It’s now common for employers to research job applicants online – seeing what turns up on a Google search, perusing LinkedIn profiles and, if they can, checking out Facebook accounts. But the German parliament is not happy with this state of affairs, reports German news site Spiegel Online. The government has drafted a new law that would make it illegal for companies to check out the Facebook profiles of candidates.
Looking at business-oriented sites such as LinkedIn is fine and Googling the applicant would still be okay, although the employers are instructed to disregard any search results that are not under the person’s control.
It seems like an odd proposal to me. If the Facebook user has their privacy settings wide open, the information could well end up on Google anyway. However, if they have their profile set so it’s only viewable to friends, this should not be a problem. Perhaps this would provide some protection for people who have their profiles viewable to friends of friends and networks, as it would be an unknown factor whether the HR person could then obtain access through their friends or networks.
I also don’t really know how you would enforce this. How would you prove the employer had looked at Facebook? How would you force them to “disregard” information publicly available on Google? Good luck with that!
While I have selected strong privacy settings for my Facebook account, I also treat it as though it were public. I joined Facebook three or four years ago and I’ve always said that I don’t want anything on Facebook that I wouldn’t want my mother to see. This turned out to be a good move, since in fact I am now friends with my mother and many others of her generation on Facebook! But I was also in my late twenties by the time I joined Facebook and I shudder to think what my profile would be like if I’d used the network as an 18-year-old university student.
All too often, hiring managers are looking for a reason NOT to employ someone because of the personal risk of making a bad hire. Facebook just gives them one more excuse. Personally I look forward to a day when employers start looking for rounded human beings and Joe Blow’s exploits at the pub or Jane Blow’s desire to have children one day are not issues. I can see the hiring manager’s standpoint too though – I guess you’d want to avoid hiring someone with a fondness for racist jokes or someone whose Farmville updates come at regular intervals throughout the business day!