social media, employers, employees, privacy laws

Who You Hire (And How) Matters

California and Maryland are racing to become the first states to make it illegal for an employer to ask a potential employee, or any employee, for their social media log-in information.

This has been big news lately, as employees begin to report that they were required (or at least asked forcefully) to reveal their log-in information so their employers could sort through their emails, photos and private messages.

No sooner had the news of this begun to spread than the American Civil Liberties Union jumped into the fray with both feet. They say this is a clear infringement on personal privacy rights and legislators in most states have expressed their agreement. I, too, tend to agree.

As a former employer I can tell you that regardless of how well you conduct an interview and how many background checks you do on an individual is still mostly a secret when they come to work for you. The truth of who they are and what they can (or can’t) do for you only comes to light after you have invested time, money and effort into training them properly. And then it’s too late.

So, on the one hand I can see who employers would want to peek into as many closets of potential employees as possible, including social media, but on the other hand, I understand too that there must be a certain element of trust in our dealings with every one. If you cannot build trust with your employees, if you cannot trust them to do their job effectively when your back is turned; to treat your company, your clients and customers properly, you will not glean this from perusing their Facebook page.

And it seems that soon, you may not be legally able to do so anyway.

Next week, the California State Assembly Judiciary Committee will determine the fate of Assembly Bill 1844, authored by Assemblymember Nora Campos (D-San Jose). The bill would prohibit employers from requiring an employee or prospective employee to provide the username and password to their social media accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter.

“When we seek employment, we would never be expected to provide our prospective employer with personal information, such as family photos,” said Assemblymember Nora Campos. “The same expectations must be applied to social media, where a user’s personal profile is just that – personal.”

In addition to the prohibition the bill would place on requirements that applicants provide prospective employees with access to their social media accounts, AB 1844 specifically eliminates an employer’s responsibility to search or monitor social media before hiring the employee as part of its duty under existing law to exercise reasonable care in employing a person and is required to use reasonable care to discover whether a potential employee is unfit or incompetent.

Click here to read more about the proposed law.

lori r taylor, revmediamarketing, social media, social media marketing, branding, product branding, networking, oneclicksociety, social caffeine, mobile marketing

Where Do You Draw The Line?

If you have been out of work for more than a few months and you are hungry for gainful employment, chances are you are going to be willing to do just about anything to score a new job. But would you be willing to grant your prospective employer full and unfettered access to your Facebook account? That means handing over all your log-in information and letting them go where they want; into your email, your photos or whatever you might have marked as “private” on your account.

How bad do you want the job?

This may seem a little like Big Brother, but as the labor market improves many employers are taking this radical step when it comes to choosing the cream of the crop. It also doesn’t help that many companies are still run by people who don’t understand the Internet, much less social media, so they believe the best way to know what skeletons you might have hidden in your closet is to take your house keys and go search your closet. Never mind your privacy rights.

Fortunately legislators have begun to sit up and taken notice. Legislators in Illinois and Maryland are already hard at work drafting laws which would make the practice illegal, but not everyone is so quick to judge. Employers, for one, believe they have the right to know everything about their prospective employee before committing to hiring, training and paying them. The best way for them to do that, they claim, is to gain full and unfettered access to their lives, both online and off.

It is one thing to expect your employees to conduct themselves properly when they are employed by you, and it is ok to expect they have been conducting themselves well prior to being employed by you, but to expect them to surrender the keys to their house so you can have a look around is preposterous.

Fortunately, I am not the only person who thinks so:

“It’s akin to requiring someone’s house keys,” said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor who calls it “an egregious privacy violation.”
Questions have been raised about the legality of the practice, which is also the focus of proposed legislation in Illinois and Maryland that would forbid public agencies from asking for access to social networks.
Since the rise of social networking, it has become common for managers to review publically available Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts and other sites to learn more about job candidates. But many users, especially on Facebook, have their profiles set to private, making them available only to selected people or certain networks.

Click here to read more about this issue.

lori r taylor, revmediamarketing, social media, social media marketing, branding, product branding, networking, oneclicksociety

Google Opens Its Umbrella

In another step toward complete information integration for its users, Google today announced it will merge all its user data into one handy file.

This provoked a firestorm of questions and controversy as privacy advocates tried to figure out exactly what was being merged, and users tried to figure out what it meant for them.

Since Google+ first came along I have been saying that I see it as a huge umbrella under which all Google properties will eventually be placed. In this way Google+ will continue to expand its reach, gobbling up users who might only have a Blogger account, YouTube account, Gmail or Picasa account. By using their network in this way Google+ doesn’t need to directly compete with Facebook for users, because it already has users. All it needs to do is re-direct those users to Google+ to make their numbers jump.

This merging of personal information, Google says, is only meant to improve the way users receive advertisements on its network. They can focus specifically on what users want because, well, they know what you want. If you searched for it, or accessed it in any way, Google will know and share that information with its network of properties, so no matter what Google property you are using, it will (in theory) already know what you like.

In the meantime privacy activists say this is coming close to creating an atmosphere akin to ‘Big Brother’ within the Google network, but the company is committed and shows no signs of backing down.

For now users can take some comfort in Google’s written promise that they do not plan to share any personal information it gathers on its users. Of course, we’ve all heard those promises before…

Google plans to start combining information the company collects about each user of its various websites and services into a single profile, the company announced on Tuesday.

Previously, Google said it did not create comprehensive profiles across its various properties, including its leading search engine, Android smartphone operating system and YouTube video site.

In a statement, Alma Whitten, a Google privacy director, wrote that the changes “will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.” She added, “Our recently launched personal search feature is a good example of the cool things Google can do when we combine information across products.”

Click here to read more about the new Google privacy policy.