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Should Employers Have The Right To Access Employees Social Media Accounts?

Holly Hicks,

Should Employers Have The Right To Access Employees Social Media Accounts?

It has been said that, just as the right to free speech does not imply a right to be heard, the right to free expression does not confer absolute privacy of that message. This concept has been used, by many employers, to identify those individuals who do not conform to the culture those employers are trying to maintain at their places of business.

In a nutshell, this means that they will often access a potential employee’s social media sites to determine what they could never find out during the interview process. By looking at social media sites, employers can often discover things that are embarrassing to the potential hire and discover things that a person might not otherwise volunteer. For example, the applicant might confess to drug use or the rant about a previous employer.

Things like this will be interesting to the Human Resources personnel assigned to the hiring task. After all, the HR has a responsibility to protect the company and hire the best candidate. Personal accounts on such places as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn, can provide a lot of information that might keep some people from getting the job, and save the company the hassle of hiring an undesirable worker. There are a larger number of business experts who would accept the scanning of these accounts as a pre-hire exercise. However, there are quite a number policies that have been put in place in regards to the use of such information. British Columbia, as one such example, regulates the collection and use of this material for the purposes of hiring decisions. Regardless of whether there actually are any laws against this use, complaints of violations to a person’s privacy can always be lodged.

The question of whether the employers have the right to access employee’s social media accounts through computers issued by those employers is a similar issue. A person who spends more time surfing social media is a deficit rather than an asset to a company and companies have a right to ensure they are paying for work to be done. Business practices should be established to maintain effective workplace time usage. A study, conducted by Dr. Richard Cullen in 2007, employed by SurfControl of Australia, estimated that $5 billion a year of otherwise constructive work time is wasted. This is based on the amount of time employees are spending on Facebook alone. Obviously, employers pay employees to do work, not to look at Facebook.

Policies should be implemented to establish a framework for dealing with the invasion of an employee’s perceived privacy. Employees should be made aware that their computer usage will be monitored and under what circumstances it will be done. The argument goes that if the computer is supplied by the employer, implied consent is given to monitor activity. When setting up this policy, attention should be paid to what activity will be allowed. Policies should also identify when social media accounts can be accessed during work hours

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