Judges Say Google Background Checks Are Okay
from the yeah-I-did-it-but... dept
The idea of a Google search as a person’s permanent record continues to gather a lot of interest — whether it’s people fretting that they can’t be found or government agents using it as a tool. A consistently reoccurring theme is how employers use Google as a de facto reference or background check on potential employees, though many of these worries seem a bit overblown. However, one federal employee who got fired for misusing government property alleged that a Google search by an official as part of the investigation into his thefts violated his “right to fundamental fairness”. A three-judge panel disagreed, rejecting the claim that the search, which turned up information about two previous times the guy had been removed from a job, affected the decision to fire him. The case seems to hinge on the use of the search, and whether it undermines due process in determining whether or not to fire the guy. The judges said that the official’s Google search didn’t constitute ex-parte communication, since it wasn’t a communication between parties. That seems to be the crucial part of the ruling here, because it essentially means it’s acceptable for employers (or at least the federal government, as an employer) to check out workers’ backgrounds online. The judges seem to be saying (quite reasonably) that the internet shouldn’t get singled out for special treatment, and that it should be considered as any other research source. Should any communication on the internet constitute prejudicial ex-parte communication, then it should be dealt with as such. The bottom line: just because your boss found out about your past online, it certainly doesn’t mean they can’t fire you.