Friday, September 3, 2010

A Blind Eye - Germany, Facebook, and Employment Decisions

There have been many stories posted lately about how someone lost a job because of something posted on some social media profile. Well, according to Nicole Ferraro, at least one information source may be verboten in Germany.

A proposed law, now on its way through the Bundestag, drafted to protect workers' privacy, would restrict employers from using Facebook to recruit. Employers would still be allowed to search the Web for public information on a job candidate, as well as LinkedIn or Xing pages, seeing as those are business networks. But they would not be allowed to use Facebook for screening purposes.

Ferraro sourced her information from a New York Times article, which attempts to explain why Germany is taking this action, as well as a related action limiting secret videotaping of employees.

Germany’s Nazi-era history has made the country extremely cautious on matters of individual privacy. Concerns have been heightened in recent years by scandals involving companies’ secret videotaping of employees, as well as intercepting their e-mail and bank data. The explosion of Web-based information tools has added to the unease.

The German authorities are investigating Google for having collected private Internet information while doing research for its Street View mapping service, and they have asked Apple to explain its data-collection policies for the iPhone.

And Facebook itself has come under fire in Germany, and in other countries, for its own privacy policies.

But I just have one question. How can someone prove that an employer did, or did not, use a Facebook profile in its hiring decisions? Even if a company, or an entire country, has an official policy banning the practice, what will stop an individual HR person from doing a little bit of web surfing as he or she sorts resumes into two piles?
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