I found this blog post about companies demandingaccess to potential employees’ Facebook. In it, an employee in charge of hiring is startled by two interviewees who turn the tables on him after he asks to browse their Facebook profiles.
Facebook is a public community, but the real question is “how public?” When a person signs up for Facebook, they have all these things that they can write about (assuming they’re being truthful) but that, in turn can be used against them. The article isn’t even talking about the pictures of you drinking booze with friends. We’re talking sexual orientation, pregnancy leave, and other parts of life that are pretty transparent on Facebook, that a company could use against you in an interview. One of the interviewee’s in the article/blog post mentioned that she was emailing a human rights lawyer because she wanted to know her chances of being discriminated against for being a lesbian. The author was shaken, naturally, that he might get the company sued just for doing what he was told was company policy.
So what are the implications? My personal view is that Facebook, albeit as a “public” forum, should be off limits to this weird sort of pseudo-spying. What a person does in their free time should only affect a job if it affects the work they do. You’re not going to be able to tell if a person is going to come in to work drunk everyday by looking at their Facebook, but you may, as implied by this article, be able to effectively discriminate against people for anything and still get away with it just simply by stating it was “something you saw on their Facebook profile” that halted the application process.