Ever since checking Facebook first thing in the morning became the norm, we live our lives online - from #bloggers posting about their every move to you and I liking, sharing and commenting on people we barely know. We’re living in a post-privacy world. It’s become widely accepted that anyone and everyone can snoop, “creep” or even indulge in public shaming online. There’s no line, no privacy, and no one to hold us back.

Justine Sacco infamously felt the impact of this modern conundrum when one ill-advised tweet left her without a job. Now, the WP29 want to make us more aware of our social media and enforce legislation which protects our information from potential employers.

In conjunction with recent GDPR talks in Europe and increased privacy legislation, it’s now likely that in the future it will be illegal for employers to snoop on job candidate’s social media profiles. This would mean that your future boss won’t be allowed look through your Instagram, Twitter or Facebook posts – unless they have a direct reason to do so.

The people behind these recommendations are the WP29, a group made up of representatives of each of the EU’s national data watchdogs. The opinions of this group aren’t legally binding, but they are heavily influential so are worth noting.

What the potential ban would mean

The WP29 argue that employers should not search potential employees Facebook or Twitter, unless they have an explicit reason to do so. For example, if an employer heard a potential employee was bad mouthing the company online this would be a valid reason to check a person’s Facebook page. However, if while on the person’s Facebook page they noticed other unnecessary information this must be ignored.

What is defined as necessary and relevant differs from country to country, but this will be unified and made clearer once GDPR is enforced in 2018.

The WP29 adds that before prospective employees submit a job application, the company must tell the applicant if they plan to check their social media platforms, and employers cannot force employees to accept friend or connection requests.

Key points to be aware of

The aim of the ban is to reinforce privacy, decrease discrimination and avoid unconscious bias.

- Just because information is public doesn’t mean it should be reviewed unnecessarily.

- Job applicants must be made aware from the offset that their social media will be viewed.

- Social media profiles should only ever be looked at to review relevant information.

- Profiles used for business aren’t likely to be affected – e.g LinkedIn

- If an employer sends a friend or follower request you are not obliged to accept, and this shouldn’t be held against you.

In the current digital age, where we document our every move it can be easy to accept a personal or business connection scanning through your social media but it’s important to remember that sometimes privacy should come first. The above opinions aren’t currently enforced by law, but are likely to come into play once GDPR legislation is introduced in 2018. In the meantime, be mindful of what you post and always keep your privacy settings up to date.

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