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Stop Employers Using Facebook to Spy on Employees

Updated on December 27, 2014

What does the law say about the practice?

Technology and the law are not seeing eye to eye on a lot of matters. This is one of those matters when the internet and the law are not connecting. When technology has caught up to the law there certainly will be safeguards in place to protect a person's right to privacy. It will also outline what a company has the right to do under certain circumstances related to this question. Until this takes place, it is up to the employer if they use social media content for vetting new hires and current employees.

A few companies have policies in place which outline non use of social media by the HR department for any employee evaluation or inquiry.

Is it okay for an employer to look at Facebook when looking at a job applicant?

Employers have been using Facebook as a prescreening tool for new employees for a couple of years now. Nearly 37% of companies use the social media phenomenon as a device to screen possible new hires along with their resume and interview information according to the Huffington Post. Questions have come up regarding this routine. Is it a fair assessment of a person and their qualifications for a position? Should this practice be stopped?

Countless employees are appalled and want the process discontinued. They are asking companies to halt this “spying” program which has the possibility of impeding or preventing an individual from getting a job. They contend it is not fair to evaluate someone on personal content they did not authorize for review or hand over to a company.

Is this fair?

CareerBuilder commissioned a survey to uncover the number of businesses using this method of scrutinizing applicants. They interviewed 2000 companies. Close to 45% admit investigating multiple social networking sites to look over job candidates.

This means sites like Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram are also part of the Facebook investigation process. Slightly close to 65% of the group admits checking out Facebook as their main resource. Is this a fair assessment to include in a job application analysis?

Not only did the 2000 companies interviewed admit vetting possible new hires, but present employees’ social networking activity is also looked into.

Is this a form of intrusion into the personal lives of individuals? Depending on what side of the coin you are on influences the answer. Some folks admit yes, while others say no. Is there anything a job seeker is able to do about it?

What to do about it?

Edit personal info

Editing personal info under a Facebook profile is a great way to keep nosy employers away. Social media profiles typically have an option of using any user name. How about a fake user name instead of a legal one? Making up a user name is the first defense to filter out unwanted guests. Only those friends personally invited or know the user name are able to track a person down through the millions of online social media accounts.

Shorten a user name to a first initial and last name or never complete all of the profile material to make it difficult to match resume info with profile info.

Do not do anything you are ashamed of

Company spokesmen in the analysis acknowledged using the material to see how an applicant presents themselves professionally. Only 45% acknowledged actually trying to learn more about the qualifications a person presents. Confirming professional presentations is obviously a ploy on a number of accounts. What number of Twitter accounts actually read as a resume in the profile portion?

When HR personnel did find something they admit caused them not to hire an individual it was a provocative picture, drinking or illegal use of drugs. Are they referring any of this to the authorities?

When using social networking for communicating to anyone, avoid anything discreditable or disgraceful. Keep in mind anyone it is possible for anyone to see the images or read conversations.

Promote business relationships instead of personal friendships

Almost 50% of the interviewees expressed it is used as an evaluation of whether the person fits in with the culture of a business. The culture of the company plays a role in the decision as well as what material is found to decide if a good connection works for both.

Persons recognized as participating in bad behavior are not the only ones slammed. Others gossiping or bad mouthing fellow employees are out the door. Instances were by their own admission they lied about qualifications or with poor grammar skills were also kicked in the butt out the door.

Poor grammar skills evaluated in this context elicits a laugh in most cases. How a person talks to friends and family is not necessarily how they communicate in the office or with customers.

This is not the place for any of these behaviors. Although this was created as a personal forum to communicate, the material is public info in these instances. Make your social media a business platform to protect yourself against these strategies to get rid of folks.

Why bother with an interview or resume?

Why interview when you have Facebook analysis? HR departments possibly saving millions if this is how they do the hiring process.
Why interview when you have Facebook analysis? HR departments possibly saving millions if this is how they do the hiring process.

Should laws be created around using social media for these particular purposes?

Use other social media platforms for personal contact

A little over 10% confessed searching for info giving valid reasons not to hire a person. One out of three hiring managers divulged discovering something to use in this practice. They concede searching for “dirt” on applicants or current employees. Workers in a job displaying any behavior against company policy or illegal activity are forfeiting their employment by posting inappropriate behavior in words or pictures.

With Facebook as the main focus of the policy, avoid putting anything shameful or inappropriate on it. Other social media platforms are useful for anyone unable to keep the joking or what many label inappropriate for the office behavior. Get another account with an obscure platform for these types of personal contacts.

Create legislation to protect privacy

There are a number of those interviewed who have an HR policy against using this practice of assessing candidates for open positions. Though, this number is extremely low.

Applicants are shouting to review all policies related to looking into social media accounts as they pertain to workers. Personal rights, privacy rights and other confidentiality arguments all come into play with the methods used by companies continuing the practice. There are more than a few things to take care of under legislation.

A number of legal processes should be put into place. What does an employer do when they find illegal acts in pictures or discussions? Do they hand it over to law enforcement? None admitted doing so, but for mandatory reporters what is the guideline?

Although countless individuals admit they are not trying to conceal anything, they want the right to have private anything they do not want to share. Permission to review this should be given according to the argument. Compare it to the practice of permission to run a credit check, drug test or even a criminal background check.

Share your thoughts on the subject

Do you believe it is okay to use social media accounts as an aid in hiring?

See results

What does your social media account say about you?

Is there really any privacy on the internet? It is best to use discretion with anything in this forum until the law has caught up to technology in this regard.

