EMPLOYERS have been warned against using social networking sites to vet job candidates. Jersey’s data protection commissioner, Emma Martins, said that relying on the internet was a ‘scandalous’ and unreliable way to recruit employees. She added that businesses should have higher standards when it came to hiring staff. ‘The internet is a pot of unregulated space,’ she said. ‘It can be a source of useful information but is equally a source of inaccurate information. To base any decision that affects someone’s life on information from the internet is, I would go so far as to say, scandalous. Employment can affect the direction of someone’s life and their ability to do a job should not be based on random information. ‘If you are a professional organisation, you should have high standards when you source information on potential employees. When you search online for someone you could be using inaccurate data. In which other areas of your business would you rely on inaccurate data?’ This is Jersey-20th Nov 2009
If Facebook was a country it would be the fourth most populous on the planet. What makes us want to share our lives with others in a way that might prejudice our employment prospects? It seems that individuals have voted with their fingers on that one! The right to proclaim our identity through photos, contact lists, blogs and comments has been asserted across the Western world and beyond.
Emma Martens’ comments were made to a newspaper in Jersey but were read by me in Windsor and read by you where you are. I have put some context to her remarks by leaving the rest of the article. There is a wider context that those living and working in Jersey will be aware of but cannot be explained here.
Emma was able to comment in a controlled environment but the comments have become, through on-line publication, a catalyst for this post. Many people’s on-line profile is controlled by forces of which they have no control- think of the chap brushing his teeth at the Chelsea v Man U game- television translating to You-tube will shape the way many people think of the fellow for months and years to come- that the camera panned to him brushing his teeth while watching the game may be the most significant moment of his on-line life!
In fifty years time, Generation Y’s on-line profiles will be replete with such on-line incidents, indelible to their on-line and off line reputations.
We will not be able to stop this process with data protection rules. The force of the web tsunami will wash them away. Emma’s advice leads me to the old proverb”judge not that ye be not judged!”. “Relying” on on-line profiles is a problem that needs attention from us all, not just those in Government.