Is Your Candidate’s Facebook Page Fair Game For Background Screening?

Robert Capwell

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Social Media For Background ScreeningA recent survey published in the June 2011 issue of Consumer Reports Magazine revealed that ONE in SEVEN active Facebook users altered some personally identifiable information on their profile to protect their identity. 

Information such as the user’s name, profile picture, location, marital status, date of birth, employment history, education and even the posting of false personal activities or whereabouts can easily be created by a social media user. With the broad flexibility and freedom that the Internet provides, everyone has the capability to post almost anything to their account profile. Knowing whether the information is based on fact or fiction is the issue that should cause concern with all HR Professionals and Hiring Managers using this information for decision-making.  If a job seeker wanted to create a website and post a padded resume, claim certain educational credentials or even produce a white paper claiming to be a subject matter expert, they could do so with great ease.
 
It’s not just the fact or fiction factor that is the only concern when using social media as part of the recruiting/screening process.  HR professionals and recruiters need to fully understand the pitfalls and legal concerns that the use of social media information brings to the hiring or retention process.
 

Here are a few pitfalls and legal concerns:

  • Absence of credible sources to properly vet the information being posted on a candidate’s social media profile.
  • Information provided within a member’s profile can reveal race, marital status, religion, age or medical condition and, if used to discriminate against employment eligibility, could violate EEOC and ADA regulations.
  • Terms and conditions stated within social media membership agreements clearly state that sites only be used by its members and not used for anything that is unlawful, misleading, malicious, or discriminatory.
  • Certain states have common law rights applying privacy to employers which could affect the information being accessed.
  • Some states have statutes that protect legal activity from being considered for employment decisions.
     

Questions you should ask yourself when using social media:

  • Are you disclosing the use of social media accounts to your applicants/employees?
  • Do you have consent from your candidate/employee to access?
  • Are you accessing a candidate’s/employee’s social media account by using false or misleading credentials?
  • Do you have a documented policy on consistent use when using for screening purposes?
  • Who has access to such information? 
  • At what point in the screening process is this information being used?
  • What resources are being used and are they used consistently across the board?
  • What happens with the information you discover; is it actionable? 
  • Are you infringing on rights of privacy or discriminating against an individual in anyway?
  • Will the information discovered inhibit the candidate/employee from doing their job?
  • Do you have a corporate training program on the proper use of social media and privacy settings? 

Social media has become a vast resource of information and certainly tempting for HR Professionals and Recruiters to seek out its information treasures; however, users need to understand the credibility, inconsistency and legal ramifications of its use.  You should always consider working with a professional consumer reporting agency/background screening firm that will properly vet the credentials of your candidate and follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and other state and local regulations to keep you compliant.

EBI is committed to providing employers with valuable education, news and resources around background screening, drug testing, occupational healthcare and employment eligibility.  All content provided by EBI is published for the convenience of its readers and should never be deemed as legal guidance or advice.  Always consult your legal counsel for specific advice on local laws and industry regulations.

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Background Checks

Robert Capwell

Posted By: Robert Capwell

EBI’s Chief Knowledge Officer, Mr. Robert E. Capwell, is considered one of the leading experts in the background screening industry with over 22 years of experience in the field. Mr. Capwell was a contributing author of the second edition of the ASIS Pre-employment Background Screening Guidelines and has written numerous articles and whitepapers for various publications including a periodic column on background screening for The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Online. He has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Human Resource Executive Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, and several HR-related publications. Mr. Capwell speaks regularly to industry colleagues and HR Professionals both nationally and internationally.

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