Proposed German Law Says Employers Can't Review Applicants On Facebook… But Googling Them Is Fine

from the and-when-Google-leads-to-Facebook? dept

Ah, the bizarre laws politicians think up. There has been plenty of concern these days about your “online permanent record,” and it’s no secret that plenty of prospective employers check out applicants’ online presence in reviewing their candidacy for jobs. However, a newly proposed law in Germany will apparently bar employers from checking out non-career focused social networking sites as part of reviewing a candidate, but they can still search on Google. The details:

Although the new law will reportedly prevent potential bosses from checking out a candidate’s Facebook page, it will allow them to look at sites that are expressly intended to help people sell themselves to future employers, such as the business-oriented social networking site LinkedIn. Information about the candidate that is generally available on the Internet is also fair game. In other words, employers are allowed to google potential hires. Companies may not be allowed to use information if it is too old or if the candidate has no control over it, however.

This sounds like politicians overreacting to a specific complaint (“oh my! companies will look at my drunken antics on Facebook!”) and coming up with a law that makes no sense at all.

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: facebook, google

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Comments on “Proposed German Law Says Employers Can't Review Applicants On Facebook… But Googling Them Is Fine”

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Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Indoctrinated by Copyright

If you’ve been indoctrinated by laws such as copyright to believe that it’s possible to control people’s retrieval and communication of information, then you’ll think it’s possible for laws to control what people read, but to also depend on the reader’s context or purpose?? Now that takes the biscuit.

Copyright is a dangerous 18th century religion and it’s high time we stopped preaching it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Revisiting "I don't like facebook"

Some time ago, there was a push from the Highest Office in the USA manage and mitigate issues using a concept called a pre-emptive strategy. This was the result of what is quite possibly the largest failure in US intelligence history and concerned citizens asked for their Government to do more. It ushered in a new ideology after 9-11. This ideology seems to have made its way to becoming a regular board room discussion to drive new ideas on protecting companies based on the “Court of Public Opinion” instead of protecting against Existential Threat, which I believe is what Google was originally created to combat against, and why it’s stock remains so high in a war-time environment.

Now that we’ve formally exited Iraq, look to exit a wartime environment and end all declarations of war, these systems and companies will continue to exist. Sure, we need to find ways to monetize in a peace-time environment such systems which were created under war-time, and one easy way is to devalue privacy on a legal realm.

When you start to consider that Germany has been in peacetime for the past 10+ years, you can start to understand what the values of it’s citizens and companies are.

Until Google asks me to pay for something, I believe Google’s business model is an infringement of my privacy in a Peace-Time environment, and I have treated it as such.

You have to realize that a lot of companies have made a lot of money through Government Grants via the Patriot Act or other undocumented deals by effectively finding ways to “sell out” their customers. Many of these companies came out of thin air. Where was FourSquare five years ago? EBay definitely benefited. And let me tell you- ad revenue doesn’t cover the deals both Dick Cheney and Dapper Don would offer you.

Jerry Leichter (profile) says:

Sigh. Another example of failing to understand that other cultures may have different views of the world.

I’m far, far from an expert on German views of privacy, but I’ve read enough about it for the basis of such a law to be clear. The US view is that you either have “a reasonable expectation of privacy” in something, or it’s entirely public. The German view is that each human being has an inherent right to control how – and in what contexts – information about them is used. Thus, you can put information about yourself on Facebook for you social contacts, but that doesn’t, in the German view, mean that it should be available to potential employers. Employers may use information you’ve made generally available – but not information about you that *others* have made generally available without your consent.

Really, this shouldn’t come as such a shock. Employers in the US are not allowed to use information about race, religion, or ethnic background – even when that information is obvious in an interview from skin color, accent, religious symbols on jewelry, etc. The push in the US is to put *more* restrictions on employer use of data, because of perceptions that, for example, allowing an employer to use a bad credit rating to deny someone a job – which is currently legal and apparently widely done – produces a downward spiral for people who lose a job, can’t pay their bills, and then can’t get another job because they can’t pay their bills.

In certain privacy contexts, we in the US have bought in to the idea – which grew out of court cases, not law or social convention – that “if it’s out there, anyone can use it”. But deep down, we really don’t believe that when it leads to people – not celebrities, not cheating politicians, just ordinary people trying to get by – being hurt.

Germans acknowledge that protection against disclosure can shield the powerful. In fact, historically, the origins of the German approach recognize that, and say: The powerful find ways to protect their privacy – e.g., special laws against slandering noblemen or government officials; we’ll level the playing field by providing everyone with the same protections. This is just the flip side of the US approach to the same perceived problem: (Trying to) remove the special protections for the powerful (see, e.g., SLAPP suits and anti-SLAPP laws). Neither approach is a complete success; neither is a complete failure.
— Jerry

Someone this funny law will apply to says:

German politicians and the internet. 2 things that simply can’t go together. Also half of the things proposed in this new law are laready prohibited under German data privacy legislation. (For example Video surveillance of employees’ bathrooms…)
Politicians unfortunately neither know nor care about existing laws.

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