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Source: Toronto Star

Posted on September 7, 2001

      A U.S. consumer watchdog warned job hunters yesterday that their resumés may be misused by marketers and identity thieves when they register at online career sites.

      The Privacy Foundation, a Denver-based consumer advocacy group, issued its alert in a report on the privacy practices of online career site Monster.com, which holds nearly 9 million resumés globally. The Web site's Canadian operations, Monster.ca, claims about a million registered users and has a database of more than 800,000 resumés.

      "Job seekers who post their resumés online face considerable threats to their privacy,'' wrote Pam Dixon, author of the report. "Resumés may be stored by online job sites for many years, and may be misused for data mining and even identity theft.''

      Identity theft (see www.E-CommerceALERT.com/article331.html), one of the fastest growing crimes in North America, is the act of impersonating someone to commit a crime, usually fraud. Resumés, packed full of personal information, would be a rich source of data for identity thieves.

      The Privacy Foundation's findings, based in part on interviews with former Monster.com employees, include:

      Resumés sent to Monster.com may be saved and broken down into bits of information for later use even after they have been deleted from the database by the job seeker.

      Resumés posted on particular corporate Web sites that use Monster.com's technology are routinely sent to Monster.com without proper disclosure.

      Company officials have allegedly discussed the possibility of selling resumé data to marketers. A representative of Monster.com, owned by publicly traded TMP Worldwide Inc. of New York, told The Star yesterday that the company disputes the report findings and stands by its practices. "There are several mixed messages that the Privacy Foundation is getting from ex-employees in terms of what we will and will not do when protecting the sanctity of our consumers' information,'' said Marcel Legrand, a senior vice-president at Monster.com.

      Legrand denied that Monster.com has ever discussed the possibility of selling resumé data. "No, we've never done that. It's never been our intention.''

      He added that people using an online career site implicitly agree to give up some of their privacy simply by participating. "Our whole model for seekers is to give exposure and (have them) be seen by the most amount of employers.''

      Kim Peters, president of Workopolis.com, a Monster.com rival that's jointly owned by Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd., said every effort is taken to protect the privacy of the firm's site users. Peters said resumé data is "absolutely not'' sold, several security measures are taken to safeguard the data and a chief privacy officer has been hired to field complaints and train staff about privacy issues.

      She said when people delete their resumé from the site, "It's deleted; it's gone forever.''

      Both companies acknowledged they have less control over what member employers can do with information once they access the resumés, though binding contracts are in place to deter abuse. Legrand said it's conceivable that an employer might break its contract with Monster.com by stealing resumé lists and selling them to third parties. "If they do that, we're taking them to court,'' he said.

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