Regulating the Use of Social Media Data

If you were to walk into my office, I’d have a pretty decent sense of your gender, your age, your race, and other identity markers. My knowledge wouldn’t be perfect, but it would give me plenty of information that I could use to discriminate against you if I felt like it. The law doesn’t prohibit me for “collecting” this information in a job interview nor does it say that discrimination is acceptable if you “shared” this information with me. That’s good news given that faking what’s written on your body is bloody hard. What the law does is regulate how this information can be used by me, the theoretical employer. This doesn’t put an end to all discrimination – plenty of people are discriminated against based on what’s written on their bodies – but it does provide you with legal rights if you think you were discriminated against and it forces the employer to think twice about hiring practices.

The Internet has made it possible for you to create digital bodies that reflect a whole lot more than your demographics. Your online profiles convey a lot about you, but that content is produced in a context. And, more often than not, that context has nothing to do with employment. This creates an interesting conundrum. Should employers have the right to discriminate against you because of your Facebook profile? One might argue that they should because such a profile reflects your “character” or your priorities or your public presence. Personally, I think that’s just code for discriminating against you because you’re not like me, the theoretical employer.

Of course, it’s a tough call. Hiring is hard. We’re always looking for better ways to judge someone and goddess knows that an interview plus resume is rarely the best way to assess whether or not there’s a “good fit.” It’s far too tempting to jump on the Internet and try to figure out who someone is based on what we can drudge up online. This might be reasonable if only we were reasonable judges of people’s signaling or remotely good at assessing them in context. Cuz it’s a whole lot harder to assess someone’s professional sensibilities by their social activities if they come from a world different than our own.

Given this, I was fascinated to learn that the German government is proposing legislation that would put restrictions on what Internet content employers could use when recruiting.

A decade ago, all of our legal approaches to the Internet focused on what data online companies could collect. This makes sense if you think of the Internet as a broadcast medium. But then along came the mainstreamification of social media and user-generated content. People are sharing content left right and center as part of their daily sociable practices. They’re sharing as if the Internet is a social place, not a professional place. More accurately, they’re sharing in a setting where there’s no clear delineation of social and professional spheres. Since social media became popular, folks have continuously talked about how we need to teach people to not share what might cause them professional consternation. Those warnings haven’t worked. And for good reason. What’s professionally questionable to one may be perfectly appropriate to another. Or the social gain one sees might outweigh the professional risks. Or, more simply, people may just be naive.

I’m sick of hearing about how the onus should be entirely on the person doing the sharing. There are darn good reasons in which people share information and just because you can dig it up doesn’t mean that it’s ethical to use it. So I’m delighted by the German move, if for no other reason than to highlight that we need to rethink our regulatory approaches. I strongly believe that we need to spend more time talking about how information is being used and less time talking about how stupid people are for sharing it in the first place.

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35 thoughts on “Regulating the Use of Social Media Data

  1. Barbara

    Well said.

    I have sat through far too many meetings at my place of work and heard people say how they “facebooked” a candidate for a job on campus as part of a fact finding mission / background check, and yet this was without the candidate’s consent and without understanding that using Facebook in this way is in violation of Facebook’s End User License Agreement (EULA).

    When challenged, the response, as you point out here, has been that the candidate should have known better than to make that information available.

    The other remarkably sophomoric (and maddening) response: “We are just doing what everyone else does… it’s a common practice.”

    Everyone now, perhaps, except the Germans. And good for them. May this trend continue and may potential employers respect the fact that many people want to keep their social identities and networks separate from their professional ones.

    And just because you can, does not always mean that you should.

  2. anonymouse

    Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. That seems like a pretty basic rule in social interaction that we seem to have forgotten.

  3. Christian


    I agree that it is incredibly short-sighted to draw conclusions about individuals based on their social profiles, however I argue that regulation is not the solution.

    First, drafting legislation that can adequately elucidate guidelines regarding what can and cannot be used would be a nifty feat. Second, actually proving that an individual was discriminated against based on their social networking data would likely be incredibly difficult – the margin of error would be spectacular. Third, in defense of such companies, individuals’ social profiles are in fact an indicator of character. Beyond just the data itself, both the manner in which it is posted (punctuation, diction, etc.) and the willingness to expose it (depending, of course, on the data), are both significant representatives.

    Now, I would estimate that it is not, in all cases, sufficient information for a final verdict, but it most certainly can and should weigh into the decision regarding whether or not someone would be a proper fit for the company.

