Germany weighing ban on employers’ use of Facebook to monitor workers and applicants

David Jolly, reporting for the New York Times (link here), recently wrote about proposed German legislation that would prohibit employers from using Facebook and other social network media to check up on workers and applicants:

The bill would allow managers to search for publicly accessible information about prospective employees on the Web and to view their pages on job networking sites, like LinkedIn or Xing. But it would draw the line at purely social networking sites like Facebook….

The bill has the support of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet.

History and law making

When it comes to law making, it’s important to remember that both historical and recent events can influence the fortunes of proposed legislation. As Jolly further notes:

Germany’s Nazi-era history has made the country extremely cautious on matters of individual privacy. Concerns have been heightened in recent years by scandals involving companies’ secret videotaping of employees, as well as intercepting their e-mail and bank data.

Mixed uses in the USA

Would such a ban be feasible in the United States? Probably not.

Politically speaking, it would likely take some high profile instances of egregious employer misuse of personal information gathered from Facebook or a similar site to fuel the possible passage of a similar law.

More practically speaking, we have the simple fact that uses of sites like Facebook frequently mix social relationships and work-related matters. For example, writers, artists, and entrepreneurs often use Facebook to promote their work, as well as to keep up with friends. Many businesses and non-profit organizations also maintain a presence on Facebook, and this practice appears to be on the upswing.

Amid this electronic frontier — truly a world without secrets — it behooves each of us to exercise common sense about what we post on Facebook or any other online site, especially items that are publicly or quasi-publicly accessible.

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