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Social networking, Privacy & The job seeker

Recently we were asked a question about privacy issues surrounding social networking sites and whether or not it is acceptable/legal to base judgement of potential employees on their social network profile?

The impact of social network sites such as Facebook on the workplace has only recently started coming to light in South Africa. It would be acceptable to check out a person’s profile, provided that they had it listed as publically viewable. If it is publically viewable then they have in effect published their information on a public forum, meaning that it would be perfectly acceptable to check up what they do, how they behave etc.

It is probably safe to assume that whenever information is in the public domain, it could be considered not to be private.

Should the information not be published to the public then accessing the information would likely impact on the individual’s right to privacy. An example of this would be if the employer was to speak to a third person, who was friends with the potential job candidate. If the third person provided the employer with access to the job-seekers profile, then that would be a breach of the job seekers right to privacy.

It is not uncommon for companies overseas to arrange for a media search when hiring a new employee, in order to get an understanding of any public statements that have been made by the employee in question. Likewise, searches on sites like Google, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace are becoming more and more common, with numerous instances of candidates being refused employment because of pictures or statements showing them partaking in various forms of illicit behaviour which more conservative employers would find distasteful.

Social networking, Privacy & The job seeker