Just found this great interview with attorney Jacqueline Klosek from Goodwin Procter about the dangers of using social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace for employment screening purposes. Among the topics discussed is troubling screening policy adopted and later rescinded by the city of Bozeman, MT.
Create Job Applicant Screening Policies Upfront- by Lora Bentley, IT Business Edge
Bentley: I’ve read about the public outcry that resulted from the City of Bozeman, Mont.’s decision to ask job applicants for their social networking site user names and passwords. Obviously, there are enough problems associated with that practice that the city discontinued it. Can you explain?
Then, as an employer, say you ask someone for their user name and password and then give it to another employee to do the screening, you don’t know exactly what they’re going to do with that information. With the user name and password, they’re basically impersonating the person whose account it is. They can send e-mails that purport to be on that person’s behalf, they can review e-mails that were sent from other people… It could be mundane personal communications, but there could also be trade secrets being exchanged, or a host of other things behind these protected e-mails. It’s just a minefield of dangers, in my view.
Bentley: What if you are using the Internet to screen prospective employees without their user names and passwords? Aren’t there still risks in doing that?
Klosek: A great majority of potential employers do screen applicants using at least publicly available portions of the Internet. In some respects, there can be meaningful information on some of those sites, but you’re right to suggest there are risks in doing so. The biggest risk is that you may find too much information — information that, as a prospective employer, it may be dangerous for you to have.
For example, laws that we have in the States would prohibit inquiring or basing employment decisions on factors such as age, family status (whether or not you were looking to have children) …. Most employers are well-versed in avoiding those topics in the employment process, but they may access that information online.