The growing use of social media allows people to share all manner of experiences, no matter how mundane or ridiculous. But the ease with which individuals' adventures can be shared also raises myriad privacy concerns, not the least of which is how much information potential employers have access to.
Employers already use Google and other types of search engines to find information about job applicants, and also review social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
But an incident in the U.S., in which a job seeker was asked to disclose passwords for his Facebook, MySpace and other social media sites, has raised questions about how much access hiring companies should have access to.
Robert Collins worked as a corrections supply officer for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for three years before taking personal leave. When he sought to return his position it had been filled, so he applied for a similar job, a process that state employment policy required re-certification, according to a blog post at the Human Resources Journal website.
In addition to fingerprints, an updated background check and an interview, Collins was questioned about his use of social media and, specifically, whether he had a Facebook account. Collins was told to supply his Facebook login information.
He expressed concern about his privacy, but was told that the department needed the information to safeguard the agency from illegal actions or gang activity on the part of employees, the Journal reports.
Employers' ability to access individuals' posts, photos and other personal information is a worrying new precedent, reports suggest.
A recent survey in the U.K. showed that 42 percent of British students admitted to worrying that their presence on social-media sites could harm their employment chances, London's Daily Mirror reports.
Further, the newspaper says, at least 20 percent and reportedly up to half of employers check Facebook accounts as part of the application process.
The Mirror notes that a recent survey by Australian telecommunication company Telstra showed that 20 percent of bosses also check current employees' Facebook accounts.
Still, there are strategies that job candidates can use to minimize any damage that might result from the discovery of less-than-flattering details, posts or photos.
They include online agencies that now offer to clean up online profiles specifically for job applications. Also, some job applicants have begun using pseudonyms on Facebook to prevent snooping by employers.
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