Do you have the right to expect privacy on the Internet?

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According to Jonathan Bick from Law.com, “From a legal prospective, some sources suggest that an employer who does not search social networks for readily available information may be negligent in their hiring practices.” What do you think? Should there be some kind of line in the sand (legal or otherwise) for worker privacy? A lot of younger employees think so. I debated Dave McMahon in a Face-Off, a co-op from Boston University about the topic recently. There's a Worker's Privacy Act in Congress which might protect union workers -- but what about everyone else?

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The Worker’s Privacy Act faces the Washington State legislature. It attempts to limit the ability of employers to require employees to be lectured to or trained in non-business matters (such as political views). It does not address an expectation of privacy that an employee may have.

Do “younger” workers actually expect that an employer would not have access to information that is publicly available? I realize that there have been news reports of persons who, for example, indiscreetly update their Facebook status (“I’m soooooo bored at work…”). I’d lump these news items with the dumb crook stories (“stole a security camera but not before it had taken his picture”). I wouldn’t generalize from these anomalous instances.

But one should always answer the question that was asked: Do you have the right to expect privacy on the Internet? Yes, as a “right”, you can have any expectation you choose. Be aware that your expectation will not be met.

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I’ve only been involved in the hiring process, from the “Hirer” side, a few times, and then usually as the person who asks some technical experience questions, then interprets the answers for the HR person. We have used information, that is PUBLICLLY posted on sites such a face book and MySpace as PART of the package for the decision making of who gets hired. People who post pictures of themselves involved in questionable activities kind of create a double whammy for themselves, first they created a situation where they were perhaps drunk, naked, and painted bright blue while standing on the roof of a moving car, if that is what you do for fun, there might be some issues that could migrate to your job. If you CHOOSE TO PUBLICLY POST evidence of such behavior, then there are bigger problems related to intelligence and responsibility that might eliminate your resume from the “possible” pile. I think that some people believe they are entitled to a job, this is not so, you at best are entitled to an opportunity to prove you can do the job. Unless you are some kind of socialite/actor/RAP star, proudly sharing your naked, drunk, blue posterior with the world will probably only cause you grief on the job search. Is it fair? “Fairness” is irrelevant in these kinds of cases; I see the images posted on such sites as potential “Idiot Filters” for employers. HR departments are responsible for finding good employees; those that strive to earn a Darwin Award should be removed from the candidate pool.
Just my 0010 cents.
-Flame

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  • Denny Cherry
    I agree with RKlanke. You have the right to expect what ever you want, but if you post information on the internet for public view, then anyone can look at it. You don't get to post information in the public space and then complain when people see it. When looking for a job, I Google for the company, and the people that I'll be interviewing with to see who they are, and what there level of technical knowledge is as well as to get a general sense of who they are and if I'll like working for/with them. If for example I found pictures of them which were dated recently of them using drugs, then I probably don't want to work for/with them. Now if the pictures are from when they were 18 and they are in there 30s now, I understand some youthful indiscretion. The youth of today need to understand that public means public. Anything you post on the Internet you should be prepared for your parents, grand-parents, teachers and employer to find. If you don't think they will find it, or that they shouldn't be allowed to find it you are delirious. Companies need to be very careful about who they hire, especially today when margins are tight and companies could end up out of business after a couple of bad months. Part of the due diligence when hiring a new employee is a background check which will include a Google/MySpace/Facebook search. If you don't think its fare, to bad. Life, and especially work isn't fare.
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  • Kevin Beaver
    One might expect this in Europe and other Socialist nations but not here in the U.S. as of now...That's changing by the minute though. :| I have some friends who say the younger workers demand "rights" such as these in the workplace all the time. In the end: when posting online if you choose the behavior you choose the consequences...
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  • ToddN2000
    I think privacy is what you make it. IF you don'y want people to know things about you like your birthday, where you went to school, married, divorced, etc... Don't post it on the internet. Someone may grab your data and re-post without it your knowledge. That is how a lot of identity theft occurs.. get one or 2 pieces from this site, another 2 from this site..put it together and voila ! 
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  • Kevin Beaver
    Great points Todd...be it a vulnerable Web application or personal information, if you put it out there people are going to play with it - and likely exploit it!
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