The Ontario Privacy Commissioner has released a report, “Reference Check: Is Your Boss Watching? The New World of Social Media: Privacy and Your Facebook Profile” (OPC pdf; archive pdf). The report warns employees to be careful of their online presence, especially with social media profiles. Here’s an excerpt:
Facebook and other online social networks are the Web destinations of choice for more and more people to connect, communicate and share personal information with others. While they may have initially started out as networking and recreational tools for young people, online social networks now attract people of all ages.
The practice of employers looking for background information about job candidates on social networking websites such as Facebook has grown dramatically. These sites, along with search engines, are now being used as a business tool by human resources departments to perform background checks on potential employees. Users of Facebook and other such sites should post information with their eyes wide open — considering the risks to their employment prospects, current and future. This paper provides important information and suggests ways of mitigating and minimizing such risks.
It is crucial to remember that anything posted online may stay there forever, in one form or another. Whether through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine site, or the caches of Google and Yahoo, old versions of websites are indeed searchable by those “in the know.” What is actually found may include your own posted material, as well as information about you posted by others. This uncertainty regarding one’s privacy and confidentiality of sensitive information is a major downside to social networking sites, despite their many positive aspects. Anything associated with you – or the people you are connected to – can, and most likely will, be viewed and evaluated by other people, some of whom may have considerable influence over your life, now or well into the future. […]
And it is not only current employers who may be looking at your network content. A potential employer might find certain material offensive or even troubling, and may decide not to interview you. They might even see or read things they would not be allowed to ask you about in an interview, due to human rights laws. Recruiters can – and do – use search engines and social networks to gather background information on job candidates, and many are beginning to eliminate candidates based solely on what they find online.