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Employers Are Using Facebook. Privacy Lost?

Posted by attorney John Mccarthy

It seems like everyone has a Facebook page nowadays. But, not many people seem to notice that. Employers are frequently turning to Facebook to find information about employees and prospective employees. According to a 2009 Harris Interactive survey of 2,667 HR professionals:

  • 45% say they go to social networking sites like Facebook to research job candidates;
  • 11% say they plan to do that soon (since the survey was taken in 2009, they probably do that now);
  • 35% said they decided not to hire someone because of something on his or her Facebook page. The leading culprits:
    • Have indiscreet photos and info? 53% of employers won’t hire you;
    • Have drugs/and or alcohol show up in pictures or posts? 44% said they won’t hire you.
    • Talking trash on former employers? 35% of employers say they won’t hire you.

So what can you (the employee) do to protect yourself?

Think before you act.

  • You don’t have to add EVERYBODY as a friend. That suspicious employee down the hall, the one who sticks around after work to hang out with the boss, who always tries to get you to badmouth the boss. He is not your friend and should not be your FB friend.
  • Read before you share that status update. Is it going to upset one of your “friends", like your boss, who you added as a friend, since you didn’t take my advice above? If so, you probably shouldn’t post it. Imagine what that status update would look like to a prospective employer, or a co-worker.

Review your privacy settings and adjust accordingly. Even if you took my advice and didn’t add your boss or your boss’ annoying pet as a friend, it doesn’t matter if your profile is open for the world to see. You can do this currently by going into Account > Privacy Settings > Sharing on Facebook. I set mine to friends only, but it’s your call. Just know that the suspicious employee, the one who sticks around after work to hang out with the boss, who always tries to get you to badmouth the boss, who is your friend because you didn’t listen to me, is also friends with your boss. So if you put the settings on “Friends of Friends" your boss can still read your whole profile.

Google yourself from time to time. I know it sounds vain, and silly, but you would be amazed at how much information you can get on a person just by Googling him or her. Employers know this. You should too. If something damaging comes up, you should repair it.

The problem is most people think that this is America and we have freedom of speech, but that does not mean we have freedom from consequences. Sure, the NLRA, may protect the rights of nonsupervisory employees to unionize or to act in concert with regard to wages, hours, or working conditions. However, how many of your status updates really fall under that category?

On to the disclaimer: note that this article is for general educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should not rely on it as legal advice. Instead, you should contact a lawyer like me to discuss the specifics of your case. No attorney-client relationship exists as a result of your reading this article. No attorney-client relationship exists as a result of your submitted questions or making comments as a result of this article.

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Filed under: Freedom of speech

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