Job Applicants and Social Media - Privacy Considerations

There has been a lot of recent talk of employers asking job applicants for social media passwords.  The idea is fraught with problems for employers and it is far from clear that the information gained makes the problems and risks worthwhile.

Many of the issues are usefully canvassed in a piece in today's Globe.

BUT - there is a danger for employers in British Columbia.  The piece in the Globe suggests that the only restriction on an employer asking an applicant for a social media password is human rights.  But under the Personal Information Protection Act (British Columbia), there is a general test of reasonableness for any collection of personal information.   It would be difficult to argue that it is reasonable to ask every job applicant to divulge their social media password.  That is certainly the view of BC's Privacy Commissioner as shown in the Guidelines on Social Media Background Checks.

Privacy issues, in addition to human rights and other issues, must be considered by employers in BC (and other employers subject to privacy legislation) before asking for social media passwords.  If an employer has a legitimate and reasonable need to ask a job applicant about an issue that might be answered by a social media search, a direct question may be the simplest and best approach.

background check hiring human rights job applicant password Personal Information Protection Act privacy social media

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