EU Bans Employers from Checking Job Applicants’ Online Accounts

EU Bans Employers from Checking Job Applicants’ Online Accounts
Bernadine Racoma

New guidelines have been issued by the European Union, from advice by the Article 29 Working Party, for employers looking for potential new employees. They are now forbidden to look at applicants’ social media profiles. The EU officials said there are legal repercussions regarding this practice.

Due to the popularity of social media, the EU regulators are concerned that posts regarding the personal lives of employees and applicants exert an influence in their chances of getting a job.

The new rules are part of an updated guideline from Article 29 Working Party, which is composed of representatives of the national data watchdogs of the EU. It also includes the Information Commissioner’s Office of Britain. The British government says that the European laws will still apply even after the country exits the Union (Brexit).

New Ruling of  The Article 29 Working Party

European officials now require employers to provide a disclaimer before they can check the online account of an applicant. This includes accounts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.

Applicants should see this warning. If an applicant did not see the disclaimer, the company may be breaching the data protection rules of the European Union.

Moreover, employers are not allowed to compile social media data as part of their hiring process. It can only be allowed if the data are relevant and necessary for a specific job.

Regulators added that employees and applicants are not required to accept friend requests from their superiors.

The new guidelines form part of a long document about data protection laws. The laws cover employers from the EU’s 28 member countries.

Changes in Recruiting Process

There will be definite changes on how European companies recruit potential employees once the new rules take effect on May 2018. Several surveys have indicated that employers use social media more often to screen candidates for jobs.

About 70 percent of employers in the U.S. use social media as a component of their screening process, according to the survey done by CareerBuilder of over 2,300 HR professionals and hiring managers.

A survey done by Jobvite in 2016 revealed that 87 percent of employers/recruiters check the LinkedIn profile or potential hires, while 43 percent check Facebook accounts. About 22 percent of employers check applicants’ profiles on Twitter.

There are so many rules in the new guideline that the EU officials will require employers to follow. For example, employers can provide employees with wearable devices such as FitBit step counters.

However, under guidelines from the Article 29 Working Party, employers are forbidden to collect data from whatever type of gadget they issue to their workers. They also cannot work with third parties that may have access to the data.

Information security is paramount. Customers will only be given the needed information to facilitate transaction. For example, a delivery company can send a text message to a client to say that a delivery person is on the way, but the photograph and name of the employee must not be given.

According to the EU regulators, the new guidelines will protect data sharing and individual privacy rights. Fines of up to 4 percent of a company’s annual global sales may be imposed on companies that will not follow the new rulings.

While the Article 29 Working Party does not make the EU laws, they are very influential as they police the laws’ implementation across the 28 countries comprising the European Union.

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