During my Catholic Moral Theology class yesterday, our professor spoke about how the majority of human resources managers now believe it is acceptable to Google a job candidate as part of the interview process. He was speaking in the sense of how we should be careful about what we put on our blogs, Facebooks and Twitters as those things stick around, especially if our real names are attached to them in any way. He used the rule of if you wouldn’t want your grandma to see it, don’t put it online. This lead to an even more in depth discussion among me and some friends today and there seem to be three basic opinions: the hard line, the “well it depends” position, and my position.
The hard line says you are responsible for what goes online, you know it is visible to other people, and if you lose your chances at a job, that is your own fault. The thought here is that employers have a right to weed out possible bad employees in any way possible.
The “well it depends” position tends to agree with the hard line, but says employers shouldn’t jump to conclusions and should give applicants a chance to explain things found online.
My position is this: Using Google to look up a job candidate is a form of stalking. It is morally reprehensible and I would never accept or continue in a job with a company that used such tactics. I know from personal experience that things can be said online that are harmful to someone and those things often occur through no fault of our own. A few weeks ago, I made a comment on Mashable calling people on “4chan” criminals for attacking and shutting down websites over stealing movies and songs. By the end of the day, they had made posts on their little area of 4chan using my full, real name, my picture and they had found an out of context tweet to say I supported that girl throwing puppies into the river. Of course some of them also commented on my Youtube that they had killed my cat, but the fact that 4chan is made up, generally, of some rather vile people is beside the point. If someone Googles my name, they can see “Oh, Megan, she favors drowning puppies, let’s not hire her.” Not only do we need to account for malicious attacks by others, we need to be able to overlook people’s behavior on their own free time. If a girl puts up a naked picture of herself on Facebook, that has nothing to do with the type of employee she will be. How many of the people doing the hiring will stand up to having their lives inspected?
I remember having a discussion about this with my dad, who is an attorney who practices in employment and labor law as a defense counsel for corporations. I remember this quote from him when we talked about this issue: “If a company routinely uses Google to check out potential employees, I know some great plaintiff’s attorneys who would like to depose their management.” This is his point about why companies shouldn’t do this. Imagine you interview someone and it goes well, you think you may hire them. Then you do a Google search that leads you to Facebook, Twitter, whatever. Through that, you find out the person has AIDS. For totally different reasons, you decide to hire someone else, but the person finds out you do the Google searches. What are the odds, that when you end up at your deposition, you will get asked about AIDS and if that had anything to do with your hiring decision? The odds are about 100%. Doing a search is making it likely that a company will find out information about someone that they are not supposed to know when it comes to hiring people; information about disabilities, religion, and even sexual orientation. My point is, I am not just some whining girl who does not want to be held accountable as someone at school called me. Companies that do this are not only acting immorally, they are acting stupidly, and acting stupidly in this area means they probably act stupidly in most other areas.
The internet doesn’t mean we have given up our privacy or the privilege of doing dumb things and being forgiven.