service teams, and then the technology department sets up the accounts for our clients." To protect its candidates and its database, client companies hire people without EDPglobal being involved.

On the flip side, EPCglobal protects its hiring managers from contact by job candidates. Only the hiring manager's name is made visible with each job opening. To further protect its job candidates, EPCglobal is working on enabling currently employed job seekers to remain anonymous while on their job search.

The IEEE Job Site is designed to automatically match jobs for domestic and international members. "The full features of our site are only available to IEEE members," says Michael J. Buryk, IEEE Media's business development manager for recruitment advertising.

How is business? Buryk says IEEE job site enrollments are actually down this year, from 35 to 50 daily to about 30 to 35 a day. But Inman says that EE registration represents EPCglobal's second most popular discipline, just barely behind mechanical engineering, a trend that started in January.

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