    That all said, if a company’s policy is to ‘discriminate against’ (reject) individuals based on their social networking profile, do we really believe that such a stodgy, socially primitive company would actually be a good fit for said individual? Would that really be a good situation, anyway? I tend to think not. As with all other policies, companies prone to such short-sightedness will suffer in the market as they miss out on potential talent and they will either adapt their policies or flounder – and this will all happen with or without legislation. My hunch, in fact, is that legislation would inhibit the rate with which such an evolution occurs by shielding said companies from their own stupidity. Kinda like bailouts.


  4. Jason Treit

    Well said, danah. This represents the aim-at-the-target approach.

    Again and again commentators bring up employment discrimination as grounds for panic about open sharing and search, with nobody batting an eye at the prospective employer’s culpability. As if every norm or law imposing checks against agents of power who might misuse information trembles in the wake of binary digits. To conflate issues of access with issues of use is deeply dangerous: otherwise fair hiring would have nothing to say about race or gender discrimination, since the interview process (not to mention the fact of bodily existence) generally makes those details public.

  5. Maxim Weinstein

    I don’t understand why an employer should have less (legal) access to information than anyone else. You may be right that people aren’t very good at making judgments based on social cues, but is an employer likely to make a better/fairer judgment with less information instead of more?

    If it’s truly a privacy issue, then restricting access only by employers makes little sense.

  6. zephoria Post author

    Max – there are limits to what kinds of information employers are allowed to ask for. For example, they aren’t allowed to ask if I’m pregnant. But what if I chose to share a sonogram on Flickr; does that mean that they can use that information when they didn’t ask? Or is asking Google for information about me akin to asking?

    The issue with the information that the employer is getting access to is that they’re using it to judge me. And I have no knowledge about what information they’re using. And no opportunity to correct any misinformation. What if my ex created a smear campaign against me? Should employers have the right to look at what was said about me on AutoAdmit when I didn’t have any control over it?

    When employers run background checks on us, they are required by law to ask. Much of that information is publicly available (albeit a pain in the ass to get). But they’re still required to ask. Why is Googling us any different?

    The issue here is potential for discrimination. Consider LGBT rights. There is no legal protection for gender or sexual orientation. Sadly, queer folks spend a lot of time making themselves appear straight at work in order to reduce the likelihood of being discriminated against. Should they also be required to do so online in social spaces because their boss might be looking? Do you really want the onus to be put on the person engaging in public?

  7. Matthew Chamberlin

    I read the article in today’s Times about the German government contemplating prohibiting employers from trolling facebook. I think it’s a great idea, but I was struck by the juxtaposition just one day earlier of a Times piece by Farhad Manjoo entitled: Social Networkign Your Way to a New Job. The title pretty much sums up the difference between American attitudes about privacy and those of, in this case, Germany. Here’s the link to the Manjoo article Nothing new, earth shattering or even interesting, frankly, but just a funny coincidence.

  8. Josef

    Hi Danah,
    I agree with the idea that looking purely at data creation doesn’t work in a world of user-generated content anymore. However, how to make things “work” isn’t clear to me yet. As much as I appreciate the German (my) government for trying (see the debate on The Economist), some practical concerns remain:

    – in practice, companies will hardly refrain from Google or Facebook. They will, however, stop putting the findings on file.
    – in other words, while collection of data is relatively easy to prove, the burden to prove abuse is impossibly high for all practical purposes. Who would subpoena logs of corporate firewalls just on the suspicion of discrimination without any evidence than a declined application?
    – in other words, the German law, as commendable as the idea is, is practically not enforceable, at least not with respect to facebook and google.
    – to make matters worse, I guess the distinction between “professional social networks” like LinkedIn and Xing on the one hand and “social social networks” like Facebook is going to complicate the matter further. Simple example: Orkut now offers fine-tuned visibility settings depending on audience (still have to try it. Volunteers?). Will Orkut fall in the professional or the social class?
    – Transfer of data is as hard to police as usage of data. The world has experience with that: with the safe harbor deal between EU and US, we’ve tried large scale to no avail. If safe harbor had worked, the entire Facebook debate would run according to EU privacy principles, not according to US standards. See facebook and similar APIs, see archived Web pages: It’s impossible to even find out where the data has gone – both geographically and with respect to the steward of the data. And as long as nobody knows where the data has gone, nobody can police how it’s being used.
    – Last but not least, usage-based legislation is a fair-weather approach. Once the data is “out”, it is practically out of control. When the legal environment changes, the data doesn’t “erase itself”. Examples? – Facebook applying new TOS to old data, a teen gay site going bankrupt and putting the user data in the bankruptcy estate, and of course the German trauma: somebody like Hitler (or, for that matter, Stalin or Pol Pot or any other tyrant of your choice) taking power, grabbing all the data from everywhere and killing everybody who has a certain bit set. Discrimination can be a minor concern… To repeat: once the data is “out”, there is nothing we can do about such things anymore.

