Facebook evaluation of potential employees could be illegal: Expert

November 28th, 2007 - 4:29 pm ICT by admin  

London, Nov 28 (ANI): The employers practice of searching social networking sites such as Facebook to uncover information about would-be employees could be illegal, an internet expert has warned.

The speedy rise of sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Bebo, where users regularly post a good amount of personal information, photos and sometimes frank details of their personal exploits, has led to rumours that companies, colleges and universities use them in order to evaluate applicants.

According to John Carr, chairman of the UK Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, using the information to examine applicants was “possibly illegal, but certainly unethical”.

“There’s a basic law of data protection that if you are processing data, you are only allowed to use it for the purpose for which it was intended, the Telegraph quoted Carr, as saying.

“It’s a bit like reading somebody’s diary. If you are not part of that person’s circle, to look at their stuff and then go to use it to make important decisions on their life, just seems wrong and possibly illegal.

“It’s one of the reasons why the advice to everyone is think before you post, he added.

New figures from Nielsen Online estimate that the number of Facebook users has risen by 1,646 per cent in the last 12 months, making it the second fastest growing online brand in the country.

A spokeswoman for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the information watchdog, said that just looking at someone’s information would not be called as illegal.

“If an individual - a potential employer or university tutor - looked at someone else’s profile on a social networking site, it would not be a breach of data protection, she said.

However, Clare Murray, an employment law specialist at law firm CM Murray, said if the information was processed or used to make biased decisions, it could amount to breaking the law.

She said if information collected from sites was used to decline a job on grounds of race, sexuality or gender, for example, if an employer found on a website someone was gay and decided not to offer them a job, that would break discrimination laws.

She added that if an employer stored any copies of information from a website without approval in personnel files, that could also count as illicit processing of data.

“There’s a fundamental human right to privacy, but if you put information out there yourself, you go a long way towards undermining that yourself, Murray said. (ANI)

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