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Germany to outlaw employers checking out candidates on Facebook, Googling is OK (techcrunch.com)
21 points by mrspin on Aug 23, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 11 comments

I'm guessing that none of the people commenting on the original article have ever hired anyone. There's plenty of precedent for this. There are things you aren't allowed to take into consideration when hiring (e.g. sexual orientation, religion, etc) and so as an interviewer, I simply don't ask anything that could result in me knowing. Even social break-the-ice questions like "what did you do at the weekend?" are off limits at interview stage. The reason is to protect myself and the company; if we don't hire a candidate because they lack skills, they can't turn around and sue us on spurious grounds.

So no serious interviewer is looking at FB anyway - it opens up too many potential issues.

That wouldn't disallow them from screening in the pre-interview stage though, would it? If the company sees something on Facebook that they don't like, it'd be virtually impossible to prove what effect it had on their decision to not interview someone.

That's true, but if it becomes a habit it would show up eventually, e.g. if the company never hired anyone of "type x".

It's very easy to not-hire someone anyway; you can say "not a cultural fit" which means they wouldn't get on with the team. But it would be suspicious if that correlated well with a readily observable characteristic.

But any readily observable characteristic would either manifest as something illegal to discriminate on (sexual orientation, weight, sex, appearance, etc.) or as something not illegal to discriminate on in the first place.

Illegal discriminatory hiring practices are very specific, so suspicious or not, it doesn't matter. There's no legal grounds for someone to sue a company because they used Facebook to determine that they don't like "Fight Club" or that they eat a lot of Burger King and were thusly not hired.

On FB you could easily see someone's sexual orientation, for example, or the year they graduated. It's better not to look. If you hire them and you get on outside work, then by all means add them as friends and you can see all you want.

In the context of Hacker News (i.e. smaller web startups), keep in mind that Title VII (and the ADA) only applies to companies with 15 or more employees. A tremendous amount of hiring flies under Title VII's radar.

In Finland (legislation and society modeled from Germany), you are not allowed to acquire personal information from third parties, like internet in general, without applicant's consent.

Only the information provided by the candidate and his/her criminal and credit records (if applicable - mostly not) can be searched without explicit permission.

Proving foul play is of course nearly impossible.


* Internet search results as a basis of decision on recruiting is illegal if there is no permission from the candidate

* Facebook profile picture is "unnecessary personal information in relation to employment" no matter what the job might be

* You are not allowed to use unnecessary personal information like the Facebook profile picture even if the candidate gives a permission

This legislation is based on a belief that an employee should know what kind of personal information about him/her is being gathered. Employer is required to notify employee/candidate about the intent on acquiring personal information from external source. Second notification is needed before using the sourced data as a basis of decision making on the candidate.

Personal Data Act (523/1999): http://www.tietosuoja.fi/uploads/hopxtvf.HTM

The Office of the Data Protection Ombudsman: http://www.tietosuoja.fi/27305.htm

Seriously, how is this remotely workable?

On what legal principle do you ban the use of a single website for employment screening, yet essentially allow everything else.

I think it’s unlikely (also: prohibited by the German constitution) that Facebook is specifically outlawed. The proposed law probably prohibits searching for private and non-work related information which would include Facebook or a private blog but not a LinkeIn profile.

I don’t have any fundamental objections to that (something like ‘employers should have the right to screen applicants however they want’), I just think it’s stupid and won’t work. It’s unenforceable and useless.

That’s the article TechCrunch links to: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,713240,00... – this is only a small part of a much larger packet of laws aimed at improving employee privacy. The ban on videotaping of employees is at the moment making headlines in Germany and this is actually the first time I heard about this.

lots of other things are banned from being used for screening in many jurisdictions - age, gender, race, nationality, religious and political views and affiliations, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, parenthood, veteran status, medical history, benefit-claimant, expired criminal convictions etc.

Funnily enough you'll find most of the above on Facebook. Of course in practice all such laws are largely unenforceable, and rely on recruiters being law-abiding citizens

I would guess that this kind of laws mainly does one thing: create the job of the agent. I wouldn't be surprised if agents are not bound by these laws? After all, they are not hiring. They only suggest people to hire to other companies.

Also, while I sympathize with the goals, I sympathize with the plight of the small business owner more. Yet another law == yet another rabbit hole to stumble into. In effect, more costs for hiring lawyers.

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