With the rise of sites like facebook, MySpace and twitter people are essentially creating a permanent digital footprint for themselves which is able to be viewed by almost anyone. In adjusting your privacy settings, you can protect some of your content but realistically it’s not that hard to view photos, videos and conversations between people, and there is no eraser on the internet.
What does this have to do with HR?
Many organisations are currently using the internet to find out more about their potential employees. Some companies are ‘googling’ their names, or trying to access their facebook or MySpace accounts.
If we think about anti-discrimination legislation in NSW for example, you cannot unfairly because of your sex, race, age, marital status; or if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, homosexual, disabled, transgender or a carer. You also can’t be discriminated against because of the company you keep including relatives, friends or work colleagues.
If employers are able to freely search for you on the web, they can find out about your personal relationships such as marital status (or in some cases if you are homosexual or transgender), they could look up where you live and your house via google maps, they could find out if you are pregnant via status updates on facebook or twitter and they can absolutely make judgements about the types of people you associate with. All of this fall under categories which employers can not discriminate against.
However, an article came out today (HT @trib) from Smart Company where Harmers Workplace Lawyers state that employers must be aware of legal obligations under the Privacy Act, and employee rights under the new Fair Work legislation, because “Whenever an employer or recruiter collects personal background information on a candidate, that action triggers a raft of legal obligations under the Privacy Act. Those obligations include that an employer must inform the candidate that they have gathered personal information as well as explain the purpose for which the information was gathered and to whom it may be disclosed.”
While we in HR want to know as much about a person before we hire them, we have to make a careful distinction between what information we need to make a judgement about their on-the-job performance. I’ve known quite a few people who had to pull down blogs and protect their updates on twitter because it was suggested to them when going for a promotion or new job.
Personally, I think my social media record indicates who I am and although I wouldn’t really place anything on there that I believe would impact upon my job prospects- at the same time I wouldn’t want to work somewhere that wouldn’t hire because I like to have fun on the weekends. In saying that, I guess employers could look you up without you even knowing.
What are your thoughts?