Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Legal issues of social networking background checks

I've written about employers searching the Internet for information about candidates and employees. There's a debate about the ethics, but the safe assumption is that companies will search for information online, including personal information they're not supposed to use.

Besides ethics and good manners, what are the legalities of casual background checks that uncover personal information? Attorney George Lenard discusses some areas of potential liability (via MN Headhunter):
  • Discrimination law
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Terms of service violation
  • Fair Credit Reporting Act

George wraps up with some familiar-sounding advice:
I would advise applicants/employees to assume future employers will read everything you post. So when you put something about yourself out there, you can be yourself, but avoid obvious negatives like saying you hate to work or posting sleazy or drunken photos. It may help to ask yourself whether you would want your mother to see your site. Sorry to say, but you may not even want to admit homosexuality or extreme political or religious views. On a positive note, use your Internet postings, including blogs as well as social networking sites, affirmatively, to build visibility and credibility as an expert in your field (or hobby). Join more "serious" networking sites like LinkedIn even if you are still a student—and work at building a network there that can help you in future job searches.

Yep, that's about it. Just pay attention to the bread crumbs you leave for others to discover, and you won't need to worry about whether their searches are legal.

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