Landing : Athabascau University

Fishbowl Debate - Social media being used as a human resource tool by employers

The use of social media has become quite a popular trend over the past decade or so. In recent years, it has become so popular that employers and corporate organizations sometimes result to social media to dig up information about their employees. For example, when I was interviewed for my current position, I had to sign a form which permitted my employer to do a background check on me including past employment, education, check for criminal history etc. One interesting phrase that caught my attention was one which paraphrased said something like “by signing this document, I authorize ABC company to do a background check on me including review of public data and records such as social media accounts”. I was not bothered since I use social media sparingly as my paranoia would not let me post anything I consider personal on social media.

The question now becomes, should employers be allowed to do this? Should an employee’s personal live not be separate from what they do at work? There is no definitive answer to these questions.  Many organizations such as governments, Security contractors and public officials are often required to abide by certain codes of conduct which are enforced beyond the walls of the organization. I heard of an interesting policy which was being enforced by Manitoba Public Insurance on its employees. It stated that if an employee is charged with certain traffic violations (specifically operating a handheld device while driving), that can constitute as grounds for dismissal from the company. This is a good example of a company policy that can affect employees even when they are not at work.

With the above analogy in mind, it would make sense that organizations use resources at their disposal (including social media) to ensure that employees comply with company regulations. As long as organizations are not breaking any laws to (e.g. hacking into employees social media accounts) access employee social media accounts, there are no laws preventing them from evaluating employees based on social media. Employees, when hired are often required to agree to certain policies and standards before they commence employment.

One important thing to note that access to social media accounts are based on how an individual has their privacy setting configured. Many social media platforms have the option to make your profile public or private. Most people never bother to configure these settings which leave their profiles somewhat exposed to public consumption. Personally, I subscribe to these notions; secure your social media accounts as much as possible by changing default settings and don’t post or share any data you consider private or confidential on social media, knowing that such data may one day be accessed by unwanted parties



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