Germany to outlaw employers checking out job candidates on Facebook, but Googling is OK

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A new law in Germany could soon make it illegal for employers to check out prospective job candidates on Facebook and other non-career focused social networks, according to local newspaper reports.

Bizarrely, however, it will still be legal to “google” applicants, although they are to disregard information that is either too old or outside of a candidate’s control. Social networks specifically designed for professional purposes, think LinkedIn or the larger local player Xing, are OK too.

(Interestingly, there’s no provision for Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s prediction that a free and legal name change once a person reaches adulthood could be the solution.)

The new law, which has a wider remit related to privacy for employees, has been drafted by Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, according to Die Welt and Süddeutsche Zeitung newspapers. It’s said to be the result of months of negotiations between the different parties in Germany’s coalition government, and is set to be approved by the German cabinet on Wednesday.

But really, how workable is this law, should it be passed.

Firstly, how would you prove that an employer has or hasn’t checked out a candidate on Facebook or any other non-professional social network? And if Googling is allowed, then that sort of cancels out the Facebook protection, does it not. Much of Facebook’s data and that of other social networks is indexed by Google, Bing etc., some of which is revealed in the search result itself before actually clicking through to the URL, which if revealing will be hard to resist anyway. Status updates are often 140 characters or less, remember, perfect for those search engine excerpts.

What do you think, can the problem of a social networking trail be legislated for? My view is that in the future employers will just need to lighten up a little or we’ll all be in trouble.



    What is a career and what non-career focused ?
    I guess everyone has his own idea about this matter, for me a personal blog can be career focused, for someone that post picture of wild parties maybe not ;)

    Well i thought in Italy we were stuck with the worst old minded legislators, but thanks god now there’s Germany LOL

    • pleisahs

      Uh-oh not again. Why should google all have the fun, if they are known to be collaborating with the CIA, in the name of ‘social-profiling’ ?

    • jb

      In the US, I believe it’s against the law for companies to ask certain questions of job candidates (e.g., age, marriage status, kids?, etc.). Facebook is all about your social and personal info, but not the only site with that info but certainly the one with the most info.

      In contrast, people tend to keep their LinkedIn profiles professional. As it’s founder explained, LinkedIn is “the office”, Facebook is your backyard BBQ and MySpace is/was a bar or nightclub.

  • Karl

    Deutschland is very F-Up when it comes to Internet legislation.

    The main problem is that they produce lots of laws affecting Internet and ECommerce that no one can know for certain how to applied… not even the people who made the law!

    it seems that legislators have too much time on their hands and think that the best they can do is write useless laws.

    • RBavaria

      Pointless laws? Rather. Have you followed the juggernaut-like progression of “openness?” An individual cannot stop it, nor stop it from being used against them. See facebook’s privacy change in November 2009 that exposed huge volumes of user restricted data requiring a scramble to lock it down for a perfect example. Or after the big dinner of “Instant Personalization” crow-pie by Zuckerberg they are back with the latest in a line of Opt-Outs from facebook: meatspace checkin (Opt-Out only.) “Haha! I just checked in my friend at a house of ill repute, and then I checked him in at an STD clinic! Haha!” And that is Opt-Out in all markets except ones with a history of standing up against facebook’s prior abuses. This is why Germany and many other countries in the EU have laws that protect citizens’ data privacy and guidelines about what your data ownership is. It is a line in the sand that says what is OK and what is not. The end user is completely powerless to demand such fundamental rights as a legal requirement for “Opt-In” so in my opinion it is a requirement to write it down and enforce it to hold companies responsible for improper behavior.

  • Buzzpromote

    There is always a loop whole. Hmm can I ask friend to check your FB page.

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  • mark

    Silly politicians. This is really absurd. You would think the obvious problems with this legislation would have been discussed. If ideas cannot fail based on lack of merit, then …uh oh.

  • Bjoern Wilmsmann

    German Internet legislation is just a big joke. Most members of the Bundestag don’t know anything about the Internet apart from that ‘it’s used for terrorism and child pornography’.

    German politicians are afraid of the Internet because in contrast to traditional mass media it cannot be controlled by a central administration (hence making it much more difficult to spoon-feed citizens with information).

    As for the issue of employers trying to find skeletons in the closet on social network, I think this issue will wane over time. Winnowing employees based on pictures from college time drinking sprees is just ridiculous.

    First, there probably is hardly anyone who didn’t do some ‘interesting’ or stupid things in his past. So, who’s to cast the first stone?
    Secondly, a candidate that against all odds hasn’t done anything unusual in the past or doesn’t have any skeletons in the closet probably is so bland that even considering employing him or her is a total waste of time.
    Finally, what do funny pictures or comments on social network tell you about a person’s aptitude for a job? Exactly: Nothing. Hence, a recruiter who bases his decisions on these grounds should be fired right away because he does a very bad job.

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  • Arno Bouwens

    It seems the German government will be deciding for their people which networks are to be used in private settings and which are to be used for business porposes in the future. As networks are converging it will be hard to keep them apart. Lots of wisdom to German legislators.

  • Grzegorz Daniluk

    This is just wrong. Law has stopped being law. Nowadays law seems to be some type of advertising board for political parties. In practice there is only media buzz generated by a such law: hey, look how cool we are. Nothing more.

  • Michael Daehn

    Gemany may outlaw employers screening Facebook – linkedIn, Xinga and Google still OK to look @Poet_Tweets on Twitter

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  • Rob

    Well, I am really really sorry for us having the dumbest politicians in the world. Yes, we did vote for them.

    And no, the average German knows a lot more about the net that every member of the German parliament. But they do not care. They invite all internet top talents to give them advice – then they decide exactly the opposite.


    @all the germans guys: dont worry youre not alone, we have a lot of bad politicians as well :)

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  • Dario Fu

    I think the Germans need to make it illegal to have underage girls posting photos of their bewbies on the internets. Underage girls grow up to become women who want to get jobs in companies who have all now seen their bewbies.

    I would hire them immediately if I already saw their bewbies!

    (no fat chix!)

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  • Lame

    As if it can be stopped from happening.

    “Oh disregard the pic of be doing lines of coke off a hookers ass. It was taken like 6 months ago.”

  • Thomas

    Interesting because one of the largeste media houses in Germany owns ” XING ” the LinkedIN clone! The other one StudiVZ the facebook clone. Your Guess!

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  • bingfan

    This “facebook” thing is only a part of a big legal approach that clarifies that employers shouldn’t intrude employees’ private life more than necessary. It is mostly about video observance, checking banking accounts and other fraud detection actions some companies use widely. But you need to draw a line if an employer finds data that is publicly available (like Google’s Index) or that is published by employees (like linkedin, xing). Facebook instead is seen as a private social network and to protect employees no employer should use information found there against his employee.

    If a manager does some private research on social networks to find out “things” about his employee it is now a pleasure time activity. Not illegal. But also without any benefit during the daily war at work.

    Fair enough ?

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