HR Professional - July/August 2012 - (Page 50)

T E C H NOL O GY & P R I VA C Y WHAT’S IN YOUR PROFILE? BY CHRISTINA HALL AND ADRIAN MIEDEMA Socia l M e d i a a s a Ba c k g round C hec k i ng Tool i n C anada he media has been buzzing recently about the propriety of employers accessing the Facebook, and other social media, accounts of job applicants. Certainly this practice has been on the rise in recent years. A 2009 CareerBuilder survey found that 45 per cent of the 2,600 hiring managers surveyed admitted to checking job applicants’ social networking accounts, compared to only 22 per cent in the previous year.1 However, in March 2012, the issue took a new turn in the United States when the media began reporting a number of stories of applicants who had been asked by their interviewers to provide login information to their Facebook and other social media accounts during recruitment, so that the prospective employer could review the full contents of those accounts. In some cases, applicants reported that hiring managers were requesting that the applicant accept them as a “friend” on Facebook and that they felt pressured to agree to the request. Predictably, these stories set off a firestorm of debate over whether such employer requests are legal, as well as a debate as to where it is appropriate to draw the line between one’s work life and one’s private life in an era in which individuals publish a tremendous amount of information about themselves online. In response to the controversy, Maryland, Illinois and California moved to introduce legislation restricting certain organizations from asking job applicants for access to their social networking accounts. In late April 2012, a bill was tabled in the United States House of Representative called The Social Networking Online Protection Act (which results in the interesting acronym of “SNOPA”) that has a stated goal of prohibiting current and potential employers from requiring a username, password or other access to an applicant’s online content.2 T Concern about employer requests for login information to applicants’ social media accounts quickly spread north of the border to Canada, where the practice of requesting this information appears to be much less common, while no less concerning. Currently, there is no law in Canada that prohibits employers for asking for this information, but neither is there a legal obligation on applicants to provide this information. To date in Canada, the legal debate about social media background checks has instead focused on the risks and benefits associated with conducting checks of an applicant’s publicly available social media accounts. The issue has received particular attention in the provinces that have their own privacy legislation. For example, in late 2011, the privacy commissioners of both British Columbia and Alberta published comprehensive guidelines on the practice of social media background checks.3 However, even in provinces without their own privacy legislation, the topic is garnering increasing attention. The Ontario Human Rights Commission recently issued a statement strongly cautioning employers against social media background checks on the basis that much of the information gleaned from such checks could include direct or indirect information related to any or all of the prohibited ground of discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code (such as age, religion, sex, disability, etc.). Even more recently, on April 23, 2012, legislation has been introduced in Nova Scotia to amend the province’s Labour Standards Code to prohibit an employer from requiring an employee or applicant to provide access to his or her social networking accounts and from discriminating against the individual for refusing to provide such access. Given all of the attention that is being brought to bear on the issue of social media background checks, we think it is fair to say that this is an area of the law that is likely to evolve in Canada HR P R OF E S S I ON A L 50 J u l y / A u g u s t 2 0 1 2

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of HR Professional - July/August 2012

Editor's Letter
Leadership Matters
The End of Reviews as We Know Them
Coaching: Blazing Your Own Trail
Mentoring the Future
HR 101
Interview with an HR Hero: Sheila Rider
Off The Shelf
Technology & Privacy
The Last Word

HR Professional - July/August 2012