Employers who snoop on the Facebook pages of staff and job applicants are likely to be breaking the law.
The heads of Europe’s data watchdogs said that companies needed legal grounds before screening the social media pages of potential recruits. Any searches must be necessary and “relevant to the performance of the job”.
In new guidance, a working party that includes the UK Information Commissioner’s Office and regulators from other member states, said: “Employers should not assume that merely because an individual’s social media profile is publicly available they are then allowed to process that data for their own purposes.”
It added: “It can be argued that it most likely will not be legitimate to review an applicant’s Facebook profile regardless of whether it is public or not, but that a LinkedIn profile will be OK to process data from.”
They said jobseekers should be told if an employer intends to screen their social media profiles. Employers cannot force them to accept friend requests or hand over passwords, they added, and screening of existing employees’ profiles should generally not happen.
About 60 per cent of employers screen the social media pages of job applicants, according to a survey by CareerBuilder, a recruitment company.
The working party does not make EU law but advises on its consistent application. Its opinion will inform the interpretation of the general data protection regulation, which will come into force next May, and which Britain will continue to implement after Brexit.