    By the way, protection of data from “tyranny” is not even an agreed goal in the debate.

    So here I am, passionate about a privacy regime that works. I know that the old rules don’t work anymore. At the same time, I’m – so far – convinced that usage-based rules are not sufficient, either.

    There is still a lot of work ahead of us.

  9. wida

    i think it just depends on what kind of information shared publicly by job seekers and accessed by the HR. how is this differ from the case of job seeker googling for some info on what kind of company offering him/her a job, before he/she accept the offer? job seekers and companies just have to treat online information as some information that needs confirmation from the other parties.

  10. Jerome Pineau

    Not sure what the big deal is. Digital identity is just one of the many factors you can use in gauging another person. I still believe going to lunch or driving along as a passenger are the top ones in the pecking order 🙂

  11. Maxim Weinstein

    danah, your comparison with background checks is interesting, but it’s a very different policy approach. IANAL, but I’m pretty certain that an employer can refuse to hire someone who won’t submit to a background check *and* can discriminate based on the results of the check. So, this would address the concern about the job candidate knowing what information is being used and being able to address it, but not the privacy issue.

    More broadly, though, I think the German policy is just too specific and arbitrary. You know as well as anyone that social network tools like Facebook are used in different ways by different people. Why should all of the potential value for an employer be eliminated simply because of the *chance* that the employer *might* find something that s/he *could possibly* use to discriminate against the candidate in an inappropriate way? And why arbitrarily decide which social networks are “personal/private” and which aren’t? And why legislate that an employer can’t gather information from your online social networks, when it’s perfectly legal to use your meatspace social networks to do so? (I know, I know… the former is inherently anonymous, while the latter is potentially not; but, in practice, the latter often is, too.)

    I understand your underlying privacy concern, but as public policy, this just makes no sense to me.

  12. Mark Krupinski

    Very interesting topic and fascinating take on individual privacy.

    Although I respect with what the German government is trying to do, I have to disagree with the practice itself and your argument. I know you are sick of hearing that the onus is on the individual who is doing the sharing, but in the realm of employee recruiting I would argue that this is a legitimate example of where publicly shared information should be used & scrutinized along with the onus being on the individual who is doing the sharing.

    My reasons are:

    (1) Every organization has a company culture to nurture, grow and protect. Like any background check, all public information should be reviewed and taken into consideration to ensure the candidate is a good fit for not only the position but also for the culture that they will be spending 40 plus hours a week in. I cannot stress enough that this is not just for the benefit of the organization, but also for the candidate.

    (2) Given the ongoing paradigm shift in communication and that mainstream business is adopting more and more social platforms to engage with internal and external customers, the idea that every employee is a “brand ambassador” of their organization only becomes more vital to the health of the organization. “What’s happening to markets is also happening among employees. A metaphysical construct called ‘The Company’ is the only thing standing between the two.” (The Cluetrain Manifesto, Thesis #13)

    If you agree with this last statement, then like minded individuals who behave a certain way and have certain needs are a best fit for like minded organizations. Given this, everything public should be taken into consideration when hiring a candidate – remember, there are always other companies to work for.

    (3) In our society, employment is an agreement between two consenting adults. Again, information of who you are getting “in bed with” is vital to the relationship otherwise, there could be issues that have a negative influence on either party somewhere down the road.

    Sorry to sound so capitalist in these last three 🙂

    (4) Hindering an organization from using public information about an individual is not the way to combat hiring discrimination nor is it a way to protect individuals who fail to understand the concept of privacy controls and implementation of these controls. To me, it’s a knee jerk action that sets a dangerous precedence for future hindrances.

    Having worked in recruiting via social media for 2 years, I can say that public information is simply taken into consideration when weighing the pros and cons of a candidacy. Topless, Jagermeister swilling college pics that a candidate was tagged in must be taken into context as a whole (ex. it was a picture from college and the candidate is now married with 3 kids) and not necessarily the determining variable for employment.

