Employers are looking at the Facebook, MySpace, and blogs of prospective employees, even internship applicants, in order to make hiring decisions. Is this legal? Ethical?
There is not a lot of case law yet regarding social media. Many situations simply have not been tested in court, so there is little in the way of guidance at present. But we do know a few things.
Can an employer legally decide not to hire you based on a review of the contents your Facebook or MySpace page? The truth is, yes they can, as long as employers do not violate federal or state discrimination laws in using social networking sites in making hiring decisions. For example, an employer cannot legally screen out applicants based on race or ethnicity.
Is it an invasion of privacy for an employer to gain access to your profile or photos? What is posted on the Internet has a lower “expectation of privacy” than, say, a private home telephone conversation. Once it is posted on Facebook or MySpace or your blog, the information is available to the public. Therefore, viewing it does not constitute an invasion of privacy.
Facebook is designed to limit the availability of your profile to your friends and only those in your other networks via the privacy settings. If you use the privacy features and believe that some employers got into your information unauthorized, then you might have a case.
What about using social networking sites after you are hired? It is important to remember that when you go to work, you often have to sign an agreement that governs the use of company computer equipment that waives your right to privacy. Such agreements usually state that use will be monitored.
The message is clear: on the job using company equipment, simply do not post things that are potentially embarrassing or damaging to your career.
What about right now, while you are a student? Make your Facebook or MySpace pages and your blog more professional in tone and content and more career oriented. Employers may use social networking sites to look for potential candidates who have specific qualifications, education, experience, or interests. Redesign your Facebook and MySpace pages and your blog into marketing tools.