Are there problems with social media background checks

With social media websites effectively being free databases of information on their users, many employers are using sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn to perform their own background checks on job applicants. Facebook background checks are a prominent occurrence, due to the regularity of Facebook privacy changes. As users don’t keep up-to-date with the changes, they often leave their personal information accessible to anyone who views their profile.

So although this seems like a great way for employers to find out a little more about potential employees, what are the problems with using social media profiles for background checks, and what are the possible consequences?

The main issue is discrimination. Legally, employers cannot discriminate when hiring – but if an employer checks someone’s Facebook page, then they will become privy to personal information that may affect their decision. The consequences of using this information wrongly can include discrimination lawsuits and claims of invasion of privacy from job applicants.

The second issue to consider is the accuracy of the information. The majority of people see sites such as Facebook as a fun way to keep in touch with friends, and therefore may not provide accurate or serious information. Religious views and political views are just a few examples of aspects of people’s pages that are often played around with, and will not necessarily relate to the true views of the individual. By looking at an applicant’s Facebook page, an employer may not be getting an accurate portrayal of the individual at all – which would be completely counter-productive.

A safer and more reliable way to perform a background check is to hire a background screening company. By using social networks as free ways to check up on someone, you could be taking just as much risk as by not performing any checks at all.]]>

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