    I would also argue that the onus should be on the employer to properly educate it’s employees about sharing public information. I only say this because (a) it’s the right thing to do given that most of us have lives that are blurred between personal and professional and (b) it’s vital to the health of a company’s culture in the long run.

    Lastly, I understand the need to rethink our regulatory approaches, but I think these should be focused on the channels with the potential to do the most damage to individual privacy – ex. Facebook, etc.

    Just my two cents.

    Great blog, long time fan.


  13. Hal Thomas

    The continued insistence that the onus of protecting one’s privacy in social networks lies somewhere other than the individuals who voluntarily make their information publicly available is illustrative of one of the most dangerous trends in western culture: we want unlimited freedom of expression without having to take any responsibility for our actions.

    From a job seeker’s perspective, why would you want to work for an employer who might not hire you because of your race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation? Chances are, if you were to land such a job you eventually be miserable. The same can be asked of an employer who may choose not to hire you because you were in a college fraternity/sorority or because from your Facebook page it looks like you have a little too much fun on the weekends.

    Every workplace has its own culture; that’s normal. As such, not every candidate is going to fit within in every workplace culture for reasons that often have nothing to do with lack of education/experience. Some people have argumentative spirits; some are chronically sarcastic; others are just a-holes. It’s okay for people to be different, and it’s okay if some people—for reasons other than education/experience—just might not be a good fit for an organization. That doesn’t necessarily equate to discrimination.

    Most of the fear about the potential for discrimination seems to stem from a core belief that more employers than not discriminate in their hiring practices. In twenty years of working for organizations of varying sizes and with diverse groups of co-workers, I have not observed this to be true.

    There is little doubt in my mind that the best organizations are ones that value diversity in their employees in terms of personality, education, experience and cultural perspectives. Organizations that discriminate based on things like race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation rarely ever achieve greatness. So who aspires to work for a sub par company?

    I, for one, am careful about what I share online. I don’t share as much as some, but I share a lot more than most. While my Facebook page stays pretty much locked down, my Twitter feed and blog are pretty much an open book (they even played a crucial role landing my current job). From these sources, it’s pretty easy to glean that I can be insightful and playful, creative and analytical, and that at then end of the day I have a real desire to make people smarter because of the time they spend with me. It is also evident that on occasion my passion and indignation sometimes make me quicker to speak than I’m proud of.

    That’s the real me. I want an employer who values me for who I am, not who they want me to be. If I were to be hired by an employer that does not think my pros outweigh my cons, then eventually one or both of us would be miserable.

  14. Donna

    I couldn’t agree more,doesn’t mean it’s available we should use it. But,the stupidity of people in sharing information should also be considered.

  15. direwolff

    First fm a devil’s advocate perspective, would you say that if an employer were to find out that a prospective employee had committed a crime as a result of something written on a social network, that they should not use this to factor into their hiring decision?

    As it relates to your thoughts on better regulating use, this is very consistent w/several other thoughtful people as well like Daniel Solove, Paul Rosenzweig and Paul Ohm among others. The concept that information about us is created and collected according to one context and used for another is certainly disturbing. With the ease of aggregating data about us from various sources, how this is used is where the oversight is most needed. Having said that, it could be very difficult to articulate acceptable use short of listing use-cases and amending these as we see new ways data is being aggregated. Definitely an area worth spending time to define however.

  16. direwolff

    One more thing, for those saying that people over share, that’s begging the question. I like to use the motorcycle analogy. The danger is riding a motorcycle isn’t that you as a driver will make a mistake, but rather that all those other nutty drivers in cars on the road could hit you and your less equipped to deal with those consequences. Same with information online, it’s not about what you share, but what everyone else is sharing about you that you are not aware of.

  17. Lukas


    Consider LGBT rights. There is no legal protection for gender or sexual orientation.

    At least in Germany, there is. The Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz, enacted in 2006 and necessitated by EU directives which make such a law mandatory for all EU member states, prohibits employers from discriminating based on ethnic origin, gender, religion, sexual identity, age, etc. To name but one example, job descriptions are no longer allowed to address a single gender: If you’re looking for an engineer, the job ad must read “Ingenieur/in”, conversely, a kindergarten teacher must be a “Kindergärtner/in”. Mundane as this may sound, the law applies to a very broad set of societal situations and infringement is punished with significant fines.

  18. feisty_jenn

    Hal, you wrote: “The continued insistence that the onus of protecting one’s privacy in social networks lies somewhere other than the individuals who voluntarily make their information publicly available is illustrative of one of the most dangerous trends in western culture: we want unlimited freedom of expression without having to take any responsibility for our actions.”

