Don't check Facebook before hiring, says privacy commissioner

In 2002, writer Heather B. Armstrong — also known as Dooce — said she had lost her job because of posts on her popular blog. The resulting online debate led to a new word: "dooced," which means getting fired for something written online.

A decade and a half later, people regularly post information about themselves, their lives, and their opinions on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
That information may be public, but Newfoundland and Labrador's privacy commissioner told the St. John's Morning Show on Thursday that doesn't mean it can be used to make hiring decisions.

"There's things there that yes, they're accessible but they're not necessarily meant for everybody," said Donovan Molloy, 

"In our view, they're not meant for public-body employers in Newfoundland and Labrador to use as an indirect source of determining whether or not you're somebody that they might want to hire."

How an online posting can cost you your job
To help employers make good hiring decisions in a world where personal information about candidates is often just a Facebook search away, the privacy commission has released a new set of guidelines on doing employee and background checks via social media.

The short version: don't do it.

No consent? Not authorized

"Without their consent as part of the job application or without telling them, 'We're going to check your social media accounts,' I don't think public bodies in Newfoundland and Labrador should be checking the social media accounts of job candidates," Molloy said.

The collection, handling, and use of information by public bodies is governed by the province's Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. That act specifically requires that with the exception of specified circumstances, information must be directly collected from the individuals a public body is dealing with.


A CareerBuilder poll shows a majority of employers use social media to screen candidates before hiring. (Michael Dalder/Reuters)

"If you're collecting information about job candidates from their social media sites it isn't a direct collection, it's an indirect collection," Molloy said. "Unless you've gotten consent, it's not authorized. And even if you do have consent there are dangers associated with finding outdated material, material related to third persons."

Some information that...

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