It’s no longer a secret that employers use social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter to assess applicants and sometimes even their existing employees. As such, it’s pretty much given that you now have to keep your online persona completely clean and ready for on the spot background checks by potential employers. Whether this practice is fair or not usually depends on who you ask. Some employers have openly admitted that they think it’s necessary to check while others favor traditional means.
However, just recently, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has issued guidelines for the use of social media in assessing employees and applicants.
According to Diane McLeod-McKay, the Director of the Personal Information Protection Act, Alberta Canada, it’s not illegal for companies to use social media for background checks. However, they should make sure that all their actions would still be within the bounds of the existing privacy laws. McKay mentions that it could be very difficult to determine this, so it’s more practical by far, for employers to skip the social media checks altogether and just return to the normal process of screening applicants – i.e. the typical resume and interview style. If they insist on checking social media sites, they could end up violating some privacy law which would ultimately do their company more harm than good.
Also, McKay shared that their office has been receiving an increasing number of complaints about employers who use social media as an assessment tool. Furthermore, even if the employee consents to have his social media accounts reviewed, all the privacy laws still apply so employers still have to be extra mindful of them.
The reminder issued by the Privacy Commissioner certainly brings about an interesting shift in the trends today when it comes to social media and job hiring. Lately, more and more people have reluctantly accepted the idea of having employers snoop on their profiles. More and more employers have embraced the practice and make it part of their routine assessment. No doubt employers will still continue to do it, so people should still be careful about what they keep on their profiles. At least the commissioner’s statement serves as a reminder that employers should still keep the law firmly in mind when they do their snooping.