    I absolutely disagree. In fact, it seems to me that the insistence in our culture (by regulatory bodies, the media, and private organizations alike) is a form of responsibilization — individuals are unable to rely on the State to protect them (indeed, are not encouraged to do so), but instead are convinced (through multiple messages and expectations) that it is their obligation, perhaps even their moral duty, to protect themselves. Frankly, i find this focus on the “stupid user” incredibly frustrating, and whether its effective or not I applaud Germany for at least moving to name the problem and attempt to address it. It’s short sighted to focus only on the user — indeed, even if you accept (and I don’t tend to) that it is possible for any user to understand the TOU and Privacy Policies, understand the information flows, be cognizant of not only who her current audience is but who future audiences may be and what inferences any of these audiences may draw, etc i think that it should be recognized that there’s a quasi-fiduciary duty that rests upon any organization that builds a business and revenue model upon the personal information of users.

    As for the question of not wanting to work for an employer that would draw such inferences or discriminate on the basis of them, it seems to me that there’s a vast amount of privilege behind such a statement — for many, employment income isn’t an optional revenue stream such that they can hold out for the perfect fit, rather its a necessity, and one that may well require compromise.

  19. Jason Treit

    Talk of “two consenting adults” is decidedly off target. Competitive forces and policymakers both laid the keel for long-settled fair hiring laws. Take danah’s point re: sonogram pictures. Accessible != acceptable. Even around information that’s out in the open, the law draws clear boundaries of discretion.

    I agree the German proposal would make for brittle policy if it came down to “facebook no, LinkedIn OK”. Still, it doesn’t strain logic to accept the medium of seeking as distinct from the character of information sought while still classifying and guarding against inappropriate seeking. If a hirer deliberately exits the zone of volunteered information, interview responses, references, and formal background checks – already an outlier, I agree – they are being no less recklessly prejudicial than if they had asked off-limits interview questions point blank. And, as judges may sequester jurors in the interest of a fair trial, legislators may suspend businesses’ normal liberties in the interest of fair hiring. Having power over others means being subject to checks.

  20. CoCreatr

    Good points. “Social networking” as a form of human connection has been practiced far longer than the Internet exists. In most prosperous societies it is respected as private life, none of business’s business. Now that people put more of their personal details on record, snooping has become that much faster and more focused, yet harder to detect.

    Isn’t it obvious, in most places social life is not considered “professional networking”, and out of consideration for a professional hiring decision. Hence the lawmakers draw a line. Kudos. How much it helps remains to be seen, because discrimination would be hard to prove. Disclosure: I am German.

  21. Thor Kottelin

    In Finland, employers are prohibited by law from collecting personal data about job applicants without the consent of the latter. Act on the Protection of Privacy in Working Life (759/2004), chapter 1, section 2, subsection 2 and chapter 2, section 4, subsection 1.

    (Why is it impossible to leave a comment here without allowing cookies?)

  22. Adrian

    I agree with Mark that companies should take publicly available information into account when doing hiring decisions. A more informed decision is for the benefit of both the organization and the candidate! Making it harder for companies to make good hiring decision will not help to fight discrimination. On the opposite, the higher the risk of a new hire he less likely are companies to hire full time employees … which is actually already the case in Germany, you can basically not fire an employee even not for a good reason (which is very different from the US) so companies switched from full time to temporary hires or just ask the current staff to work over time! Increasing the risk of companies will never be for the benefit of their employees in the long term. This is just yet another short sighted German law.

  23. OlliS

    In Finland the legislation is sort of similar:eEmployers are only allowed to use information provided by the applicant. (Of course it would be very hard if they did so.) So it’s no googling, no calling old bosses, etc.

  24. Andrew

    Discrimination is the enemy.

    Information is not the enemy.

    You cannot hide the flow of information behind laws. Many hires are based on friends and connections. I’ve hired people who i’m already connected to on social networks. What am i supposed to do under these German laws; unfriend them and pretend everything i’ve seen about them never existed? If i went to someone’s baby shower I cannot wipe the memory that they are pregnant out of my mind! Information flow cannot be regulated.

    Personal information is critical for many hires. You talk to connections, you ask references, and almost never is that information allowed to be verified by the applicant. Public information on the internet is simply another reference.

  25. deeharvey

    IANAL but it is my understanding that in the UK existing data protection laws arguably prohibit this kind of trawling by companies. I have certainly read advice from employment lawyers to prospective employers cautioning that this kind of action leaves them open to discrimination cases.

