Should employers stalk employees and job seekers on social media?


There was once a time when it was pretty easy to lead a separate personal and professional life. However today, with social media it has become almost impossible. Today, personal activities on social media can influence our work life; employees have been fired over controversial social media posts and applicants have lost job opportunities due to findings made on social media by potential employers.

Yet, the growing trend of employers vetting employees and potential employees via social media platforms has generated debates. Today many employers look through candidate’s social media profile to determine their suitability for a role. Zishan Khan, Managing director of Terra Casa Real Estate in Dubai said, “A candidate’s Facebook posts, Twitter comments, Instagram pictures, YouTube uploads and even “likes” can determine whether he or she will be able to secure the job they have been pursuing.

However social media vetting has raised privacy concerns and people have also spoken up against being judged by personal preferences which have no direct effect on their job performance.

According to the updated guidance from the Article 29 Working Party, “employers can now screen employees by collecting information regarding their friends, opinions, beliefs, interests, habits, whereabouts, attitudes and behaviours”.

Clearly, an individual’s social media profile puts way too much information in the hands of employers and this can lead to bias. Despite some of the benefits of monitoring employees on social media, since employers are only humans, there is a high tendency for them to be offended by the private behaviour of employees or potential employees that do not align with their personal values.

According to the Wall Street Journal , Lewis Maltby the president of the National Workrights Institute revealed that employers have fired employees for reasons that have nothing to do with work. For example, some people have lost their job because of their religion and political opinions. Lewis also goes on to say; ‘I have spoken to otherwise fair employees who refuse to hire anyone who has party pictures on their Facebook page’

However, the heads of Europe’s top data protection authorities are clearly out to protect the privacy of employee personal data as the Article 29 working party guidance also states that;

“Employers should not assume that merely because an individual’s social media profile is publicly available they are then allowed to process the data” and that social media profiles should only be checked when relevant to the performance of the job being applied for.

Unfortunately, the privacy of the personal data of employees is not a popular subject around here, so employees and job seekers should be careful with what they leave visible to the peering eyes of some employers on social media. Employers must also be cautious about how they use personal data on social media in the workplace.