Thursday, March 22, 2012

What Is This Privacy You Speak Of?

JayG has a post up from yesterday about the modern HR penchant for basing employment decisions at least in part on social media activity:
Right off the bat, let's dispense with the obligatory: A private business has every right to ask this of potential employees. It's short-sighted, doesn't address the real issues, and has every possibility of turning the "Streisand Effect" up to 11, but they still have the right to do it. It's a pretty stark reminder of the lousy economy, though, that a company could even consider such an invasive, intrusive policy.

It's understandable why a company would want a peek at a potential employee's social page. Someone prone to drinking binges, blackouts, frequent absences - or maybe even owning a firearm - might be the type of person they'd like to exclude from their searches. Maybe they're just looking for indications that their potential employee posts a lot during work hours - or rides a motorcycle/practices a different religion/prefers Glocks to 1911s...

He asks an intriguing question though:
I was under the impression that companies cannot ask about marital status, sexual orientation, children, religion, etc. in a job interview. Since all of this information is quite likely to be part of one's social profile, wouldn't that run afoul of the rules that already govern interview questions? I wonder what a company that asked for a Facebook password would say if asked "Are you asking my my marital status?"...

Any one?

In turn, Phil Bowermaster asks, "Why Be Surprised?" in his take on the same issue:
Am I just being cyncial? Once we established that they can make you pee in a cup, didn’t everything else pretty much came along for the ride?

In a comment to Phil's post, I wrote:
Here’s another business opportunity – delineate and promote a “bright line” distinction between personal and professional data and create a site that publicly reports on and shames companys that ignore the difference. Done right, said employers will quickly find themselves holding steadily less-well attended job fairs. Those that make the correct correlation between these two events will likely make the necessary change; the rest will have their customers taken over by their successors.

Does this seem a reasonable response to anyone else?