These days, personal information of others is often at your fingertips.
Googling or searching social media can give you a lot of insight into others – some of it truthful, some not. But, as an employer, are you allowed to search the internet for potential hires? Maybe, but be cautious.
Searching a person online and particularly their social media is considered to be a collection of personal information.
This is the case even if you just review the search and do not save or print it. Whether an employer is permitted to search a possible hire online is determined by what the purpose of the search is, and whether it is reasonable. Establishing an employment relationship is often sufficient to be considered reasonable.
However, while an employer does not need a potential hire’s consent to conduct an online search, privacy law requires an employer to give advanced notice that they intend to conduct a search and explain how the information can be used.
An employer’s online search of potential hires can present several privacy pitfalls for employers, some of which include:
- An employer may be subjected to privacy complaints if they fail to give advanced notice of their intention to conduct an online search.
- Collection of personal information must be reasonable and limited to what is necessary for the purpose for which it is collected. The nature of social media pages makes it nearly impossible to limit the collection of information to what is necessary to the employer’s purpose.
- Employers also need to ensure that the information they collect is accurate, complete and current. Social media often presents an inaccurate or incomplete picture.
- Finally, employers need to be aware of other legislation that can affect the decisions made after a social media check is conducted. For example, employers may face consequences under human rights legislation if a candidate is not hired after a social media check, and the check had revealed a characteristic of the candidate that falls under one of the protected grounds.