As anyone who has been part of a newsworthy event can testify, media reporting sometimes tells the truth, but rarely the whole truth, and almost never nothing but the truth.
Barely a day goes past when I have not seen media articles in the mainstream business news such as the FT, NYT, Forbes etc., or opinion from illustrious management commentators at Harvard Business Review and the like, on how employers and recruiters are tapping into social media and checking up on people. Not to mention the myriad blog posts and tweets on the subject. Somewhat against the current I have, for more than sometime, had doubts about all this given the number of people I know who keep their Facebook profiles well and truly locked down.
This week the Pew Research Center revealed that only 20% of users keep their profiles fully public on social media. More importantly 60% of users between the ages of 18 and 50 are keeping their profiles fully private, and a further 17 – 20% of users keep profiles partially private.
See – Privacy Management on Social Media Sites
Given the above perhaps the idea that employers and recruiters are checking up on potential hires and existing staff is a little overhyped? Given the above one also has to wonder about applications that claim to be able to evaluate employee suitability based on analysis of a Facebook profile – not much use if most profiles are not available to evaluate! There are companies who specialize in doing so called deep background checks on potential hires, but I suspect a minority of firms use them and that they are using methods that border the line between legal and illegal, plus they are likely to be guilty of an invasion of privacy – sooner or later there will be a high profile court case.
Clearly privacy matters, and as noted last August over at the HRN Europe blog on Privacy Matters & Social Media Trends government is going to regulate internet privacy – the EU is already on the case.
Personally, I share Mark Zuckerberg’s view and favour transparency and openness. It’s a pity LinkedIn hasn’t woken up to this and put an end to the ability of users / recruiters / stalkers / voyeurs to browse profiles anonymously.
What’s your view?
Peter is co-founder of the Pan Europe HR Network.