In conclusion

Social media is a forum which has become a stomping ground for nearly anything. Everything goes and nothing is sacred anymore. More companies admit a plan to use this type of scrutiny in the future if they are not doing so at this time.

Avoid anything you would not like everyone to see. Better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your livelihood.

Why did you reject a candidate based on their social networking material?

reason for rejection
falsifying qualifications
inappropriate photos
negative comments about past employer
inappropriate comments
discriminatory comments
confidential info from past employer shared
never rejected because of social media
The Reppler Corp asked employers using social media to screen a new hire to breakdown the reasons why they did not hire the applicant.

Get rid of damaging material on your social media

There are private companies selling software to scrub your social media clean of any material damaging if an employer were to see it.

Prospective employers searching through your Facebook want to see originality, imagination, well roundedness and chastity according to Forbes Magazine.

Ask the hard questions? What are the right answers?

Should a person really expect privacy when it comes to social media? If they are doing anything to be ashamed of, illegal or embarrassing does an employer have the right to use it as a reason for dismissal?

Pictures of a man dressed like a woman making fun of a person or even inappropriate jokes are found on personal accounts with social media. Are these okay to take into account for work ethic?

What about the person with an appropriate Pinterest account, but belongs to a hate group at another online location? Does he get a pass while someone else gets the ax because they put a bad comment about their coworker on Twitter?

Grounds for a lawsuit or appropriate behavior?

What if the behavior is not outlined in the employee guidelines or handbook as grounds for dismissal, but it is offensive? Is this person fired for what a HR employee find offensive or doesn't feel is appropriate as a company worker?

If laws are not in place to address these issues there will definitely be large amounts of lawsuits, some frivolous, to create one for the books.

While these are battled over in court, it will cost lots of money. Money better spent on creating jobs instead of monitoring social media.

What accounts are they searching through for your info

Employers are looking through the top three


Also keep these clean-Tumblr, Instagram, LinkedIn, Digg and even Craigslist

There is an intersection between social media, law, privacy and hiring practices which needs to have traffic directed. The sooner the better.

Why did you hire an applicant based on their social media information?

good first impression showing great fit with organization
awards and accolades on social media
well rounded based on profile
creativity from profile material
good references from others on site
never used social media to hire
supported professional qualifications
*200 companies asked
The Reppler Co asked employers to share the reasons they hired applicants based on their social media

Find out how to look amazing on your social media accounts from Amazon

© 2014 smcopywrite


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    • smcopywrite profile image

      smcopywrite 3 years ago from all over the web

      Rod -great comment and info everyone needs to know and understand. When FB users are accepting hundreds of "friends" it could be difficult to know what they are all up to. Even posting a pic from years ago showing some sketchy behavior is dangerous. What you did in high school or college is not what you do after you grow up and move into the professional arena with a career.

      I believe these sorts of things should be taken into context when searching the web for material on any individual related to something as important as employment.

    • Rod Marsden profile image

      Rod Marsden 3 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

      I have also had things put on my Facebook by others without my permission. Fortunately what has been added without my permission was just annoying and somewhat harmless self promotion. Even so, I am automatically linked with someone I don't really know who may have gotten up to who knows what. To miss out on a job because of my own folly would be bad enough. To miss out on a job because of someone else's folly that you don't even know about would be worse.

      I can protect my own information. Not everything about me is on Facebook and I am keeping it that way. As for someone else's information...there I can do very little.

    • Shawn McIntyre profile image

      Shawn McIntyre 3 years ago from Orlando, FL.


      I absolutely believe checking out what people have posted is morally and ethically okay.

      When a client hires my company, and I assign an account manager, what do you think is the first thing that client is going to do... Google their account manager.

      If they see pictures of the person that's handling their account doing keg stands on Spring Break, or dressed up as a Slutty Bunny for Halloween, or posting status updates about how baked they are, then I'm going to get a phone call, and more than likely lose the client.

      People have every right to do as they please on their private time, and they have every right to post what they like on Social Media, but they have to understand that those choices come with consequences, and one of those consequences might be losing out on a job.

    • smcopywrite profile image

      smcopywrite 3 years ago from all over the web

      thank you shawn for your honesty. do you believe looking into someone personal life when they did not invite you is okay morally? what is your company policy on this action?

      I do not believe everything about everyone should be shared on FB, but this generation certainly does.

      I do firmly believe a person should not be judged only by what you find in social media or online. if this is the case than any negative reviews or comments about a company is grounds to stay away from them and boycott their products and services- something to think about.

      I love a different viewpoint and opinion on the subject. thanks again

    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 4 years ago from Ireland

      It's up to individuals to protect their own information. There are privacy settings there for a reason.

      But I do think its kinda unfair for a person to be judged on something on FB, because how often do others tag you or post comment on your page without your permission.

    • Shawn McIntyre profile image

      Shawn McIntyre 4 years ago from Orlando, FL.

      As an employer who regularly uses Social Media to vet perspective employees, you're way off base on this one.

      Now, do I believe that applicants should have to submit their login information to companies, certainly not, that is definitely a violation of their privacy. However, looking at information that a person has posted online, that is public and available for anyone to see, is just a part of doing due diligence.

      Under the best of circumstances, hiring is a crapshoot; new employees represent a substantial investment of both time and money and there is no guarantee that they will work out. If I can spend an extra hour or two browsing their posts online and save myself from hiring someone who turns out to be a disaster, then I'm all for it.

      Interesting Hub. Voted up.