    From a recent blog post I wrote about this issue (inspired by something I read on this blog):
    “In the UK there are restrictions on what information a prospective employer may gather, as well as a requirement that the applicant is made aware of what information about them is being collected. has relevant documentation.”

    As for “who wants to work fora subparr company”? How about “a person who really needs the money?”. I’m sure there are plenty of people who’d prefer to work for a company with racist hiring practises than have no job at all.

  26. MMR

    “The Internet has made it possible for you to create digital bodies that reflect a whole lot more than your demographics. Your online profiles convey a lot about you, but that content is produced in a context.”

    Your comments on this are very interesting. I’ve always been wondering about that. Great post.

  27. KathiB

    How is a facebook page or a Twitter post any different than wearing a go-to-hell tshirt into an interview?

    If a person is going to present him/herself in such a light, why would that be the employer’s fault? When I was a young professional woman, I knew employers would have concerns about how much work I would miss for maternity leave, and if I would come back. I went into interviews and freely addressed the subject. I told them when I intended to have my next baby and that I was intending to return to work 6 weeks later but could work from home.I wasn’t right for some jobs, but I didn’t have any trouble getting hired, There were no surprises, either.

    What if I had posted that on Linkedin or Facebok? Would the rules change because I put it in print? (Now where did I put that tshirt…)

  28. Tayler

    Danah- I find your blog to be very intriguing. I completely agree with your take on this situation. Just because a person has the information does not mean it should be used. I am very happy that the German government is recognizing this form of discrimination as wrong.

    I am currently a senior in college and this is something talked about frequently. Everyone is always saying, “Make sure and delete your facebook before a job interview.” This is scary because it does imply that I will be discriminated against in my interview because of what is on my facebook or other social network sites. I do not believe this is right. Facebook is something that is very useful in college and I am not going to stop using mine just because I may be wrongly discriminated against. What has happened to my rights? The Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 serve as guidelines for fair treatment in the workplace. In addition, each state has its own laws. If race, gender, religion, etc. are not allowed to be discriminated against then neither should how my facebook profile reflects my “character”.

    KathiB- I am not naive to the fact that there are social prejudices in the work place because I have personally experienced it. Just because a person may have an opinion about what they think your “character” is like based on a social website does mean they should be allowed to discriminate against it. In your example you are specifically talking about being pregnant, which is written on your body. We are talking about what is written online. The rules do change if they had previously judged you by social website. In person you had a chance to address the situation and for the employer to get a better perception of who you are and where you are coming from. If you had been discriminated against by something you said on a website you would have never had the opportunity to present your side.

  29. Courtney Hunt

    I enjoyed reading this post, and especially the comments it inspired. They provide a nice complement to a blog post/white paper I recently wrote entitled Social Screening: Candidates – and Employers – Beware. Here are links to each:

    I plan to write a follow-up post and will include a link to this piece in it.

    Courtney Hunt
    Founder, Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community

  30. Julia

    I disagree with your argument that employers shouldn’t look at Facebook profiles before they hire their employees. Even though it may seem morally wrong to find this insider information, it certainly should be warranted. I believe that employers have the right to learn everything they can about the person that they are potentially hiring. The person being interviewed may seem perfectly nice and hardworking in person, but they really are addicted to drugs and will call in sick most Mondays if they are hired due to their crazy weekends. The worker who lives that lifestyle is probably not the best fit for the job because they will end up hurting the company more than they will help the company by coming to work hungover and not performing their best during the workday. Considering that the person hiring this employee is putting their job on the line for them, they should have every right to learn everything that they can about this potential employee.
    Character is very important in the workplace. If someone participates in activities (drugs, for example) that hint at bad character, the employer should learn about the problems before they become their own problems after they hire this employee. If the employee has nothing to hide and truly is the good person that they try to come across as in the interview, why would they be bothered by someone viewing their public profile?

  31. Aristotle Pagaltzis


    I was struck by the juxtaposition just one day earlier of a Times piece by Farhad Manjoo entitled: Social Networkign Your Way to a New Job. The title pretty much sums up the difference between American attitudes about privacy and those of, in this case, Germany.

    It says plenty indeed. But maybe what it says is less positive than I presume you meant.

    I wonder: is relentless self-promotion the character quality a society should encourage? Is it desirable to promote turning oneself into a billboard for one’s personal brand, to the excision of all else, even in what would otherwise constitute leisure time?

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