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EU Looks To Prevent Employers From Viewing An Applicant's Publicly Available Social Media Information

Ever since social media sites like Facebook and Twitter became household names here in America, we've occasionally had really stupid debates about just what type of access to those accounts employers should get from their employees. Some states have even passed laws that would allow employers to demand social media passwords from employees and applicants, presumably so that company reps can comb through private messages and posts shared only with the employee's or applicant's friends. If all of that seems stupid to you, that's because it totally is!

But it's not remotely as dumb as what the EU has decided to do in regulating corporations such that they are disallowed from viewing public social media information about an applicant unless it directly relates to the job for which they have applied. To be clear, this new regulation is non-binding at the moment, but it will be the basis of data protection laws set to come out in the future. Still, preventing a company from viewing publicly available information doesn't make much sense.

Employers who use Facebook, Twitter and other social media to check on potential job candidates could be breaking European law in future. An EU data protection working party has ruled that employers should require "legal grounds" before snooping. The recommendations are non-binding, but will influence forthcoming changes to data protection laws.

The guidelines from the Article 29 working party will inform a radical shake-up of European data protection laws, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which are due to come into force in May 2018. Their recommendations also suggest that any data collected from an internet search of potential candidates must be necessary and relevant to the performance of the job.

When it comes to privacy restrictions on matters of social media, it seems to me that there is an easy demarcation line that ought to suffice here: that which is public and that which is not. Most social media sites come with handy tools to keep some or all portions of an account private, or shareable only amongst connections within the platform. If an applicant wants something kept from the eyes of an employer, they need only hide it behind those privacy options. This regulation, however, would restrict a company from accessing public information, which should plainly be viewed as nonsensical.

The post notes that recruitment sites like CareerBuilder have seen rates of 70% or so employers that check public social media accounts of applicants they consider hiring. That's as surprising as the sun rising each morning. It's barely even considered creepy any longer to google the names of friends, never mind people you're looking to hire. Somehow I don't see any regulation curbing that across a continent.

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