As Australians continue to embrace social media in droves and upload more and more personal information on sites like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, some employers, managers and recruiters, are using this information when hiring potential employees. However, using social media as an information gathering tool raises serious legal issues for employers, says Harmers Workplace Lawyers.
According to Bronwyn Maynard, senior associate at Harmers Workplace Lawyers, many employers are not fully aware of the legal obligations under the existing Privacy Act, and the recently introduced Fair Work Act, when it comes to collecting information about potential employees from social media sites.
“The Privacy Act dictates that companies must only collect personal information that is necessary for their business – a particularly relevant consideration for the type of information shared on social media sites, much of which is not relevant to a person’s employment history or ability to do their job.”
Maynard said employers need to be aware of their obligations under the Privacy Act, along with the employee rights introduced by the new “General Protections” section of the Fair Work Act.
Obligations under the Privacy Act include that an employer must inform the candidate that they have gathered personal information as well as explain the purpose for which the information was gathered and to whom it may be disclosed. Candidates also have a right to request access to personal information that has been gathered about them.
Maynard said that while she can understand that employers might be tempted to find out about a candidate’s social life and personal details online, they need to carefully consider whether this sort of information is truly relevant and necessary for the selection process.
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