Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Is LinkedIn Really Liable for Providing Professional Data to Potential Employers?

I just read an interesting article that talked about a recent class action lawsuit that has been filed against LinkedIn in California that claims LinkedIn's Job Reference Tool allows employers access to data that can be used to make hiring and firing decisions without providing notification to the LinkedIn user. While I'm not an attorney, I know there are laws that prohibit the use of some information that an employer may use or have access to.

The question I have is if we, as voluntary users of LinkedIn (or any social network, for that matter) are putting in all of this information that we don't want others to see, is it really the network's fault for making it available to the rest of the network participants. Nobody is forcing us to put all of our information online. Rather, shouldn't we be more focused on the existing rules (i.e. the Fair Credit Reporting Act, enacted in 1970) and laws related to what is (and is not) permissible in the hiring and/or firing of employees and what happens if someone violates them.

I agree it's a lot easier to go after the networks like LinkedIn and blame them for making it available. But if you're hiring and know under employment law and existing rules that you cannot base your decision on the race, sex, religion, etc... or that you have to provide notification or get consent of the applicant (and you don't) then don't put yourself in the position to be exposed to it - or suffer the consequences. I've heard there are now third-party services now that can "scrub" a social search data for applicant or employee information and provide you only with the details that you are legally able to see. If you're not doing this and you go online to find information that may sway your decision one way or another, is it the network's fault? I don't think so.

Your Thoughts?

I'd love to hear what you have to say in the comments below. Am I totally off base and letting LinkedIn off the hook too easily or do you agree that we need to hold employers to a higher standard (or maybe a little of both)?

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