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

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.