Social media and recruitment – the privacy debate

Regular visitors to this blog will know my views with respect to web privacy.  We have a choice not to post, not to upload, not to share.  Accepting that may take much of the “social” away from media, we have a choice nonetheless.

I appreciate we cannot hold the same degree of control over what our friends, family, colleagues or even enemies may wish to post or publish about us online.  Once on the web, it’s always on the web.  Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, was recently reported to have said that generation y’ers will have to change their identities several times in their working lives to erase the trail of photo’s of drunken college pranks that may come back to haunt them and hurt their career aspirations in later years.  That’s a scary thought.

Social media works because we are all voyeurs and show offs.  We are all curious, we all need to communicate and we all need to be loved.  Social media allows us to feel loved and to tell anyone who is willing to listen (or look!).  We are not going to stop posting, uploading, sharing.  So where does privacy step in?  Where is the line?  How long before governments (who in most cases would appear to be terrified at the power of social media) step in to the debate around privacy?

Step forward Germany.  As part of the draft of a law governing workplace privacy, the German government has proposed placing restrictions on employers who want to use Facebook profiles when recruiting.

The proposal would allow for searches to be conducted on the web for publicly accessible information about prospective employees and to view their pages on open networking sites like LinkedIn or Xing. However the bill will draw the line at purely social networking sites like Facebook.

I am undecided as to how I feel about this.  I have a choice, I have privacy settings on my Facebook profile, I can choose who I want as my friends and choose what I want the world to see and what I don’t.  Is this another example of big brother government bullying middle brother (the employer) so that little brother (the employee) is protected?  No bad thing.

I am starting to feel like I can’t be trusted.  Shouldn’t I expect to be accountable and responsible for the choices I make?  Should I continue to be punished or penalised for them 20 years after they have happened?  Doesn’t everyone make mistakes?

Do I need the government to protect me in this way?  Can’t I decide for myself?  Is this the first step of part of a wider process of sanitising the web?  Too many questions for one posting, many of which as I reflect remain unanswered.

Social Media has become a powerful “checking out” tool for recruiters.  I suspect governments are using it in exactly the same way (oops, careful, conspiracy theories in a blog posting, whatever next!).  So what do you all think?  Are the German Government right or wrong?  Let me know your thoughts, I would love to know what everyone is thinking……….



Filed under Recruitment, Social Media

6 responses to “Social media and recruitment – the privacy debate

  1. Hi Lee,
    Broadly speaking I think that the German government are right. I read a frightening article about Craig’s List yesterday (written by Congress woman Linda Smith) about the child sex trade and how CL makes around USD36m per annum out of this ‘industry’. It seems the US is unable to regulate this; we have a generation now whose first web experience is Facebook, where the competition is set to acquire as many friends as possible, whether you’ve ever met them or not. We can’t punish naivety, and youth in this way. It is time for governments to protect individual reputations and rein in the businesses.

    • Thanks for your input Sophie, some great points here. Its an emotive subject for sure! I am looking forward to hearing peoples views, I suspect we could find a wide range! Thank you for getting involved, I appreciate it. My very best to you. Lee Cooper

  2. Whether it is the right or wrong thing to do the German initiative actually seems a little pointless. My understanding is that it doesn’t stop employers using Google to search for background information. A huge amount of Facebook data can already be indexed by Google. User confusion over privacy settings and Facebook’s own potential future policy changes will mean much more information being availible to external searching.
    This could well be another example of the law (however well intentioned) failing to keep up with the pace of technological change. Privacy is a massive issue but I’m not sure the lawmakers will be able to keep up with the issues anytime soon

  3. This law seems a little strange to me. Mainly in the fact of how will they enforce it?
    I’m like you and have privacy settings on my facebook, so only those I want to see my facebook stuff can. That means that even if potential employers want to look at it, they can’t really.
    I also have mixed feelings about looking at recruits online. I see why people would want to do it, but I don’t think that everything I do in my private life should effect my professional life. It’s a very fine line and I don’t actually have a real answer for how to solve these problems, but it does raise some great questions.


    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  4. Public information is “public” and hiring someone is a serious investment at many levels.

  5. Pingback: So how did I do? The Recruiters Little Black Book 2010 Review | The Recruiters Little Black Book

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