Jessica Miller-Merrell | , , , , , , , , , , , ,| By
*Updated * Learn more about the move to create a job seeker social media privacy bill in California below . . .
Background Checks for Hiring & Screening on Facebook
Free online background checks sound great to employers, but not when it tramples employee rights. Unfortunately, that is a new trend in that is happening in the world of work. Hiring managers, recruiters, and human resource professionals are asking a new interview question, and it’s one you might not expect. This question isn’t illegal, yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. Companies are asking perspective job seekers for access to their personal and private information online. They are asking, “Can I have your Facebook user ID login and password?”
I am disgusted, but I am also not surprised by this break in social media privacy.
Companies have been using social networking sites as a form of free online background check for a while now.. I first heard about using MySpace to vet candidates in 2006 at a local employment law conference in Oklahoma City. I’ve written about in great detail recently about mitigating risk of corporate social media and solutions to that risk opened up by the use of social. I coined the term Social Media Discrimination, and this my friends is another chapter in the many ridiculous ways companies are using social networks as a form of background check to disqualify candidates.
Can Accessing Facebook for Hiring Result in Abusing Employee Rights?
There is such a thing as social media privacy. A person’s social media accounts are theirs and not accessible for viewing by their employer or potential employer at least in this situation. If a current employee’s social network is part of a lawsuit or employment law litigation that is a different story. There is a process to gain access and the right circumstance for this to happen, and that is not during the job interview. Of course, we are in uncharted legal waters, so that process to obtain and the precedents changes every single day. Exciting for the law field but extremely confusing for employers and HR.
I’ve long advised job seekers to lock down their social networking profiles or not to post information or messages that can shine light on them personally and professionally negatively. Private messages on Facebook or direct message on Twitter just like email and texts are never private. You are relying on the receivers of that information not just yourself to keep those messages confidential, and this isn’t always a safe bet. But for job seekers to provide access to a potential employer to Facebook during a job interview is an unwelcome invasion of privacy that is not right.
Then again, if a potential employer asks for access to my social network during my job search, they’ve made my job search decision process easier. They are not an organization in which, me as an employee, will flourish or demonstrate a healthy company culture based on respect and trust. That, my friends, is not a place I wish to work.
Employer Access to Facebook is the New Illegal Interview Question
As HR professionals, we train and ensure that our managers abide by laws put in place to protect not only the employer and the employee’s rights. These illegal interview questions include questions like, “How old are you?” or “Are you pregnant?” or “Do you have a car to drive to work?” These also are the types of information that people happen to include on their social networks.
Companies who ask to access candidate and employee social networking profiles have access to specific information that when used to make hiring and promotion decisions are illegal. Some of this information is only accessible to the account holder via their user login. When a company accesses the private account of a candidate, they are asking for a big, fat, seven figure employment lawsuit, and that job seeker get a fit, fat, seven figure payday . . .
Because in the Facebook account settings of my private profile are included confidential and private information including my age, sex, religion, and other protected information. Using my privacy settings I can keep this information private when outsiders view my profile, but when an employer has user access, they see the whole enchilada. So on second thought, I hope a company asks to access my personal Facebook account, my blog, and even my email. Please, do so because I need a pay day, a big, fat, seven figure payday, and with your help I can do that in a very, big way. Because if you do, I see my own private island and a new career as an angel investor in my future. Dear Employer, Please, Please Please Access My Social Networks.
California Senate’s Social Media Privacy Bill # SB 1349