Many job searchers question whether it's legal for a company to conduct online searches as part of the background screening
process, through Google, Facebook or another social media platform, and then use the findings in in deciding for or against hiring a candidate. Often, most firms have cleared such practices with lawyers, especially as this form of marketing has grown more popular among companies.
It's entirely lawful for a firm to conduct a search for information that is publicly available on the internet, the OC Register reported. However, a company can't discriminate against a candidate's race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age, sexual orientation or veteran status - all of which would be uncovered in an online search. Additionally, companies are barred from using deceptive or intrusive methods for obtaining information. "If a manager discovers publicly available information regarding a candidate, he or she may use such information to reject the candidate, as long as he or she is not making that decision because of any protected class," Brad Remillard wrote for the source. "For example, it is lawful to reject candidates because of inappropriate pictures or comments, or even political views that are incompatible with the employer's culture - although this may eliminate an otherwise terrific candidate." Job applicants need to ensure they're being especially careful with their online presence, particularly in light of the Federal Trade Commission's green light on the company Social Intelligence. Social Intelligence compiles a list of a consumer's entire online life - Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, blogs and even Craig's List, and creates a file that lasts seven years, Kashmir Hill wrote for Forbes. "We store records for up to seven years as long as those records haven’t been disputed," Social Intelligence COO Geoffrey Andrews told Forbes. "If a record is disputed and changed, then we delete the disputed record and store the new record when appropriate." To help protect oneself during a background screening, a consumer should make his or her Facebook profile "friends only" and protect tweets. Additionally, applicants shouldn't post inappropriate pictures of themselves or allow others to do so.