Letter to the FTC on Job Search Industry Privacy Concerns
Timothy J. Muris, Chair
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20580
Dear Chairman Muris:
We are writing to draw your attention to the challenges consumers face as they search for jobs in today's rapidly evolving, information-rich environment. Both online and off, the machinery of the information economy has created a high demand for large compilations of job seekers' names, email addresses, and resumes. Perversely, the demand for job seeker information does not correlate to the availability of jobs nor the demand for workers.
Job seeker email addresses are routinely gathered at the registration pages of job search sites and then sold in bulk. Job search sites in particular often do not have posted privacy policies. Those sites that do post privacy policies avoid mentioning key items like what happens to registration data and job seeker resumes. Many sites offer access to resume databases for small amounts of money and do not validate those who gain access.
Job seekers by the tens of millions entrust their resumes to resume writing services, resume databases, and even recruiting services only to have their resumes searched, datamined, bundled, and sold in bulk for 10 to 33 cents a piece to employers, bogus recruiters, and start-up job sites seeking to make a fast buck from selling access to job seeker data. This is yet another area of consumer concern. And job seekers, much to their dismay, all too frequently find their resumes circulating amongst employers and recruiters 7, 8, 9, or even 10 years after they initially posted them.
In 2002, Monster.com revealed in an earnings call that 30 percent of the Monster unit's profit came from its resume database. This is a publicly traded company with a market capitalization that hovers around one billion dollars. Monster.com is not alone in selling access to consumer resume databases to boost the bottom line, nor is it alone in relying upon millions of consumer resumes to do so.
Consumer resumes have become a big business, and this business is not necessarily helpful to job seekers. Privacy concerns are often the last consideration on the list when companies try to profit from compiling and using consumer resumes as profit-making commodities.
We believe the entire job search industry is in dire need of regulation and reform. The industry has not set its own standards, and few within it are willing to do the right things for this special and large group of consumers who need the most help: people who are looking for work.
On February 19, 2003, we jointly issued a consumer alert and report that outlines some of these problems. You can find it on our respective web sites: www.privacyrights.org/ar/dixon-jobprivacyrpt.htm and www.pamdixon.com .
We ask that you undertake a thorough review of the entire job search industry, online and off, and look at its information handling and consumer privacy practices.
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
3100 -- 5th Ave., Suite B
San Diego, CA 92103
Voice: (619) 298-3396
Fax: (619) 298-5681
Author, Job Searching Online for Dummies
Research Fellow, Privacy Foundation
Author Report on Privacy Practices of Monster.com, http://www.privacyfoundation.org/privacywatch/monster.asp