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Bosses told to stop snooping on employees’ Facebook profiles

Bosses should not snoop on employees’ Facebook and Twitter profiles even if their accounts are publicly available, regulators have said.

‘Employers should not assume that merely because an individual’s social media profile is publicly available they are then allowed to process the data’

The heads of Europe’s top data protection authorities said that “in-employment screening of employees’ social media profiles should not take place on a generalised basis”.

Employees and applicants should also not be forced into accepting friend requests from their bosses or handing over their passwords.

The declaration was made in updated guidance from the Article 29 Working Party, a group made up of representatives of each of the EU’s national data watchdogs including Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office.

It comes ahead of strict new data protection rules that come into force next year and threaten massive fines for companies who misuse personal data. The Government has said the European laws will continue to apply after Brexit.

Since social media has become widely-used, concerns have grown that posts about employees’ personal lives are influencing their job prospects.

Workers have been fired for posting inappropriate Facebook status updates, and job applications have been rejected. Last year, the European Court of Human Rights said that bosses are allowed to monitor employees’ emails.

According to Jobvite, 87 per cent of recruiters check potential candidates’ LinkedIn accounts, 43 per cent check Facebook, and 22 per cent check Twitter.

The Article 29 guidance is not legislation but affects how data protection authorities apply the law. The regulators have issued new opinions amid fears that technology is allowing bosses to monitor employees in a way that was previously not possible.

The guidance warns that employers have the ability “of permanently screening employees by collecting information regarding their friends, opinions, beliefs, interests, habits, whereabouts, attitudes and behaviours”.

It adds that job applicants should not have their profiles summarily checked as part of the screening process, saying “employers should not assume that merely because an individual’s social media profile is publicly available they are then allowed to process the data”.

It says scanning social media profiles is only allowed when “relevant to the performance of the job which is being applied for”.

The guidelines add that employers should not track their workers’ devices or the internet traffic from them, even if they have consent from the employee.

An article by James Titcomb published on ‘The Telegraph’
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