Facebook’s Graph Search: New Privacy Concerns?

23 Jan

According to a CBC News article (here), early reviews of Facebook’s new Graph Search feature are raising privacy concerns.  The search feature appears to be eerily effective in mining Facebook users’ information in responding to search queries.

For employers who may be considering using social media to verify information about current or prospective employees, the depth of information revealed by Graph Search highlights the risk that obtaining information through social media could amount to an invasion of privacy, or conflict with human rights laws (see the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policy on using Facebook information).  Employers should tread carefully before using social media to obtain information about current or prospective employees, since the resulting information (even if obtained inadvertently) could create unanticipated liabilities.

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2 Responses to “Facebook’s Graph Search: New Privacy Concerns?”

  1. Matt Gibson January 24, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    My question to this would then be: how much online background checking is allowed?
    The information that pops up in Facebook’s graph search is only that which users have chosen to share publicly (or inadvertently forgotten to hide). Arguably, the burden should be on users and, in this example, prospective employees to appropriately monitor their own social media disclosure before applying for a job. I would think it is fairly common knowledge at this point that employers can and will use google, facebook and other online tools to look into a candidate’s background. As well, the privacy settings on facebook are a constant topic of discussion in the news, making it difficult for a user to claim “I didnt know it was public information”. Arguably, employers should have the right to know if their employees are capable of being discrete online, as the public faces of corporations become increasingly entwined with the online actions of their employees.

  2. Dan Michaluk January 24, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    Matt,

    I appreciate your view.

    Does the duly diligent employer now have a duty to see what kind of online profile a new employee comes with? Even for a wide variety of positions there might be some basic conflicts of interest to check for, especially when tools like graph search are exist! For other positions, the scope of a justifiable search might be broader.

    As for risks, the human rights risk is number one. However, I’ve argued it can be mitigated here: http://allaboutinformation.ca/2012/03/26/access-to-job-candidates-password-protected-social-media-accounts-an-employer-friendly-perspective/

    Those employers regulated by privacy legislation in Canada need to look at the scope of the “publicly available information” exemptions to assess the risk. The likelihood of a valid civil claim for breach of privacy seems quite low to me.

    Dan

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